TOPEKA — Kansas has its first conservative governor in decades.
U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback regained the governor's office for the Republican Party, defeating Democratic state senator Tom Holland by a 2-1 margin.
"Wow, what a wave," Brownback told supporters in Topeka as Republicans captured state offices. "This has really been a night, a clean sweep for a new beginning. No more Obama way. Now to the Kansas way."
Kansas GOP chairwoman Amanda Adkins told the crowd of 300 gathered at the Republican watch party — many holding brooms to symbolize a clean sweep — that the tough work will start the day after the election.
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She urged the crowd to "keep building a political infrastructure that moves a conservative agenda forward."
Kansans for Life has already started discussing what goals it will pursue in the future, said Mary Kay Culp, the executive director of the pro-life group.
For the past few sessions, both chambers have passed bills restricting late-term abortions only to have the proposals vetoed by Democratic governors.
"It is nice to know that when a bill gets to Sen. Brownback's desk, it will get signed," Culp said.
From the beginning of the campaign, Brownback held the lead in name recognition, polling and fundraising.
He raised $2.1 million — more than four times as much as Holland.
Holland tried repeatedly throughout the campaign to use Brownback's 16 years in Washington against him, asking voters if they wanted a career Washington politician in charge of the Kansas budget.
Brownback in turn talked about the Obama-Holland agenda.
But for some voters, it came down to voting for someone they were familiar with.
Joshua Spell, a 29-year-old postal worker in Wichita favored the Democrats on his ballot, but voted for Brownback. He said he didn't know much about the Democratic candidate in the governor's race. He said that as a senator, Brownback seemed "to put Kansas first" whether it was a Republican or Democratic issue.
"I think he will do a wonderful job as governor," said Spell, adding he voted against his union recommendation in that race.
Brownback, 54, started his Kansas political career as the youngest secretary of agriculture in state history before leaving for Washington, D.C., to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
While he's spent 16 years in Washington, D.C., Brownback played up his roots as a small-town Kansas native who grew up on a farm near La Cygne and was state president of the Future Farmers of America.
Most of his campaign was spent traveling to all 105 counties, touting his Road Map for Kansas, which touched on tourism, economic development, education and jobs.
He has promised to create an Office of the Repealer to examine state regulations, to rewrite the state's school funding formula and to freeze state spending.
Holland, a Democrat from Baldwin City who started his political service in the Legislature in 2003, framed his campaign as the moderate alternative to a conservative Brownback administration. Holland promised to protect public education and public safety programs from further cuts.
"Now they may have outspent us four to one," Holland told supporters in Topeka on Tuesday night. "They may have focused on fear instead of the future. So tonight while our candidacy did not win, our cause will always endure."
Brownback will be faced with a fiscal challenge right from the start. A group of economists and researchers gave a fiscal forecast for the remainder of the current fiscal year and next, showing the state's budget shortfall could be as large as $500 million in 2012. That's despite a 1-cent increase in the sales tax rate that took effect in July.