Kansas Conservative Route Leaves Moderates Isolated
August 9, 2012

KC Star:
The joke used to be that the Democratic caucus in the Kansas Senate was so small it could meet in a phone booth.
Soon, moderate Senate Republicans could probably meet in one, too.
If Tuesday’s primary results hold through the fall, the Kansas Senate would be left with five moderate Republicans after conservatives won decisively in key Senate races on Tuesday. Conservatives defeated seven moderate incumbents who were blamed for blocking Gov. Sam Brownback’s agenda.
“It was an ugly election,” said former state Senate President Dick Bond, a moderate Republican who backed several Johnson County Senate candidates who lost Tuesday.
The road back for moderates will be difficult — and maybe even out of reach.
“Moderate Republicans as an elected class are on the ropes,” said Bob Beatty, political science professor at Washburn University in Topeka. “They’ve lost the ability to garner an electoral majority.”
The only thing that might change that, experts said, is if moderate voters feel pinched by conservative policies.
Before Tuesday’s primary, moderate Republicans made up 14 of the 40 members of the Kansas Senate. Conservatives won two primaries in Johnson County Senate districts now represented by moderates and will face Democratic opposition in the general election.
The conservative sweep was best illustrated out west, where Senate President Steve Morris, a moderate Republican from Hugoton, was beaten by state Rep. Larry Powell of Garden City.

KS Conservatives Purge Moderates, Senate President Morris & 7 Others Defeated
August 8, 2012

Kansas conservative Republicans all but eliminated the moderate bloc of fellow Republicans in the State Senate Tuesday.
Conservatives defeated incumbent Senate President Steve Morris. He was defeated by Larry Powell.
Moderate Tim Owens lost his Johnson County primary to conservative freshman St. Rep Jim Denning.
Moderates lost another Johnson County seat as Jeff Melcher defeated St. Rep Pat Collotin. That was an open seat, formerly held by moderate Senator John Vratil.
In all, eight moderate Republican members of the State Senate lost primary campaigns to
more conservative challengers.
In Topeka, Moderate Vicky Schmidt clings to a 49 vote lead over Joe Powell. All the precincts are counted in that race.
The primary results are a sweeping victory for Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. He was irritated by Moderate Republicans in the Upper Chamber. He blamed them for not fully implementing his tax cut program; blocking his plan to appoint some Kansas Judges; and a messy redistricting fight that had to be settled in federal court.
Brownback campaigned against some of his fellow Republicans.
Moderate Tim Owens of Overland Park accused Brownback of trying to take over all three branches of government.
Owens was one of the moderates who was defeated.
The widespread victories probably clears the way for Brownback to install the rest if his low-tax, small government agenda in the next two years of his term.
The Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the conservative group, Americans for Prosperity also campaigned against Moderate Republicans.
Thousands of dollars were spent on both sides of the butter campaign.
There is an open worry now that it may take some time to heal the split in the state GOP.
At the end of the night, Senators Owens, Dwayne Umbarger; Roger Reitz; Pete Baumgardt; Jean Schodorf; Dick Kelsey and Senate President Morris were all defeated by conservative challengers.
Only Majority Leader Jay Elmer cruises to an easy renomination. He collected 73% of the vote over Jesse Bryant.

Kansas Lawmakers Continue to Jostle Over Maps
May 11, 2012

Topeka Capital Journal:
The Senate redistricting committee Thursday offered pointed rebuttal to House colleagues by approving three new maps redrawing political boundaries of the state’s 40 districts for senators.
The three Senate maps endorsed by the committee followed the House’s move to advance a map determining composition of Senate districts ahead of the 2012 elections. The House adopted Thursday fresh versions of maps for the House, Senate and Kansas State Board of Education.
Historically, the House and Senate took the lead in drafting their own district maps. Both chambers this session have rejected maps drawn by the rival chamber.
Consideration of the new Senate map, redrawn every decade based on changes documented in the U.S. census, has been complicated by efforts of Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative Republican allies in the House and Senate to craft political boundaries undermining the future of moderate senators.
Much of the Senate leadership, including Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, has joined with Democrats to resist redistricting maps that would make it easier for GOP conservatives to win in the August primary.
Sen. Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican and chairman of the Senate mapping committee, said the three Senate maps produced by the panel excluded all conservative Republican challengers to incumbent GOP members of the Senate.
“The challengers are out,” Owens said. “I think they’re good options — reasonable options.”
House Speaker Mike O’Neal, a Hutchinson Republican and chairman of the House redistricting committee, said he couldn’t support a Senate map drawn with “arrogance” to dispose of challengers.

Kansas Budget Show Down Looms as Wrap Up Session Starts in Topeka
April 25, 2012

Topeka Capital Journal:
Legislators will return to the Statehouse on Wednesday with 15 days left in the session and a teetering pile of unfinished business in front of them.
They left three weeks ago on an inauspicious note, with a budget deal collapsing at the 11th hour over whether to add about $25 million in school funding from the state highway fund (the House’s preference) or from the state general fund (the Senate’s stance).
That leaves an estimated $14.1 billion budget deal yet to be ironed out, along with a tax reform package that could go any number of directions, redistricting maps that have proved to be a political minefield, and an overhaul of the public employee pension fund still in play, along with a host of other issues.
“We’re obviously heading into a wrap-up session that looks like it’s going to be quite lengthy,” House Minority Leader Paul Davis said Tuesday. “I hope the Legislature won’t waste a lot of time in the initial days and get right down to business.”
House Speaker Mike O’Neal’s office didn’t respond to an email sent Tuesday.
Senate President Steve Morris said the conference committees that are trying to merge House and Senate bills likely will be busy this week, and he hoped the fruits of their labor would reach the House and Senate floors for up-or-down votes next week.
“The budget is, to me, the highest priority,” Morris said. “We absolutely have to get that finished, and I think we will.”
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, agreed.
While Democrats are pushing for property tax relief and a r
estoration of some of the cuts made to schools in recent years, Hensley said the budget and redistricting are atop the priorities list.