Author Archives: Rhonda Holman

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.

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.”

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

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.”

Alarm ordinance sounds like ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’

firetruckwichitaThe city clearly has a problem with security and fire false alarms, and especially with chronic abusers who owe more than $800,000 in false-alarm penalties. The proposed ordinance on the Tuesday agenda of the Wichita City Council could help, including by transferring responsibility for initial registration from alarm companies to users. But council members need to be cautious about refusing to respond to alarms when a residence or business has had more than six false alarms during a 12-month registration period and/or has failed to pay fees or penalties. Yes, ignoring a fire or security alarm in such cases could free up police and trucks for real emergencies, while saving taxpayers money. But “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” seems a questionable model for public safety.

Glickman’s tips for democracy

congressinsessionIn Politico magazine, former Wichita congressman Dan Glickman and former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe proposed “Ten Ways to Strengthen Democracy.” Among their ideas to “fix the electoral process, return Congress to legislating and enhance public service”: Increase primary participation with a single June primary date for congressional primaries and more open primaries. Let special commissions handle redistricting. Increase disclosure of political contributions, including those made to independent groups, and of spending by congressional leadership PACs. Reform the filibuster and Senate debate. Empower congressional committees. Adopt a biennial budget cycle. Synchronize House and Senate workweeks. And “the president and congressional leadership should hold regular monthly meetings.” Glickman and Snowe co-chair the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform.

Open thread (July 11)

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Open thread (July 10)

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Local governments grasping for cuts, revenue

moneystretchJuly is budgeting time for Kansas’ cities and counties, which means tough choices any year but especially for 2015. This week the Douglas County administrator proposed a property tax increase of 3.85 mills, in part to offset the loss of revenue from the Legislature’s repeal of the mortgage registration fee, according to the Lawrence Journal-World. And the Finney County Commission proposed a budget that slightly lowers the mill levy but includes a 10 percent across-the-board cut to funding for outside agencies that serve seniors, the mentally ill and children, among others, the Garden City Telegram reported. “We can’t fund it all and keep taxpayers happy,” Finney County Commission Chairman Larry Jones said.

Open thread (July 9)

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Turnpike overlook would be welcome addition

flinthillsLess is more when it comes to development along the stretch of the Kansas Turnpike that runs through the expansive Flint Hills, which are as close as contemporary America comes to the vast tallgrass prairie that pioneers experienced. But it would be great to see the addition of a scenic overlook, which is being considered by the Kansas Turnpike Authority in conjunction with improvements planned near milepost 111 in Chase County. That’s the point along I-35 with on and off ramps that serve cattle ranchers. If approved by the KTA board, the overlook might be constructed in spring 2015. As Sandy Kramer, director of the Chase County Chamber of Commerce, told the Lawrence Journal-World: “We would hope that this outlook would be an opportunity for people to stop, take a breath and just fully engage in what it is they’re seeing.”

Open thread (July 8)

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Rebound in lesser prairie chicken numbers is good news

lesserprairiechickenPeople on all sides of the lesser prairie chicken fight should cheer survey results showing that the population has increased about 20 percent in a year. According to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, biologists estimated the numbers of lesser prairie chickens in parts of the five-state range at 22,415 this spring, up from 18,747 in spring 2013. That compares with the 2012 estimate of more than 30,000. The biggest recent gains, which the service linked to good rains, were seen in south-central Kansas, the northeast Texas Panhandle and northwestern Oklahoma. But the bird, which was listed as threatened in March by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is still the subject of multiple lawsuits. Kansas and Oklahoma are challenging the federal action, while environmental groups are suing because they want more federal protection of the lesser prairie chicken.

Open thread (July 7)

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Moran, Roberts disagree on federal media shield law

justiceladyMore than 70 media organizations recently sent a letter to the U.S. Senate leaders asking for a vote on the Free Flow of Information Act, a media shield law meant to help protect reporters when federal prosecutors try to compel them to reveal their sources. “The ability to protect confidential sources is the oxygen that investigative reporting needs to survive,” the organizations wrote. Asked last week by The Eagle editorial board about a federal shield law, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said he sponsored such a bill in the House and likely would be supportive as a senator. Moran pointed to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal as a great example of investigative journalism and its benefits. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., told the editorial board that such a law shouldn’t be needed if the First Amendment is applied properly. The issue has taken on more urgency since the U.S. Supreme Court declined last month to take up the case of New York Times reporter James Risen, who was told by a federal appeals court to testify in the case of a CIA officer accused of leaking classified information related to Iran’s nuclear program.

Open thread (July 6)

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Norquist’s group lauds Kansas’ tax cuts

budgetcut“Kansas Tax Cuts Are Working,” declared a blog at Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. Writer Will Upton pointed to Kansas’ unemployment rate compared with Missouri’s, and especially the job growth along the border on the Kansas side. Upton seconded the Brownback administration’s contention that most of the $338 million revenue shortfall is due to federal tax policy, and said “Kansas still remains a relatively high tax state” in its region. The conclusion: “Opponents of tax reform and spending interests want to try and write an early obituary for the Kansas tax reform. Unfortunately for them, the tax cuts are working and will continue to improve the Kansas economy for years to come.” Upton didn’t mention that since the tax cuts kicked in January 2013, Kansas has trailed the nation and all neighboring states except Nebraska in job growth. Meanwhile, a review of Kansas’ tax plan and resulting budget problems by Josh Barro of the New York Times was titled, “Yes, if You Cut Taxes, You Get Less Tax Revenue.”

So they said

jordannick“We’re not happy with this at all.” – Kansas Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan (in photo), to Associated Press, when the state’s tax revenues proved to be $28 million short of projections for June and $338 million short for the fiscal year

“The Koch tax cuts give ‘bleeding Kansas’ a new meaning. You’re doing a heck of a job, Brownie (not!)” – Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, tweeting about the revenue problems under the Republican who beat him in the 2010 gubernatorial race, Sam Brownback

“I could carry a Japanese war sword on one hip, a TEC-9 on the other and an assault rifle on my back. Perfectly legal.” – Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., spokesman Mike Taylor, on the new state law preventing cities from regulating carrying of guns and knives

“We maintain that the state operates under the rule of law, and individual jurisdictions must abide by that law regardless of their personal feelings.” – Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, on the new gun law, which also opened the Capitol to concealed-carry

Open thread (July 5)

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Open thread (July 4)

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Open thread (July 3)

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Will Brownback-Davis end the way Brownback-Docking did?

bbackoathA National Journal article headlined “Can a Democrat Win in Kansas?” reported the polling showing Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is vulnerable to the challenge by House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, amid the state’s deepening revenue problems. It concluded with an interesting flashback: “A Cook Political Report race ranking by Charlie Cook on the 1996 Kansas Senate contest – when Brownback first ran for Senate against Democrat Jill Docking, Davis’ running mate this year – reads like a preview of this year’s gubernatorial race. The summary comes complete with moderate grievances against Brownback for his conservative record…. The race was considered a toss-up to the end, when Brownback ultimately defeated Docking by 10 percentage points.”

Open thread (July 2)

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