Though his name wasn’t on the ballot, Gov. Sam Brownback was the big winner in Tuesday’s primary. Now the rest of Kansas is left to wonder what that will mean for education, social services and other state programs.
Brownback and his financial backers at the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity targeted for defeat the remaining few Republican moderates left in the Kansas Senate. Their aim was for Brownback to gain complete control of the Legislature.
The moderates didn’t go down without a fight. But they couldn’t quite match the record amounts of money spent to defeat them, and most of them lost, including Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita.
But it wasn’t only moderates who were targeted. The Kansas and Wichita chambers also spent tens of thousands of dollars to defeat conservative Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard. His sin was that he wouldn’t rubber-stamp some of Brownback’s policies.
Now Brownback will have a virtual green light to pursue his agenda, which includes granting him more control over selecting judges (the third branch of government).
Still, there is a range of views and extremes among conservative lawmakers. Some want to drown government in a bathtub, while others prefer a more measured approach to spending and taxes.
Several conservative candidates told The Eagle editorial board that they opposed more funding cuts to education. If state revenue plummets as a result of the past session’s tax cuts, they want to adjust the tax cuts to bring in more revenue.
There also will be the burden of being in charge. If there are problems with the budget or other policies, conservatives can no longer blame moderate Republicans or Democrats. That tends to make leaders more responsible – or at least we can hope.
Moderates may argue that the election doesn’t reflect the views of most Kansans. After all, few people voted Tuesday, and Brownback’s approval rating has averaged only 35 percent this year – lower than President Obama’s rating in Kansas.
But this election was no stealth attack. The Kansas chamber and others were clear about their intention to purge moderate senators. And they sent out regular reminders of that goal, via glossy mailers accusing the moderates of backing “Obamacare” and causing Boeing to leave town.
So it all came down to who cared the most to go to the polls and vote. Conservatives did, so Brownback won. Big time.