Political Hardball Is Already Back At The Kansas Legislature

Feb 12, 2017

Kansas Sen. John Skubal, left, was attacked by an Americans for Prosperity postcard this week. Sen. Barbara Bollier, center, says she was threatened with a primary opponent in four years.
Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas Legislature is entering its fifth week of work and already some members are being threatened with a primary and negative postcards are being dropped in mailboxes.

“They told me all this money from the Koch brothers, millions of dollars to attack me in a campaign,” Sen. Barbara Bollier, a moderate Republican from Mission Hills, said on KCUR's political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. “I’m not here  to be threatened. I’m here to get it fixed. And whatever it takes. And if I do the right thing I will be re-elected because that’s what my constituents want.”

At least one other freshman in the Senate has been threatened with a primary challenge if they run for re-election in four years.

The primary threats came after moderate Republicans in the Senate refused to back budget bills from leadership that would have cut five percent out of public school budget this year and modestly hiked income taxes to fill a billion-dollar budget hole over the next two years.

Moderates and Democrats support a plan that would add a third income tax bracket to raise more money that, they say, would structurally balance future budgets. The three-tier income tax system was trimmed to two brackets as part of the 2012 income tax cuts pushed by Gov. Sam Brownback and conservatives. That was the package that also exempted 330,000 LLCs, S corporations and farmers from paying state income tax.

Also on Thursday campaign-style mailers dropped on at least two members of the Senate.

Credit Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

Freshman Sen. John Skubal, a moderate GOP member from Overland Park, was attacked by an Americans for Prosperity postcard saying he wants to raise "your taxes to feed his spending habit." The piece went on to say that, "The plan will raise taxes on all Kansans, including low- and middle-income families."

"I think most of it goes in the trash," says Skubal. "I wouldn't think they'd be wasting money. But they've got a lot of it."

A similar postcard attacking Sen. Susan Wagle was posted on Twitter. Wagle is the conservative president of the Senate.

Despite the mailers and the primary threats Skubal says everyone seems to be talking to one another. He says he has a Monday morning meeting with Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine from Emporia and then he's off to a meeting set up by Democrats to discuss budget matters.

"If you can't work with everyone who was sent there, you've lost," Skubal says.

Sam Zeff covers education for KCUR and the Kansas News Service and is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.