Though the U.S. presidential race will be the main focus of this year’s elections, state and local races are shaping up to be interesting, and consequential.
So even if the presidential candidates aren’t appealing, it will still be important to vote – both on Aug. 2 and Nov. 8.
Gov. Sam Brownback said Wednesday that he thought anger at President Obama is helping propel Donald Trump to the GOP presidential nomination. Maybe, but frustration with Brownback and the state’s budget problems could lead to changes in the Legislature.
All Kansas House and Senate seats are up for election. In addition to a number of incumbents announcing they will not seek re-election – including Wichita GOP Reps. Mark Hutton, Mark Kahrs and Dennis Hedke and GOP Sens. Les Donovan and Michael O’Donnell – several new, high-quality candidates are running.
It is extremely unlikely that Democrats could take control of either chamber (Republicans currently have a 97-28 advantage in the House and a 32-8 majority in the Senate). But the election of a few more moderate Republicans and a few more Democrats could shift power, particularly in the House.
That’s why it is important to vote on Aug. 2, as several races could be decided in the primary. (The voter registration deadline is July 12, and you must be registered as a Republican to vote in the GOP primary.)
Some conservative groups likely will try to shift the power and ideology on the Kansas Supreme Court. Five of the court’s seven justices are up for retention in the Nov. 8 general election.
All four U.S. congressional seats are also on the ballot, and Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., is running for re-election. The most competitive race might be in the 1st Congressional District, where Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler/Hutchinson, faces a strong GOP challenger in Great Bend physician Roger Marshall.
A key local election will be the Sedgwick County Commission, as it could either shift or solidify the commission’s current ruling majority. Republican David Dennis and independent Marcey Gregory are seeking to unseat Republican Karl Peterjohn, and O’Donnell is leaving the state Senate to challenge Democratic incumbent Tim Norton.
Other state and local elections this year include Sedgwick County sheriff, several District Court judgeships, register of deeds and the Kansas State Board of Education.
Brownback speculated that frustration with the leading presidential candidates could result in low turnout. That would be a mistake in Kansas. There are too many other important races for voters to sit this one out.