We have entered the worst period of every election cycle – the last three weeks before election day. This is the time that is designed for creating doubts, generating confusion, and taking the voter’s mind off what is really at stake.
For us, in Kansas, there is much at stake in this election. Fundamentally, this is about whether we continue to make progress on restoring the state budget and funding our schools or we turn back and embrace the failed economic policies of Sam Brownback once again.
You might think we are talking about the race for Governor – and we are – but it is so much more. In 2016 voters sent a wave of new Democratic and Moderate Republican legislators to the House and, working together, that coalition did marvelous work. They reversed the failed Brownback tax plan even delivering enough votes to override his veto. They voted to expand Medicaid and again the House delivered enough votes to override Brownback’s veto (sadly the Senate fell short). They delivered a new school finance formula modeled on the one Brownback’s allies repealed and while that formula is still considered somewhat inadequate in funding, it has been found to be structurally constitutional. And the House twice voted to restore due process protections for teachers that Brownback’s allies had stripped in 2014.
All of these important votes were accomplished not by the Democrats or the Moderate Republicans but by the Democrats and Moderate Republicans working as a coalition – as a team – to deliver results for the people of Kansas.
The political goal of KNEA and our Political Action Committee (KPAC) has been to preserve and increase the membership of that coalition. To that end, we promised legislators of both parties that if they stood strong for the issues we believe in, we would stand strong with them at election time.
Unfortunately, a number of our Moderate Republican friends lost their bid for re-election, falling in the primary to a conservative candidate allied with Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and the remnants of the Brownback majority. This makes it critical now that we support and re-elect every member of the House Democratic Caucus and every remaining member of the Moderate Republican Caucus. And at the same time, we must help Democrats defeat some of the conservatives in those races where a moderate Republican does not exist.
Simply put, we need more coalition seats. Trading coalition seats does not build our capacity to pass good legislation and defeat bad legislation. Trading seats is a zero-sum game.
We acknowledge that a Democrat who defeats a Moderate Republican is very likely to be a solid vote for good policy and school funding. But it does not strengthen the coalition’s ability to hold off the conservative agenda. The only way we build legislative strength is to defeat more Brownback/Kobach ideologues.
We also acknowledge that there is another alternative – electing a Democratic House majority; electing 63 Democrats. That would mean holding the 40 Democratic seats they now have and defeating another 23 Republicans. We have yet to meet anyone who believes that is possible in one election cycle.
So when KPAC considers recommending candidates, we do it with one thing in mind – how can we elect a pro-public education majority in the legislature. Not “how can we elect a Democratic majority.” Not “how can we elect a Moderate Republican majority.”How can we elect a pro-public education majority of legislators regardless of party?
So in these last three weeks, voters are being bombarded by mail that has little to do with policy and everything to do with sowing doubt and confusion. It is mail filled with references to obscure votes alleged to prove a candidate is evil. It is mail about their personal lives or something once “liked” on Facebook. It is mail with a photo of the time they were in the same room as Nancy Pelosi or Kevin Yoder.
Here is what we suggest. Don’t read the mail. Throw it in the recycle bin, shred it, line your birdcage with it. Just don’t read it. Instead turn to organizations you trust. We hope that includes KNEA. But maybe it’s the Mainstream Coalition or Moms Demand Action. Maybe it’s the Fraternal Order of Police or the Kansas Organization of State Employees. But go to them and look at their candidate recommendations/endorsements. And then cast your vote for those candidates. You’ll be doing the right thing.