Opinion Columns & Blogs

July 27, 2014

H. Edward Flentje: Is state on right path to recovery?

The defining issue in upcoming state elections is each candidate’s position regarding “the path of our economic recovery.” So wrote state Rep. Steven Becker, R-Buhler, in a recent letter to the Hutchinson News.

The defining issue in upcoming state elections is each candidate’s position regarding “the path of our economic recovery.” So wrote state Rep. Steven Becker, R-Buhler, in a recent letter to the Hutchinson News.

Does the candidate believe that Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax experiment has brought on deficit spending and downgraded credit, lagging economic growth, and inadequate funding of the state’s primary obligation, public education, and should be reassessed?

Or does the candidate believe the governor’s plan is working just fine?

Republican voters have an early chance to address Becker’s question in primary elections just nine days away.

Registered voters unaffiliated with any political party may also weigh in, should they choose, by showing up at the polls on Election Day, registering as a Republican, and voting.

Brownback is running for re-election in a contested Republican primary, and Republican voters may show their support for his path to recovery by backing him in the primary. Or they may express their opposition by voting for his primary opponent, Jennifer Winn of Haysville.

Winn has been largely ignored by the media, but in a KSN, Channel 3, survey released last week, she attracted 30 percent of likely Republican voters statewide in a head-to-head contest with Brownback. Winn bested Brownback by nearly 2-to-1 among voters who believe education funding is the most important issue in the election.

Support for Winn likely represents a protest against Brownback, rather than an immediate threat. But history shows that protest votes by Kansas Republicans do not bode well for incumbent governors. Primary challengers, even those with little or no name recognition, helped derail the re-election of former Republican Govs. William Avery, Robert Bennett and Mike Hayden. Those primaries suggest that if Winn polls 25 percent or more, Brownback is headed for trouble in the general election.

In other races across the state, one in every four seats in the Kansas House is being contested by Republican candidates in the Aug. 5 primary, offering Republican voters another key opportunity to weigh in on the divergent paths to economic recovery. Assessing these candidates will require more diligence, as voters are bombarded with robocalls and a flurry of artfully crafted, fact-deficient campaign fliers.

Voters who support the governor may look to the Kansas Chamber Political Action Committee, which endorsed candidates in 26 of the 30 contested races. The chamber aided Brownback in crafting and enacting his experiment.

Or voters may view the Kansas Chamber as selling “modern-day, economic snake oil,” as does former Republican Party state chairwoman Rochelle Chronister. She adds that the chamber is backing “incumbents who helped create the largest deficit in the history of our state” and other candidates who “push an out-of-step economic agenda that will force sales and property taxes to skyrocket.”

Republican primary voters have the first opportunity to shape the future direction of state politics. So check out the candidates. Get out and vote on Aug. 5.

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