Lawrence unveils expanded library; Wichita waits

libraryLawrence residents are thrilled with their newly expanded and renovated public library, which had its grand opening last weekend. The library’s many features include a recording studio, video-editing bays, a performance auditorium, conference rooms and a coffee shop. It also has a “teen zone” that includes large-screen TVs and video game systems. Meanwhile, Wichita’s plan for a new, modern downtown facility to replace the 47-year-old Central Library (in photo) keeps being put off and scaled back. Maybe Wichita City Council members should take a field trip to Lawrence.

Colyer tries to fool Kansans twice

colyerIt’s hard to believe that Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer tried the same trick twice. On New Year’s Eve last year, the last day of the campaign finance reporting period, Colyer loaned the Brownback campaign $500,000 – the largest campaign loan in state history. Several days later, reporters asked Colyer and Gov. Sam Brownback about the loan, which looked suspiciously like it was aimed at inflating the campaign’s fundraising total to match the fundraising of the Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis. Colyer told the Lawrence Journal-World that the loan represented his commitment to making a better future for Kansas kids. Brownback told the Kansas City Star that the loan would allow him to take his message to voters this winter and spring. Neither of them disclosed that the campaign had already repaid Colyer for the loan, on Jan. 2. Now, Colyer has done it again. On July 23, a day before the latest reporting period ended, Colyer again loaned the campaign $500,000. And again, the campaign claimed that the loan was merely a sign of Colyer’s commitment to the campaign.

Pompeo and Tiahrt both pandering on impeachment

ObamaIn their testy Sunday debate on KNSS Radio 1330-AM, both Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and former Rep. Todd Tiahrt said they would vote to impeach President Obama (in photo). “If such a bill were introduced, I would,” Pompeo said, jumping into a criticism of the “absolute overreach” of the administration. Tiahrt said Obama “had broken the law” and he also proudly declared: “I’ve already voted to impeach Bill Clinton on all four counts.” Saying they’d vote to impeach Obama is like a future juror declaring someone guilty even before charges are filed, testimony is heard and jury deliberations are held. Shouldn’t they be above such right-wing pandering?

Kansas losing out by not expanding Medicaid

healthcaregovHow much is Kansas losing out by not allowing a federal expansion of Medicaid? About $820 million over the next three years, according to a study by the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Kansas is also losing out on 3,800 new jobs over the three-year span. And up to 100,000 low-income Kansans are losing out on needed health insurance. Expansion also would save the state money by moving some adults the state now cares for, such as those with mental illnesses, onto Medicaid and by reducing other costs. But neither the financial nor moral arguments for expansion seem to matter to Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature.

Why big difference in gubernatorial polls?

thumbsupdownA new poll from the research firm YouGov, in partnership with the New York Times and CBS News, has Gov. Sam Brownback ahead of his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, by 10 points, 47 to 37 percent. Yet SurveyUSA polls, sponsored by KSN, Channel 3, have consistently shown Davis ahead, including one released last week that had Davis up 8 points, 48 to 40 percent. How could there be such a big difference? The YouGov poll is using a new sampling method based on an online panel, while SurveyUSA uses the traditional method of random telephone surveys. The non-probability online panel is controversial, and it tends to underrepresent minorities (only 4.4 percent in the Kansas poll). Ultimately, the only polling that matters is what happens in the voting booth.

Age split in polling on governor’s race

brownbackhandPaul Davis, Democratic candidate for Kansas governor.  2014One might suspect that younger adults would be the age group least supportive of Gov. Sam Brownback’s (left) re-election, given his stance on gay marriage and other social issues. But a new SurveyUSA poll, sponsored by KSN, Channel 3, shows younger voters as Brownback’s biggest backers. Though he trails Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis (right) by 8 points overall, 40 to 48 percent, Brownback leads by 15 points with voters younger than age 35. Brownback also has a 4-point lead with 35- through 49-year-olds. Davis leads by 13 points with 50- through 64-year-olds and by 20 points with those 65 and older. Also of note: Davis’ lead in the Wichita area is 7 points, nearly identical to the statewide results. Davis leads by 15 points with women and by 2 points with men. And on the issue of education, Davis leads by a whopping 58 points, 76 to 18 percent.

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

SPOOFSLOGOThe following satirical headlines come from borowitzreport.com and theonion.com:

Rick Perry Orders Dallas Cowboys to Mexican Border

Boehner Drops Obama Lawsuit; Says It Would Mean Doing Something

New Anti-Abortion Legislation Requires Doctors to Scale 18-Foot Wall Surrounding Clinic

Study Finds High School Students Retain Only One-Third of Obsolete Curriculum Over Summer

Royal Baby’s First Year Widely Considered Disappointing

So they said

brownbackofficialmug“It’s law. It’s going to happen.” – Gov. Sam Brownback (in photo), saying he opposes the proposal of his Democratic challenger, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, to postpone additional scheduled state income tax cuts

“Western Kansas sees it as not real Kansas.” – Kansas Republican Party executive director Clay Barker, to the Hill newspaper, about Johnson County, home to U.S. Senate candidate Milton Wolf

“Rolling into Dodge City. I wonder if there are any recliners for rent.” – Wolf, tweeting a dig at Sen. Pat Roberts’ February statement that he has “full access to the recliner” at the home of some Dodge City donors

“They’re a bunch of humorless has-beens who don’t like being outed as Democrats.” – Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina, in the Salina Journal, doubling down on his recent tweet that Democrat Paul Davis’ gubernatorial campaign “really raided the nursing home” to find the Republicans endorsing him

Candidate endorsements being released

Recall ElectionThe Eagle editorial board has begun releasing its endorsements for contested primaries. Thursday’s endorsements were for Kansas House races in Sedgwick County. Friday’s will be for Sedgwick County Commission and District Court. Saturday’s will be for Kansas governor, secretary of state and insurance commissioner. On Sunday we will endorse for U.S. Senate and U.S. House. The endorsements that really matter are by voters in the Aug. 5 primary.

Court lacking diversity

justiceladyThe glaring lack of ethnic and gender diversity on the Sedgwick County District Court bench came up during Tuesday’s forum for judicial candidates sponsored by the Wichita Women Attorneys Association and League of Women Voters Wichita-Metro. Judge Gregory Waller, a Democrat who has two Republican challengers in the Aug. 5 primary, noted that when he was appointed by Gov. Joan Finney in 1993, he became the third African-American on the Sedgwick County bench (along with the late Robert Watson and Jennifer Jones, now administrative judge in Wichita Municipal Court). Now, Waller said, he is the only African-American judge in the district and one of only three in the state (Shawnee and Wyandotte counties have one each). One of Waller’s challengers, Linda Kirby, mentioned that there are no elected women among the 28 judges on the Sedgwick County bench, though Judge Faith Maughan was appointed to the bench last year by Gov. Sam Brownback. One other woman will be on the Aug. 5 primary ballot: Diane Sherwood, who is vying with Mike Hoelscher to succeed retiring Judge Mark Vining.

New jobs report is nothing to brag about

joblessKansas Labor Secretary Lana Gordon said the state’s new jobs report was good news. “With another month of private-sector job growth, Kansas continues its comeback from the recession,” she said. The problem is that job growth is much slower than the national average and lower than in nearly all the surrounding states. The June report showed private-sector employment in Kansas grew only about 1.3 percent over the past year. Nationally, it grew 3 percent. What’s more, Kansas was one of only nine states that had fewer jobs at the end of June than it did seven months ago. The unemployment rate in Kansas also increased slightly, to 4.9 percent, while the rate in Wichita rose to 5.9 percent.

Health compact another grievance against Brownback

morrissteve2Saying “it is OK to support a high-quality Democrat for governor,” former Kansas Senate President Steve Morris (in photo) explained to the Garden City Telegram that the concerns that led him to join the more than 100 Republicans endorsing Democrat Paul Davis over Gov. Sam Brownback went beyond the “huge deficits” that are likely because of the 2012 income tax cuts and the ongoing raid on transportation funds. He also pointed to the 2014 passage of the health care compact law, a multistate mutiny against the Affordable Care Act that could lead to Kansas taking over senior citizens’ health care. “To try and take over Medicare? No other state’s ever done that. It would be a total train wreck,” Morris said. As the Kansas Republican Party was quick to point out, some of the Republicans for Davis “were thrown out by Kansas voters.” Morris was among those moderates ousted in the Brownback-led purge of 2012.

It’s official: Riverfest was huge success

riverfestfireworks2014The official numbers show what Wichita already knew: The 2014 River Festival was a huge success. About 380,000 people attended the nine-day event (up 5 percent from 2013 and 30 percent from 2012). Also, 111,000 festival buttons were sold (up nearly 7 percent from 2013) and sponsorships increased 15 percent, which helped shore up the festival’s finances. Though the weather was threatening at times, the festival benefited from pleasant temperatures. This year’s concerts were big draws, and there was a good mix of new attractions and old favorites. Congratulations to Riverfest staff and its army of volunteers.

National media spotlight on Kansas (but not in a favorable way)

statesealMaybe former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum wasn’t exaggerating when he said last week that the “future of the free world” hinges on Kansas’ gubernatorial race. National media are certainly treating Kansas’ political and economic news as major stories. Click here to read excerpts from a few recent commentaries.

Victors, King among ‘rising political stars’

victors,ponka-weking,jeffWhen MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” recently singled out “rising political stars” in Kansas, the Democrats were Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, the “underdog” challenging Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and state Rep. Ponka-We Victors (left), D-Wichita, noted for her Native American ancestry and advocacy for small business and higher education. The Republicans were state Sen. Jeff King (right), R-Independence, highlighted as a “strong voice on increasing public safety” and likely attorney general candidate in 2018, and Attorney General Derek Schmidt, credited with “putting child sex offenders behind bars for life and building a state-of-the-art crime lab” and mentioned as a future candidate for governor.

AFP explanation as disingenuous as mailer

clayton,stephanieIt shouldn’t be surprising that the group behind a disingenuous political mailer is also disingenuous about its purpose. Americans for Prosperity-Kansas sent out mailers blasting Rep. Stephanie Clayton (in photo), R-Overland Park, for voting “against our kid’s future.” The vote in question is the school finance bill that passed late at night this past session. It included the highly controversial (but AFP-backed) provisions to strip teachers of their state-mandated due-process rights and to give tax breaks to corporations for donating to private school scholarship funds. When contacted by The Eagle, AFP-Kansas director Jeff Glendening denied that the mailer had anything to do with helping Clayton’s conservative challenger in the upcoming GOP primary. Yeah, right. He also said – repeatedly – that the mailer didn’t say to “vote for or against” anyone. Why did he emphasize that so much? Because not saying those magic words means that AFP doesn’t have to disclose its funding sources.

2006 Kansas race proved campaign mail works

klinedebate2While expressing exasperation in the Los Angeles Times about having received 200 mailers before a recent primary, campaign strategist Darry Sragow wondered whether such onslaughts are effective and noted: “A team of professors at Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale looked at the impact of a six-piece mailing program in the 2006 contest for Kansas attorney general and found that the mailings had a statistically and politically significant effect on the candidate’s share of the vote. They concluded that a 10 percent increase in the amount of mail sent to a precinct increased the candidate’s vote share by roughly 3 percentage points.” The research focused on the “Snoop Dog” mailings by the group Kansans for Consumer Privacy Protection, which had ties to abortion provider George Tiller. The fliers criticized incumbent Phill Kline (in photo) for snooping through women’s medical records and helped Democrat Paul Morrison beat him by 17 percentage points. The researchers wrote that there was “no evidence that these mailings affected turnout. As a result, we conclude that these mailings persuaded individuals who were already going to turn out to switch for whom they voted.”

Dubious, bogus and utterly phony headlines

SPOOFSLOGOThe following satirical headlines come from borowitzreport.com and theonion.com:

Everyone in Middle East Given Own Country in 317,000,000-State Solution

Voters Clamoring to Know if Female Political Candidate Is a Mother First

Fleeing Iraqis Relieved That Cheney Has No Regrets About War

Brazilian Government Posts Listings for 12 Soccer Stadiums on Craigslist

LeBron Congratulates People of Cleveland on Having Him Back

New Study Finds Most of Earth’s Oxygen Used for Complaining

When candidates don’t debate, voters lose

debateThe hot races of the unseasonably cool summer in Kansas have seen a scarcity of debates. That may serve candidates strategically but makes losers of the voters. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, and former Rep. Todd Tiahrt sparred at a Wichita Crime Commission forum and have agreed to debate on TV (6:30 p.m. Monday, KWCH, Channel 12) and radio (6 p.m. July 27, KNSS 1330-AM). Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, and challenger Alan LaPolice shared the stage at a Liberal event. Secretary of State Kris Kobach and GOP challenger Scott Morgan both spoke to Wichita Pachyderm Club members on Friday. But there have been too few public face-offs, and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has declined to debate tea partier Milton Wolf. As the Kansas City Star’s Steve Kraske said in expressing disappointment in Roberts: “At election time, we expect our candidates to stand side by side with their opponents and address the day’s pressing issues. At least once, right?”

Nice to know names of Supreme Court applicants

stegall,calebTwo thoughts about the 14 applicants who’d like to replace Justice Nancy Moritz on the Kansas Supreme Court: There is a lot of ambition on the Kansas Court of Appeals; four of its members are seeking the promotion, including Chief Judge Thomas Malone and Brownback-appointed Judges Tony Powell and Caleb Stegall (the last, in photo, on the court a mere six months). And it’s great to know who applied – standard practice with Supreme Court openings, but also a transparency that may be endangered. Gov. Sam Brownback and some lawmakers have sought to change the state constitution to cut out the nominating commission and give the governor free rein to fill openings (subject to Senate confirmation), as he now has for the Court of Appeals. Last year, Brownback declined to release the names of the applicants for a new Court of Appeals spot, then picked Stegall, his former counsel. That was the first time in 32 years that Kansans hadn’t known who applied for the court and who made it to the top three.

So they said

santorum“Sam Brownback ruffles feathers. He takes on dragons.” – former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (in photo), campaigning in Olathe for the governor’s re-election

“Reagan didn’t turn the country around in the first six months of tax reduction. I think we’re in fine shape.” – Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, telling Bloomberg that criticism of Brownback’s tax cuts is unwarranted and Kansas is the “point of the spear”

“Well, they don’t call the Senate the assisted living home for nothing.” – Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., after a Johnson County GOP official inadvertently introduced him as the state’s “senior citizen” rather than its senior senator

“I think he’s a fine man. He just lacks leadership skills. Washington is in a deadlock, but that might be a good thing when you’re talking about government.” – former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, talking about President Obama during a Cottonwood Falls visit

Can’t conclude that tax cuts pay for themselves

taxcuts“The business boom predicted by tax cut advocates has not happened, and it certainly has not come remotely close to offsetting the static revenue loss from the legislated tax cuts,” Howard Gleckman wrote in Forbes magazine about Kansas’ declining tax revenues and sluggish economy. Gleckman concluded: “One can argue whether cutting taxes is a good thing. One can argue about whether government is too big. One can even argue about whether low taxes increase business activity. But one cannot credibly argue that tax cuts increase revenue or even pay for themselves.” Another Forbes contributor, David Brunori, argued that while Gov. Sam Brownback oversold the short-term benefits of the tax cuts, it “may be too early to know if the Kansas experiment is a long-term failure.”

Orman ad likely resonates with Kansans

orman,gregGreg Orman faces long odds running as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate in Kansas. But a campaign advertisement he released last week likely will resonate with many Kansans. It shows red and blue teams competing in a muddy tug-of-war contest. “Washington’s stuck between two parties who care more about winning than they care about our country,” Orman says in the ad, adding that “most Kansans just want government to live within its means and stop telling the rest of us how to live our lives.”

Davis endorsements a ‘RINO stampede’?

elephantfightThe national political media, including some opinionated observers, lit up over Tuesday’s endorsement by dozens of Kansas Republicans of Democrat Paul Davis for governor. “RINO stampede in Kansas,” declared American Thinker. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne tweeted: “What’s the matter with #Kansas? 104 Republicans oppose Gov. Sam #Brownback because his tax cuts went too far.” Breitbart.com called the 104 “mostly long-retired or recently fired moderate, establishment Republicans” and the move a “spiteful strike against the voters of Kansas who threw many of them out of office.” Closer to home, former Kansas House Speaker Doug Mays initially tweeted, “I was surprised at the list of R’s endorsing Rep. Davis. I actually thought about 1/3 of them had died.” A later tweet apologized for his “intemperate, insensitive remark…. I violated my own rules & philosophy regarding political discourse.”

Secretary of state race also getting some notice

Scott Morgan, candidate for Kansas Secretary of State.  2014Kansas’ gubernatorial race is receiving a lot of national media attention, but the GOP primary in the secretary of state race also is starting to get some notice. Scott Morgan (in photo), who is challenging incumbent Kris Kobach, appeared this week on the “All In With Chris Hayes” show on MSNBC. Morgan, who served as a staff member to former Sens. Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum Baker, acknowledged that it will be difficult to win in a GOP primary, but he felt compelled to run. “At some point you have to stand up and say, ‘This isn’t us; we’re better than this.’” Morgan said that Kansans may not be flashy but we are decent. “We can be kind to each other,” he said, “and we don’t have to fan fear all the time.”