Kansas Democrats

Courtesy of Thomas Frank

Kansas was the birthplace of Prohibition and an epicenter of the anti-abortion movement.

Historian and political analyst Thomas Frank — a Mission Hills native — wrote a whole book, What's the Matter With Kansas, about how politics in the state has been fueled by conservative social ideals.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10 a.m. Nov. 9 with results from Johnson County.

Democrats gained enough Kansas House seats in Tuesday’s election to form a coalition with moderate Republicans to pass or block right-wing legislation.

But any such coalition will be more tenuous in the Senate after Democrats gained just one seat there.

Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative Republican allies have controlled the legislative agenda since moderate GOP leaders were purged from the Senate in 2012.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW

In what turned out to be his last big speech as a presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders called on his supporters to run for office. By then, one political newcomer from Derby, just outside of Wichita, had already filed to run for the Kansas Senate.

Gabriel Costilla had never thought about running for office. But, inspired by Sanders’ campaign, the Wichita high school teacher announced he would take on two-term Republican state Sen. Ty Masterson in the District 16 race.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Growing up in Shawnee, Tom Cox remembers looking up to “traditional Republicans.”

Politicians like Bill Graves, Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum – Kansans who were willing to reach across the aisle and set political ideology aside in the interest of public policy.

“My pitch at the door? ‘I’m running against a Brownback Republican, and I’m an anti-Brownback Republican,’” Cox says. “We need to save our state,” Cox says. “We need to focus on tax reform, education reform and protecting local governments as a start.”

Campaign season's in full swing. But in many districts across Missouri and Kansas this year, there are no vicious ads, no hot controversies — because there's only one candidate. What's it like to run unopposed, and what effect does that have on our communities?

Guests:

Meet Democrats Bill Hutton and Don Terrien competing to oust incumbent Republican Senator Steve Fitzgerald to represent Kansas Senate District 5.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

Kansas is a red state. In Western Kansas, it’s deep red. But it’s also one of the most demographically diverse regions in the state. The population in several cities in the southwest corner is almost 50 percent Hispanic.

In Finney County, a small group of young  Democrats are working to engage that huge group of potential voters who have long been in the background. 

As presidential candidates vie for votes nationwide, we ask what one vote is really worth. And if you're voting Democrat in strongly Republican Kansas, does your ballot really matter?

Guests:

  • Burdett Loomis is a political scientist at the University of Kansas.
  • Cheyenne Davis is the field and political director for the Kansas Democratic Party
  • KCUR's Elle Moxley and Lisa Rodriguez have been reporting on elections in Kansas.
Frances Burnett, 91, switched her party registration from Democrat to Republican so she could vote in the Senate District 34 primary for Ed Berger.
Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

For the first time in more than 30 years, there’s a Democrat running in every Kansas Senate district. But their fellow left-leaning Kansans might not be voting for them in August.

That’s because some are so fed up with Gov. Sam Brownback, they’d rather switch parties to vote for a moderate Republican in the primary than allow the governor’s supporters to stay in the Legislature.

A lifelong resident of Arlington, Kansas, 91-year-old Francis Burnett laughs when asked if she’s a Democrat.

Precincts.info

Candidates running for office this fall could, in theory, call up a veritable army of support. For each party in every voting precinct there’s a position for one committeeman and one committeewoman. Across Kansas, that would add up to roughly 14,000 precinct captains. But, most of the positions are likely to be left vacant for the 2016 elections.

Lori Graham is a first-time candidate running for state Senate in District 27.

She’s been knocking on doors in northwest Wichita since January. Right now it’s just her, a handful of volunteers, and list of Republican voters.

DonkeyHotey / Flickr - CC

June 1 is the last day party-affiliated voters can change their registration in Kansas before the August 2 primary.

But the Executive Director of the Kansas Democratic Party, Kerry Gooch, says he’s more focused on registering unaffiliated voters.

“I think Democrats should vote for Democrats in the primary, and I think Republicans should vote for Republicans in the primary,” Gooch says.

Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republicans, expressed similar sentiments about party-switching in an email.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Updated, 5:50 a.m. Sunday:

Sen. Bernie Sanders was declared winner of the Kansas Democratic caucus by the Kansas Democratic Party Saturday evening, with 90 percent of precincts reporting. 

"People used to ask, 'What's the matter with Kansas?'" Sanders said in a victory statement. "It turns out that there's nothing the matter with Kansas when you give people a clear choice and involve them in the democratic process."

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

The Kansas legislative session is already underway in Topeka. On this week's Statehouse Blend, we discuss the most important issues for the 2016 legislature, and speculate on the outcomes. We're talking KDOT, elections, and the budget.

Guests:

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

The Kansas legislative session is already underway in Topeka. On this week's Statehouse Blend, we discuss the most important issues for the 2016 legislature, and speculate on the outcomes. We're talking KDOT, elections, and the budget.

Guests:

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

On this week's Statehouse Blend, columnists and bloggers speculate about spooky legislation we might see in 2016 and discuss the legislative ghosts that might carry over from 2015. It's a Statehouse Blend Halloween Special.

This is an excerpt from Statehouse Blend. You can listen to the full episode here, or by subscribing on iTunes.

Guests:

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

On this week's Statehouse Blend, columnists and bloggers speculate about spooky legislation we might see in 2016 and discuss the legislative ghosts that might carry over from 2015. It's a Statehouse Blend Halloween Special.

Guests:

In politics, flip-flopping is code for untrustworthy. But human beings do change their minds. What are the pressures that cause shifts on issues while in office? And how can voters evaluate politicians' changes of heart?

Guests:

Democratic leaders from the Kansas Legislature have laid out a proposal that they say will create jobs. The lawmakers unveiled the plan during a series of stops in union halls across Kansas.

Democrats in the legislature are introducing 14 bills they say will spur job growth and career training in Kansas.

The plans include speeding up a 10 year transportation plan, so jobs are created sooner. The legislation would also give businesses a tax credit for training apprentices.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, says he hopes the plan won’t get mired in partisan politics.