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.

Owens and Denning Trade Jabs in Final Hours of Kansas Primary Showdown
August 6, 2012

The battle for control the Kansas Republican Party raged into the final hours of the 2012 GOP primary campaign.
One of the key campaigns for control is in the heart of Johnson County. Moderate State Senator Tim Owens is in a tought campaign with a conservative freshman from the House, Rep. Jim Denning.
Just a day before the polls opened the punches still flew.
Owens condemned what he called the “intransigence” of Republican conservatives.
“You can’t dialogue with them on anything, it’s their way or the highway,” Owens told KMBC TV News in a Monday interview.
Denning says every time conservatives want to do something important and reform the state, they are being blocked by Senate moderates who vote with Democrats too often.
“That is unacceptable,” he says.
Dennis says his effort to unseat Owens is part of the conservative push to oust Senate moderates. He says no other recent Kansas Republican primary has ever been like this. He says his race is part of a statewide conservative offensive.
“It’s part of the bigger picture”, said Denning, “everybody is all in on this particular election.”
“It’s a different agenda”, said Owens who is also the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, “It’s not Republicanism. They want to control all three branches of government.”
Denning and the other conservatives say the moderates goal is to oppose anything the Governor wants.
He said he jumped into the race because he saw from the House how GOP moderates blocked the House and Governor Sam Bbrownback. He believes if he is going to accomplish his goals, it much be from the State Senate.
Conservatives, including Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce have accused Senate moderates of thwarting Brownback’s agenda. That agenda includes major tax reform, a substantially smaller role for government in Kansas affairs and the Governor’s wish to appoint some judges, rather than have them selected by a panel as it is done now.
The Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the conservative group, Americans for Prosperity have zeroed in on Senate President Steve Morris; other members of his leadership team and moderate committee chairman, like Owens, for defeat in the primary. They have spent hundred of thousands of dollars on hard-hitting political flyers, radio commercials and some television advertising. It is a unsually large amount of money in a small state primary like Kansas.
On the other side, the Kansas Chapter of the National Education Association and some labor unions have joined with Senate President Morris’ PAC and have been spending heavily as well.
It’s made for the strange sight of having Kansas Republicans photo-shopping their felow Republicans (who happen to be primary opponents) image next to Democrats like President Obama or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Conservatives have tried to oust moderates in the Kansas statehouse in recent years, but without much success. Conservatives hope this summer, primary flipping three or four State Senate seats could give them the edge they’re looking for.

Kansas Conservative-Moderate Showdown Includes Battle for Bench
August 3, 2012

KC Star:
The survey question for Kansas Senate candidate Gary Mason was straightforward.
“What, if any, changes would you like to see made to the state’s abortion laws?”
His straightforward answer: Change the courts.
“I think we need more balance in the state court,” Mason said in an interview. “If we had better balance, we would probably see better results.”
“If the conservatives take the Kansas Senate, it makes sense they would want to as soon as possible be able to play a role in the selection of judges,” said Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty.
“That is a very important thing to many conservatives, to be able to rein in what they view to be activist judges.”
“The conservative voice in Kansas is not heard on the bench, as far as I am concerned,” said Johnson County state Rep. Charlotte O’Hara, who’s running for the Senate.
Supporters of the current system, meanwhile, say it protects the judicial branch from political gamesmanship, best illustrated in 1957 when a former Kansas governor maneuvered to get himself appointed to the Supreme Court.
They charge that efforts to change the selection process are driven by an ideological agenda and Brownback’s desire to leave a conservative footprint on state government.
“The governor wants to take over all three branches of government,” Republican state Sen. Tim Owens of Overland Park said at a recent forum.

Read more here: http://midwestdemocracy.com/articles/kansas-candidates-have-an-eye-on-judge-selection/#storylink=cpy

Redistricting Logjam Has Kansas Lawmakers Worried Issue May End Up in Court
May 9, 2012

(AP)— Kansas legislators grew increasingly concerned Tuesday that a dispute over redistricting among majority Republicans may prevent passage of any proposals for adjusting the state’s political boundaries and leave the map-making to the courts.
Legislative leaders were contemplating whether the Kansas Supreme Court could intervene if lawmakers fail to pass anything. A federal lawsuit already has been filed because legislative, congressional and State Board of Education districts haven’t been adjusted to account for population shifts over the past decade.
The impasse centers on redrawing state Senate districts. The Senate narrowly approved a plan favored by its moderate Republican leaders and most Democrats. The House, where conservative Republicans have a majority, expects to debate a different plan Wednesday favored by conservatives.
Conservatives contend the plan backed by Senate leaders is designed to keep them in power by thwarting challenges to incumbents in Republican primary races. GOP moderates and Democrats argue that conservatives hope to draw lines that will give them control of the Senate and eliminate it as a check on conservative Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s agenda.
Some legislators are nervous about letting the courts decide redistricting, but the Legislature is scheduled to end its 90-day session Friday. Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Tim Owens, a moderate Overland Park Republican, expressed frustration with trying to find a plan acceptable to both GOP factions.
“I’m so tired of this debate,” said Owens, a U.S. Army veteran. “It’s like an old expression I had in the military: Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”
House Speaker Mike O’Neal’s decision to have his chamber consider its own plan for redrawing Senate districts breaks with decades of tradition where each chamber drew a new map for its members and the other wouldn’t change it.
O’Neal said the House is drafting a plan to give the Senate an opportunity to reconsider the proposal it approved on a 21-19 vote last week.
“It’s out of our hands,” he said. “It’s totally up to them, how they handle it.”
A bipartisan plan approved by the House for redrawing state representatives’ districts is tied up in the dispute, as are proposals for adjusting the lines of the state’s four congressional districts. Each of the 10 State Board of Education districts combines four Senate districts and can’t be drawn until the Senate plan is settled.

Topeka Split Plan Faces Trouble in Kansas Senate
March 30, 2012

(AP) – The Kansas House has passed a redistricting bill splitting Topeka between two congressional districts.

But key senators said even before Thursday’s vote 81-43 vote in the House that they oppose the measure. The Senate approved its own plan last month, and negotiators for the two chambers must compromise.

Topeka currently is in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas, and the House’s plan would move part of it into the 1st District of western and central Kansas. House Speaker Mike O’Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, noted that his chamber rejected other plans that kept Topeka in a single district.

But Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican, called splitting Topeka absurd. And Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican, said he opposes the idea.