Category Archives: Governor’s race

More polling problems for Brownback

brownbackofficialmugAnother Public Policy Polling survey has found Gov. Sam Brownback lagging Democratic challenger Paul Davis. In the firm’s April 1-2 poll of 886 Kansas voters (52 percent Republicans and 30 percent Democrats), 45 percent said they would vote for Davis, a Lawrence attorney who is the House minority leader, if the gubernatorial election were held today; 41 percent favored Brownback and 14 percent weren’t sure. Fifty-two percent said Kansas should accept the new federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage, and 41 percent said Brownback’s opposition to expansion would make them less likely to vote for him. In a February survey by the same North Carolina-based firm, Davis led Brownback 42 to 40 percent. The latest PPP survey was funded by the liberal group, and a Brownback campaign spokesman dismissed the results.

Governing notes competitiveness of Brownback-Davis race

capitoldomeGoverning magazine has shifted Kansas’ 2014 gubernatorial race from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican,” noting Gov. Sam Brownback’s low approval ratings and the “emergence of a plausible contender: state House Minority Leader Paul Davis.” The magazine said: “Despite being a solidly red state, Brownback’s staunchly conservative agenda – and that of Kansas’ even more conservative Republican legislators – hasn’t been universally loved.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post misstated Governing’s change in the race’s status.

Another nod to Davis’ polling strength

davis,paulSabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics has revised the Kansas gubernatorial rating for 2014 from “Safe Republican” to “Likely Republican,” based on polling suggesting Gov. Sam Brownback might be vulnerable to Democratic challenger Paul Davis (in photo), who is the House minority leader. In Kansas, the website noted, “the centrist Republicans and Democrats will sometimes effectively work together to block the conservative Republicans” and “Brownback has governed as a staunch conservative.” Sabato’s Crystal Ball also observed that “it is surprising to check the history and see that over the past 50 years, the Sunflower State has been governed more often by a Democrat (28 of the last 50 years)” than has Massachusetts (24 of the last 50 years).

More bad polling results for Brownback

thumbsdownOnly 33 percent of Kansans approve of Gov. Sam Brownback’s job performance and 51 percent disapprove, according to a survey by Public Policy Polling. What’s more, only 46 percent of Republicans approve of the job Brownback is doing. In comparison, 34 percent of Kansans approve of President Obama’s job performance (though 60 percent disapprove). Brownback’s high disapproval rating is likely why he slightly trails House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, in a head-to-head matchup. Davis leads 42 percent to Brownback’s 40 percent, even though 59 percent of the people surveyed weren’t sure what they thought of Davis.

Poll has Brownback ahead; Davis called ‘credible’

davis,paul“Is Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback at risk of losing re-election in a state Mitt Romney carried with 60 percent?” asked Stu Rothenberg’s blog for Roll Call, concluding that polling and fundraising are making House Minority Leader Paul Davis (in photo), D-Lawrence, look “like a credible contender. He has quickly consolidated the Democratic base while Brownback still has some work to do in rallying Republicans.” Even though a new GOP poll finds Brownback ahead of Davis by 42 to 31 percent, the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call rating of the race has been changed from “Safe Republican” to “Republican Favored.”

Lt. governor’s campaign loan is unprecedented

money-bagThe $500,000 loan that Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer made to the re-election campaign of Gov. Sam Brownback appears to be unprecedented in Kansas history, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. Carol Williams, executive director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, said she can remember no loan of that size from a candidate. Colyer said the loan shows his team’s commitment to the state and the administration’s policies. “The governor and I are very convinced in making sure that we have a better future for kids,” he told the Journal-World. But the campaign of House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the likely Democratic challenger, said that the loan shows the strength of Davis, who raised nearly as much money as Brownback did last year but in less than half the time.

Loan inflated Brownback’s fundraising total

colyerThe fundraising of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, looks even more impressive with the news that $500,000 of Gov. Sam Brownback’s announced fundraising total was a last-minute loan from his running mate, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (in photo). Not counting the loan, Brownback raised about $1.1 million last year, while Davis raised $1 million in just four months of the year. Davis also had more donors contribute to his campaign last year than Brownback. Because of donations he received in previous years, Brownback still has a significant money lead. But Davis is off to a fast start, and the Colyer loan suggests that the Brownback camp is getting nervous.

Give Docking some credit for Davis’ fast fundraising

dockingHouse Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, is getting attention for raising $1 million from 3,359 donors in 2013 for his challenge to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. That’s a lot raised in just 145 days, and for a candidate with little statewide name recognition. But credit also is surely due his prominent running mate, Wichita financial adviser Jill Docking (in photo), who had passed the million-dollar mark once before: Docking spent $1.1 million in her losing 1996 Senate race against then-congressman Brownback (of a total $5.5 million officially spent on the contest to succeed Sen. Bob Dole). But after 20 years in politics, Brownback is a champion campaign fundraiser, and predictably ended 2013 with $2 million to spend from 10,000 donors.

Davis a candidate to watch in 2014

davis,paulThe National Journal listed Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, as a candidate to watch in 2014. Davis is running for governor this year, and the Journal said that “a right-wing takeover” of the Kansas GOP is driving moderate Republicans toward Davis. It noted that Davis had a slight lead over Gov. Sam Brownback in a SurveyUSA poll taken last fall. However, it still considers Brownback the favorite in this race “barring additional evidence.”

‘The Fix’ is in on next year’s gubernatorial race

davis,paulThe Washington Post’s political blog, “The Fix,” has included Kansas in the top 15 gubernatorial races of 2014. “This dark red state’s debut on our list will surprise many,” the blog said, but “it’s hard to ignore polls.” Gov. Sam Brownback had only a 34 percent approval rating in a SurveyUSA poll last month. And of registered voters surveyed in that poll, 43 percent said they would vote for House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence (in photo), and running mate Jill Docking; 39 percent favored Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer. Money and Republican registration advantages still favor Brownback in the race, but as “The Fix” noted: “This one’s worth keeping an eye on, at the very least.”

Fundraising will be early test for Davis, Docking

An initial test of the strength of the gubernatorial campaign of House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, will be the Jan. 10 deadline for filing campaign-finance reports, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. Will Davis and running mate Jill Docking be able to translate their slight lead over Gov. Sam Brownback in a recent poll into financial support for their campaign? Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty estimated that the Davis campaign would need to spend at least $1.5 million to have a chance at unseating Brownback. More likely, it will need at least twice that much.

Davis polling well with moderate Kansans

In order for someone like Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis (in photo), D-Lawrence, to defeat Gov. Sam Brownback in next year’s gubernatorial race, he would need to get the support of moderate Republicans. A SurveyUSA poll, sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, indicated that Davis might have a shot. Of the self-identified moderates surveyed, only 28 percent said they would vote for Brownback if the election were today, while 58 percent picked Davis. Of the total 511 registered voters surveyed, 43 percent said they would vote for Davis and running mate Jill Docking; 39 percent favored Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer. Brownback trailed Davis in each racial category of voters, and the only geographic area where Brownback led Davis was western Kansas (53 to 30 percent). Brownback also led among voters with only a high school degree but trailed Davis among all other voters.

Can Davis-Docking win over conservative Kansas?

Confirming the rumors Tuesday, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, named Wichita financial planner Jill Docking (in photo) as his running mate for next year’s challenge to Gov. Sam Brownback. Though lieutenant governors aren’t big factors in gubernatorial elections, the former chairwoman of the Kansas Board of Regents will matter more than most, in part because she is married to former Lt. Gov. Tom Docking, whose father, Robert, and grandfather George both served as governor. It’s hard to know how much value the Docking name retains among the current Kansas electorate, which is even more conservative and Republican than when Brownback beat Jill Docking in the U.S. Senate race in 1996. But there is new evidence this week of Brownback’s vulnerability: The Kansas Speaks 2013 survey by Fort Hays State University’s Docking Institute of Public Affairs found that 35 percent of Kansans polled were satisfied with Brownback’s performance, 38 percent were satisfied with his efforts to improve the economy and 44 percent would vote for him if the election were held today. To win, the Davis-Docking ticket would need to score big with dissatisfied Republicans and independents.

Another Docking as lieutenant governor?

An e-mail making the rounds from a prominent backer of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis names Wichita financial planner Jill Docking (in photo) as his running mate, according to the Kansas City Star. Docking, who ran against Sam Brownback in 1996 for the U.S. Senate and formerly chaired the Kansas Board of Regents, told The Eagle editorial board via e-mail Thursday: “I have a determined commitment to this race. My focus right now is supporting Paul Davis for governor. I plan to work as hard as I can to deny Sam Brownback a second term.” If she sought the lieutenant governor spot, it would give Davis, the Lawrence Democrat who is House minority leader, the benefit of the association with two of the biggest families in Kansas political history. Docking is married to former Lt. Gov. Tom Docking, whose father, Robert, and grandfather George both served as governor, and Davis’ campaign treasurer is William A. Kassebaum, a Republican and former state legislator who is the son of former U.S. Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker and the grandson of former Gov. Alf Landon.

Kassebaum has experience with political divide

William Kassebaum – the campaign treasurer for potential gubernatorial candidate state Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence – has had experience with the moderate-conservative divide in state politics and with David Kensinger, president of Gov. Sam Brownback’s political action committee. In 2004, when Kassebaum was a moderate GOP state lawmaker, he was targeted for defeat by the anti-tax group Club for Growth, which mailed thousands of postcards and purchased radio ads denouncing him, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. At that time, Kensinger guided the local chapter of Club for Growth. Kassebaum, who is the son of former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum and grandson of former Gov. Alf Landon, said that for Davis to win, he would need support from moderate Republicans.

Is Kansas GOP to the right of libertarians?

“We are moderates who will represent the interests and security of the people, natural resources and industries in Kansas that are ignored by big-money politics,” said Tresa McAlhaney, who is seeking the Libertarian Party’s nomination for Kansas governor in 2014. Is the Kansas GOP now so far to the right that it makes libertarians seem moderate? Of course, much of the big money behind Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas GOP is coming from wealthy libertarians.

Hard to see a Lawrence Democrat beating Brownback

With House Minority Leader Paul Davis (in photo), D-Lawrence, having formed a campaign committee and Wichita businesswoman Jill Docking supporting his potential candidacy for governor, the Democrats’ 2014 challenge to Gov. Sam Brownback seemingly is taking shape. Davis, an attorney, has been an effective leader of the badly outnumbered Democrats in the House, and an articulate, measured critic of the GOP and its activist governor. But what are the odds of someone who likely will be painted as a “Lawrence liberal” being able to take down Brownback, even with Brownback’s low approval ratings? It’s hard to see it happening – unless, say, the governor and GOP Legislature defy a Kansas Supreme Court ruling on school funding next spring and a constitutional crisis shutters schools.

Brownback is off and running for re-election

Though there hasn’t been a formal announcement, an e-mail that Gov. Sam Brownback sent out last week made it clear he is running for re-election next year. The e-mail asked for campaign donations so that Brownback can share his “record of accomplishment with Kansans.” The e-mail selectively highlighted some of those accomplishments and said that “now is the time to protect and build on our achievements.” It also claimed that Brownback  is fighting off efforts by President Obama and others in Washington, D.C., “to make Kansas, our precious Kansas, look more like their vision for Washington.”

Brownback’s low approval rating not surprising

A Public Policy Polling survey released this week showing that only 37 percent of Kansans approve of Gov. Sam Brownback’s job performance was not particularly surprising, as polls conducted last year by SurveyUSA had similar findings. The approval rating mirrored the public’s opinion of Brownback’s plan for phasing out state income taxes, as only 37 percent of those surveyed supported it while 48 percent opposed it. Though Brownback had an edge against various Democrats in hypothetical matchups, it was striking how well the Democrats did even though the public knows little about them. For example, Brownback led Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer by only 4 percentage points, even though 68 percent of those surveyed didn’t know enough about Brewer to have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him.

Big day for Republicans in Kansas, nationally

bbackwinSurprising only a few Democrats in denial, Kansas Republicans took all the statewide and congressional races Tuesday, our editorial today noted, adding their voice to the noisy national chorus calling for less government, more fiscal discipline and no more unchecked Democratic control of Washington, D.C. As political satirist P.J. O’Rourke had predicted, it was less of an election than “a restraining order.”
Nationally, Republicans regained control of the U.S. House, as expected, but didn’t do quite as well as they had hoped in the Senate, though they still made considerable gains.
In Kansas, the election was bigger for the GOP than November 1994, when Democrats at least retained the state treasurer seat and claimed the insurance commissioner’s job (the latter for Kathleen Sebelius, who’d go on to fortify her party and win two terms as governor). This time, victory was exclusive to the Republicans.
For Gov.-elect Sam Brownback and the GOP lawmakers who lead and dominate the Legislature, the afterglow will give way to the demands of governing according to their tight-fisted principles. With Sebelius and Gov. Mark Parkinson out of office and a more conservative GOP majority in the Kansas House, Republicans will have much to do and no one to blame.

GOP headed for ‘clean sweep’ in Kansas?

broomRepublicans appear headed for a “clean sweep” in statewide races next week, according to the latest SurveyUSA poll sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12. GOP gubernatorial candidate Sam Brownback is leading Democrat Tom Holland by 27 percentage points. Secretary of state candidate Kris Kobach leads Democrat Chris Biggs by 21 points. State treasurer candidate Ron Estes is 15 points ahead of Dennis McKinney. The only marginally close race is for attorney general, where Republican Derek Schmidt leads Steve Six by 8 points, with 4 percent undecided.

Other newspapers prefer Holland, Schmidt

thumbsupKansas newspapers that endorse candidates in statewide races have mostly been like-minded, preferring Jerry Moran for U.S. Senate, Sam Brownback for governor, Steve Six for attorney general, Dennis McKinney for state treasurer and Chris Biggs for secretary of state. Among the exceptions:
– “Democrat Tom Holland is more in touch with Kansas, more familiar with the challenges facing the state and better prepared to come up with solutions than his favored opponent, retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback.” — Kansas City Star
– “Democrat Steve Six is a native of Lawrence and son of Fred Six, a distinguished former judge of the Kansas Supreme Court. Republican Derek Schmidt, of Independence, is recognized as a leading member of the Kansas Senate. Both men have compiled good records but Six, as a Democrat, may be more inclined to support Obama. . . . This country cannot afford a second term for Obama. His efforts during the next two years, during which he could force whatever he wants down the throat of the country, mislead citizens, weaken the nation and take away guaranteed freedoms, must be stunted.” — Lawrence Journal-World

Will Kansas challenge Sebelius, too?

healthcaregovTwenty states have joined the lawsuit challenging the new health care law. Next week’s election could determine whether Kansas, Oklahoma and other states enter the fight as well — in Kansas’ case, going up against former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, now President Obama’s secretary of health and human services. As the website noted, Republican gubernatorial front-runner Sam Brownback and GOP attorney general candidate Derek Schmidt both favor joining the suit. Meanwhile, Democrat Steve Six, whom Sebelius appointed attorney general, wants to stay out of it. Governing magazine views the Schmidt-Six contest as a toss-up, noting that “it’s expected to be a brutal election for Kansas Democrats this year” but that Six is “as strong a Democrat as the party has running in the state.”

What a Brownback win would mean

brownbackmugA New York Times article on the Kansas gubernatorial race, and possible GOP congressional clean sweep, included some frank observations by leaders past and present. Among them:
– “The reality is, there will never again, ever, be a moderate Republican governor. Those days are over.” — Republican-turned-Democrat Gov. Mark Parkinson
– “We really don’t know what to expect from Sam.” — Kansas Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, about GOP gubernatorial candidate Sam Brownback
– “There is a huge difference between being a vote in a legislative body on policy issues and being chief executive. There is a certain pragmatism you have to bring every morning in order to serve the state.” — former Gov. Bill Graves, foreseeing that Gov. Brownback would move to the middle

Derby candidate has to pay for wig

heffingtonJoan Heffington of Derby, who was defeated by U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback in the Republican Party primary for governor, must reimburse her campaign for a $159 wig, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission ruled that, much like clothing, campaigns couldn’t pay for a wig, because there would be no way to tell if the wig would be used only during campaigning and not during personal time.