The Eagle editorial board has made its choices for Congress, governor, attorney general, secretary of state and state treasurer. We offer these recommendations as information to consider as you make up your own minds about the candidates:
Republican Jerry Moran is the clear pick in this contest to replace Sen. Sam Brownback. Moran has been a dependable, thoughtful U.S. representative for the past 14 years. He is particularly strong on agriculture and rural health care issues and has shown some willingness to buck his party when necessary. Though his ugly primary campaign against Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, raised concerns, Moran should be an excellent U.S. senator.
Democrat Lisa Johnston is making her first run for public office. Her top priority is education. She is sincere but is not prepared to be a U.S. senator. Also running are Libertarian Michael Wm. Dann and Reform Party candidate Joe Bellis .
Two smart, capable candidates are vying to replace Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard. But Republican Mike Pompeo is the better choice because of his business background and his clear stand on issues and strong sense of purpose.
As has been highlighted in campaign commercials, Pompeo believes passionately that the role of government in job creation is to help provide an environment in which business owners and entrepreneurs can operate and succeed.
Pompeo's views can seem overly idealistic at times. For example, he believes that there wouldn't be a need for farm subsidies or economic development incentives if there were lower tax rates and a friendlier and more stable regulatory environment. That's not the real world.
As a result, there is some concern about whether Pompeo is too ideological and wouldn't seek practical political solutions. Politics, as they say, is the art of compromise.
But more of Pompeo's passion and perspective are needed in Washington, D.C., as the federal government transitions from stimulus spending and bailouts aimed at staving off a financial collapse to budget cuts and restructuring aimed at growing the economy and reducing debt.
And voters know what they are getting with Pompeo. He is upfront and unambiguous about his beliefs and vision.
Unfortunately, it's not always as clear to voters what Democrat Raj Goyle believes. Goyle describes himself as a fiscal conservative and social moderate, and his four-year legislative record in Topeka mostly supports that. But he also parses questions that might portray him as being more liberal and dismisses his past work with liberal causes.
A Democrat running for this seat needs to appeal to moderate-to-right-leaning voters in order to get elected. But candidates also need to be authentic and tell voters what they really think.
One issue that Goyle is clear about, and that contrasts with Pompeo, is the role of government. Goyle supports public-private partnerships, such as the state's efforts to keep Hawker Beechcraft in Wichita. Goyle also wants to eliminate tax incentives for companies to ship jobs overseas.
Also running are Libertarian Shawn Smith and Reform Party candidate Susan G. Ducey .
Though he is a long shot in this race to replace Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, Democrat Alan Jilka is narrowly the better choice because of his balanced view on issues and his ability to work with others to get things done.
Jilka is a businessman and former three-term mayor of Salina who has a record of building coalitions and getting results. He supports reforming the health care law, not repealing it. Unlike his GOP opponent, he is a strong supporter of public education. Jilka is not flashy but is smart and dependable.
Republican Tim Huelskamp has been a state senator for 14 years, earning a reputation for being a hard-edged and uncompromising fiscal and social conservative. As a result, he often wasn't part of solutions. Huelskamp likely will win in this GOP-dominated district. If so, he would be a stark change from Moran's more balanced approach. Also on the ballot is Libertarian Jack Warner .
Though there are concerns and unanswered questions about his plans, Republican Sam Brownback is the best choice for Kansas governor.
Brownback's wide-ranging experiences — from Kansas agriculture secretary to U.S. representative to U.S. senator for the past 14 years to his recent presidential bid — give him a broad understanding of issues and a national standing.
Brownback has outlined a "Road Map for Kansas" with specific goals, such as increasing private-sector employment (likely to happen regardless of whether Brownback is governor) and decreasing the percentage of Kansas children who live in poverty. Though few could argue with these goals, he has made other pledges that are more problematic.
For example, Brownback has vowed to freeze state general-fund spending. Because the federal stimulus money is going away next fiscal year, such a freeze could result in up to $500 million in cuts to education, Medicaid or other important programs. Is that really what Brownback intends?
Brownback also has made vague statements about overhauling the state's school-finance formula. What specifically does he have in mind? One change he backs could lead to increased local property taxes.
It's also unclear which Brownback would be governor. As a member of Congress, Brownback was socially conservative but somewhat restrained and balanced, working with Democratic lawmakers on issues such as immigration and human rights. But during his presidential campaign, Brownback swung far to the right.
One reason there are so many unanswered questions is that Brownback has avoided specifics and media interviews. He also agreed to only a bare minimum of candidate debates.
Brownback has the talent to be an excellent governor, but he won't be able to lead the state effectively if he hides from questioning.
Democrat Tom Holland , a businessman and state senator, has a more moderate approach to governing and policies. He wants to help create quality jobs by investing in education and work force training. He also supports such local priorities as the Fair Fares program and incentives to keep Hawker Beechcraft and other aircraft manufacturers in Wichita. But Holland lacks experience and stature and, thus, isn't ready to be governor.
Also running are Libertarian Andrew P. Gray and Reform Party candidate Ken Cannon .
This is the rare race in which the state will win with either major party candidate. Our choice, narrowly, is Democrat Steve Six , because of the professionalism and stability he has afforded the office since being appointed to the job in early 2008 by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. Six, who was a judge for three years in Douglas County District Court, also has racked up an impressive record of consumer protection and office administration, recovering more money for defrauded consumers in three years (including $17.3 million for fiscal-year 2010) than the office had in the previous 13 years and cutting the office's taxpayer-funded budget almost in half. If elected, Six should take a more active role in advocating on public safety issues at the Legislature. But he's been far more than a placeholder.
Republican Derek Schmidt , a three-term state senator from Independence who has been Senate majority leader for six years, also would make a standout attorney general. His education, his work experience on Capitol Hill and for Attorney General Carla Stovall and the Graves administration, his leadership as a lawmaker — all of it is impressive, as are his communication skills. If Schmidt falls short, it is in his inability so far to outline a vision for this office, fueling questions about whether he sees this job primarily as a political stepping-stone.
However the election turns out, though, the Attorney General's Office should be in capable hands. After the regrettable tenures of Phill Kline and Paul Morrison, that will be a nice change. Also on the ballot: Libertarian Dennis Hawver .
Secretary of state
If Kansas Republicans vote for one Democrat this year, it should be for Chris Biggs in this contest, which will decide whether the Secretary of State's Office remains a trustworthy, nonpartisan, professionally run overseer of elections and business filings — or becomes the staging area for a politicized, publicly funded campaign against imaginary illegal immigrant voters. Biggs, formerly the Kansas securities commissioner and a longtime Geary County prosecutor, was appointed to the job by Gov. Mark Parkinson just seven months ago, but has the skills and managerial experience required to handle this important job. He already has made the office's website more user-friendly and wants to streamline filings for businesses. He also understands that the biggest current threat to Kansas elections is voter apathy, not voter fraud, and wants to expand advance voting around the state. Biggs can be counted on to run the office according to state statute, not some personal ideological agenda.
The same cannot be said for Republican Kris Kobach , a smooth-talking law professor who, after steering the Kansas Republican Party to near financial ruin as chairman, now aspires to be the state's chief recordkeeper and election officer. Best known from his Fox News appearances and legal work across the nation fighting illegal immigration, including his authorship of Arizona's much-debated new ID-check law, Kobach now wants to use the Secretary of State's Office to legitimize (and surely subsidize) his fearmongering about voter fraud, birthright citizenship and other hot-button issues of little relevance to Kansas. Voters shouldn't fall for it.
Reform Party candidate Derek Langseth and Libertarian Phillip Horatio Lucas also seek the seat.
In a close contest between two qualified and well-liked candidates, our pick is Democrat Dennis McKinney , who was appointed to the job by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius after Lynn Jenkins was elected to Congress in 2008. McKinney, who earned bipartisan admiration during his six years as House minority leader and after the 2007 tornado that destroyed his hometown of Greensburg, sounds like the farmer and rancher he still is and the thoughtful, collaborative lawmaker he was for 16 years. But he also holds a master's degree in public finance and administration from Wichita State University, and he has cut his office's budget and stepped up efforts to return money to Kansans through the unclaimed property program and to better utilize a housing construction loan program.
Sedgwick County Treasurer Ron Estes could do the job, too, bringing relevant administrative and customer service experience not only from his current elected position but from previous jobs at Bombardier Learjet and Koch Industries. His plan for the office includes pushing out more unclaimed funds, advocating for the LearningQuest college savings program and the office's financial literacy efforts, and championing a fix for the looming insolvency of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. But those priorities don't set him apart from McKinney, who already is showing he can do the job well.