Legislature shifts toward the center

Lynn Rogers, center, is one of several new Democrats joining the Legislature.
Lynn Rogers, center, is one of several new Democrats joining the Legislature.

There weren’t a lot of surprises in state races Tuesday. But wins by several Democratic challengers continued the ideological shift in the Legislature toward the center and away from the policies of Gov. Sam Brownback – which is good.

And the retention of appellate court judges helped preserve an independent judiciary – also a good result.

GOP conservative incumbents did not suffer quite as many losses as they did during the August primary. Consequently, conservatives will still be the largest block of lawmakers in Topeka.

But a number of wins by Democrats – including Lynn Rogers, Elizabeth Bishop and Steve Crum in Wichita-area races – means there should be enough moderate Republicans and Democrats to pass bills and block Brownback’s policies (though not override him).

And many of the conservative incumbents who won, including Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, have acknowledged that the state is on the wrong track and needs to shift course.

The most contentious state election was the retention vote on five Kansas Supreme Court justices and six Kansas Court of Appeals judges. Family members of victims of the Carr brothers, along with anti-abortion groups and conservatives upset with school-finance rulings, campaigned to oust most of the justices and judges. But other Kansans were concerned about the possibility of Brownback packing the courts.

Though the retention results were closer than in most past years, all the justices and judges will remain on the bench, as they should.

Nationally, the election of Donald Trump as president represents a huge swing to the right. In state government, Kansas continued a much-needed move to the middle.