With the major party candidates’ filings complete for the August primary and November general elections, civility is sure to be among the losers. The stakes include the state’s fiscal future and voting system and the control of the Sedgwick County Commission.
News that the state’s May revenue numbers were an astonishing $217 million short of estimates will be fodder for the Democratic ticket of Paul Davis and Jill Docking to use against Gov. Sam Brownback, whose prized tax cuts have yet to spark robust economic growth. (He also faces a GOP challenge from Jennifer Winn.)
Expect more abuse of Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican,” which was violated during the GOP primaries for Senate and 4th Congressional District in summer 2010 and again during the purge of moderate Republicans from the state Senate in summer 2012.
Tea partier Milton Wolf continues to hammer away at Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., unpersuasively trying to make the three-term senator out to be a nonresident and liberal. (The Senate race drew four other major party candidates, including Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor.)
Two of the 2010 mudslingers also are back. Former eight-term congressman Todd Tiahrt is challenging his two-term successor, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, in what promises to be a battle over imperceptible degrees of conservatism and Obamacare animus. The winner will face Democrat Perry Schuckman in November.
The one GOP and two Democratic challenges to Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, face long odds but are richly deserved, given Huelskamp’s appalling loss of the state’s seat on the House Agriculture Committee and unproductive obnoxiousness over his two terms.
Another incumbent due more than an easy re-election is Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who faces fellow Republican Scott Morgan and Democrat Jean Schodorf. Maybe Kansans, unlike their Legislature, will demonstrate some concern for the 17,800 would-be voters whose registrations are in limbo because of the Kobach-pushed law requiring proof of citizenship, or take issue with Kobach’s legal moonlighting or bizarre claim last week that the secretary of state is “the guardian of state sovereignty.”
Kansas Republicans also will have to sort through the five-way primary prompted by Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger’s retirement (a Democrat is running, too).
And the primary and general election outcomes in two Sedgwick County Commission districts may determine whether the county stays the course on economic development and other issues or veers hard right. Especially interesting: District 4, where the candidates are conservative incumbent Richard Ranzau and two former commissioners, Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, and former Democratic Rep. Melody McCray-Miller. Some state House and judicial races also will be key.
The closer the elections get, the more likely the ads and rhetoric will shift from patriotic and self-promotional to personal and ugly. Because candidates are unlikely to stay on the issues, voters will need to be on guard.