Nothing Good is Ever Said in These Last Three Weeks

Oct 18, 2018 by

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 They delivered a new school finance formula modeled on the one Brownback’s allies repealed and while that formula is still considered somewhat inadequate in funding, it has been found to be structurally constitutional.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.

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A Great Day for Kansas!

Aug 3, 2016 by

Kansas-Governor-Sam-Brownback-800x430Yesterday in the Kansas primary elections supporters of the Brownback experiment were removed from office. Six incumbent Brownback allies in the Kansas Senate lost their bids for reelection to moderate Republican challengers. Tom Arpke, Terry Bruce, Forrest Knox, Jeff Melcher, Larry Powell, and Greg Smith were all ousted. In addition, two more Brownback allies who were vying for open Senate seats – Virgil Peck wanting to replace Jeff King and Larry Salmans hoping to replace Mitch Holmes – found themselves on the losing end of their challenge with moderate Republicans winning both primaries. Two moderate incumbents who were being challenged by Brownback conservatives – Vicki Schmidt and Carolyn McGinn – both won reelection.

Over in the House, eight Brownback allies lost their bids for reelection. Craig McPherson, Brett Hildabrand, Rob Bruchman, Jerry Lunn, Charles Macheers, Connie O’Brien, Will Carpenter, and Kasha Kelly all went down in defeat. Conservative John Faber lost his comeback attempt out west. Open seats formerly held by Brownback conservatives (Marc Kahrs and Kevin Jones) were won by moderates Roger Elliot and Brenda Dietirch. Moderate incumbents facing conservative challengers – Susie Swanson, Steven Becker, and Greg Lewis – all won their races.

All these moderate Republicans ran on a message of tax fairness and real support for public schools.

Winning from Border to Border

It was very clear that the public was behind the moderate comeback. Over in Johnson County where two incumbent senators and six incumbent house members were defeated by moderates, KNEA members worked like never before. And the teachers were bolstered by an unprecedented level of public support. Kansas Families for Education, Game On for Kansas Schools, and Stand Up Blue Valley – citizens groups formed by angry and frustrated parents – grew in strength and resolve. It was teachers, parents, and concerned citizens who chose to engage in politics and who led the battle on behalf of common sense candidates.

But the turning out of conservatives was not just a Johnson County issue. Statewide voters have had enough of the Brownback experiment.  An experiment that has bankrupted the state leaving our schools, highways, public safety efforts, and social services in jeopardy. It happened in southeast Kansas with the defeat of Virgil Peck and Forrest Knox; it happened in central Kansas with the defeat of Terry Bruce and Tom Arpke; it happened in southern Kansas with defeat of Kasha Kelley; it happened in western Kansas with the defeat of Larry Powell. This is a statewide repudiation of the path Brownback and his allies have set upon Kansas.  Let us not forget that we can send another message to his remaining allies in November. 

Cranking Up the Spin Machines

Brownback’s allies are already putting out their spin, trying to make people believe that the election results have nothing to do with his “road map” for Kansas. You will find their spin in an article in the Wall Street Journal (not known as the “liberal media”). Brownback’s Spokeswoman Eileen Hawley and KPI’s Dave Trabert tried to blame other trends or other issues:

“Kansas is not immune from the widespread anti-incumbency sentiment we have seen across the nation this election season.” Eileen Hawley, Brownback Spokeswoman

From the Wall Street Journal: “It’s not a repudiation of either side but of the legislature in general for not dealing with the core issue,” Mr. Trabert said reducing the cost of state government by 6% to 7% would enable the state to keep its lower taxes and balance the budget going forward.

None of the victorious Republican moderates ever campaigned on the desire to cut state services any more. None of them campaigned on the promise of continuing Brownback’s experiment. They campaigned on returning Kansas to a common sense center; a state with a fair tax system that provides the necessary revenue to maintain the high quality of life for which Kansas is known.

Going Forward

Today is day to savor these victories. We all woke up with a renewed sense of hope for our state. But this is not over. The Governor still holds a veto pen with which to threaten these new legislators. There is still a general election during which the forces that brought us Brownback – the Kansas Chamber, KPI, Americans for Prosperity – will unleash their fury on Democrats, hoping to stop any further losses in their anti-government conservative caucus.

We savor today and we gear up for tomorrow. We must carry our efforts forward to November to protect our Democrats. We must seek to replace more of the Brownback allies now with Democrats. We helped the moderate Republicans defeat Brownback conservatives in August. Let’s help the Democrats defeat some more of them in November.

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