Hutchinson News, Aug. 8
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s job is in trouble. That was the biggest takeaway from Tuesday’s primary election.
Normally, winning an election with 63 percent of the vote would be considered a strong victory. Not in this case. Brownback is an incumbent, and his opponent was a complete unknown. She got 37 percent of the vote in a Republican primary in Kansas, where the well-organized ultraconservatives — Brownback’s base — usually run the show.
Not only was Jennifer Winn of Wichita a dark horse, she ran for office because of frustration with the way the courts treated her son, charged with murder for his involvement in a drug deal that turned deadly. Late in the campaign, voters also learned that she and her running mate both had bankruptcies in their pasts. One of her primary issues was legalization of marijuana.
And with all that baggage, she got almost 40 percent of Republican votes. Those votes were mostly votes against Brownback.
Now Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer face a pair of truly credible candidates in House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence and Wichita businesswoman Jill Docking.
And voters have plenty of reason to be dissatisfied with the status quo in Kansas. Just a day after the election, a second credit rating agency lowered the state’s bond rating, citing a looming budget crisis and sluggish economic growth.
Brownback’s self-described economic experiment is putting the state in financial distress. And that’s not liberal Democrats saying so, it is Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, which are leading financial analysis firms.
Meanwhile, a new survey reported that the number of Kansans without health insurance has jumped by the most of any state in the country. The numbers aren’t confirmed, but Kansans surely aren’t helped by Brownback’s refusal to accept federal money to establish a health insurance marketplace or to expand Medicaid — policies obviously not based on the welfare of Kansans but on politics.
And that’s the problem with Brownback. He’s in it for himself. His political ambitions come before the welfare of Kansans.
Consequently, though Brownback hasn’t lost re-election yet, clearly he has lost the confidence of many Kansans.
Another GOP incumbent who also has let down his constituents showed weakness in the primary results. U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas’ 1st District had an even greater challenge from a mostly unknown. In that GOP primary, Alan LaPolice captured 45 percent of the vote.
Voters showed their unhappiness with Huelskamp, his alienation from party leadership because of his abrasiveness, coupled with unpopular positions against the farm bill and wind energy. A Republican with more name recognition easily could have beaten Huelskamp, if only such a Republican would have made a run at it. Maybe it will be LaPolice in two years.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach also received a well-deserved vote of no-confidence.
The part-time secretary of state who is most known for his crusade against immigration showed weakness in losing 35 percent of Republican votes to the unknown, but qualified, Scott Morgan of Lawrence. Again, dissatisfaction with the incumbent was evident.
Though the winners in these elections were not a surprise, they were far tighter races than most predicted, and therein reveals some telling insight.