Kansas Elections 2016

Throughout 2016, KCUR has collaborated with other public radio stations and non-commercial media in Kansas to cover what’s happening across the state.

The presidential election has inspired some Kansans to jump into politics themselves, and left others searching for reasons to get behind their party’s nominee.

A couple of races for Congress have been particularly competitive in the "Big First" and the 3rd District, and there have been some unusually raucous campaigns over whether the state Supreme Court justices should be kept on the bench.

We’ve also been tracking the back-and-forth over voter registration rules.

And then there are the dozens of contested races for seats in the Legislature that will determine the state’s direction on school funding, taxes, healthcare and road infrastructure.

Still fuzzy on something? Ask away

The Kansas Department of Transportation opened bids Wednesday on a highway project that is key to legislative races in southeast Kansas.

The project would expand U.S. Highway 69 from two lanes to four between Kansas City and Pittsburg — something residents of that part of southeast Kansas say is essential for safe movement of people and goods.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The statewide team that's been collaborating to cover elections in Kansas this year is taking your questions

John Trewolla from Prairie Village sent us this one:

I sure am curious about whether and how the Koch brothers from Wichita are influencing the GOP (especially Brownback's) campaign. Not to put too fine a point on it, is Brownback in their pocket?

Abigail Beckman / KMUW

In many districts across Kansas, tight budgets have put teachers and school boards at odds.

School boards are hedging their bets about how generous the state funding will be next year. That very much depends on who wins seats in the Legislature.

In Wichita, the state's largest district, it took much longer than usual to reach agreement on a contract for this year. It wasn't until October that teachers had a tentative deal with the school board. 

CNN

This year’s presidential race may be one for the history books. But it’s not the contest Kansas voters wanted.

When Republicans caucused in March they overwhelmingly preferred Texas Sen. Ted Cruz over eventual nominee Donald Trump.

Kansas Democrats gave Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders one of his biggest primary victories – a 68 percent to 32 percent drubbing of Hillary Clinton.

Hannah Figgs-Hoard was among a group of Sanders supporters at a Topeka caucus site that literally overwhelmed Clinton’s smaller contingent.

bigstock.com

In a sign of just how close a few legislative races are in Kansas, someone has paid for so-called push polling in three contests.

A push poll uses unflattering questions about someone to "push" the voter in the direction of their opponent. It has no scientific value and is recognized as negative, if not downright dirty, campaigning.

It would be hard not to know there’s a presidential election going on. There’s lots of action at the state level too.

Already, with the results of the August primaries, there’s a lot of turnover in the Legislature. And there are at least 10 Kansas Senate races and 20 House races that are competitive in the general elections.

Wikimedia--CC

Updated, 3 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17:

The Johnson County courthouse is old, outdated and doesn’t meet accessibility standards – now it’s up to voters to decide if it should be replaced.

A proposed 1/4-cent sales tax would pay for a new, $182 million courthouse to be built just across Santa Fe Street from the existing courthouse in Olathe.

The first TV spot has landed in the contentious battle to retain four Kansas Supreme Court justices in the November Election. The ad was paid for by Kansans for Fair Courts, the group backing retention.

The 30-second spot will start airing in the Wichita market on Friday and it takes on the two biggest issues Republicans and other conservatives are using against four of the five justices on the ballot: the death penalty and school finance.

Kansas Supreme Court

It’s been a half century since Kansas has executed a convicted killer and generally speaking, it’s not much of a political issue in the state.

But conservatives are banking on capital punishment in their campaign to oust four state Supreme Court justices.

When it comes to whether or not the Supreme Court justices should be kept on the bench or voted out, we’ve heard mostly about school finance and whether the high court should even be a player in that.

But lurking in the background, especially around Wichita and in western Kansas, is the death penalty.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

On this week's episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas, Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) discuss a new policy plan, education funding, and the upcoming elections.

Guests:

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle and Republican candidates for that chamber have released a series of policy proposals, which include the possibility of amending tax cuts made in recent years.

The plan includes overarching themes on topics such as balancing the budget, writing a new school funding formula and creating fairness in the tax code.

Wagle is working to harness voter frustration with the Legislature and the budget. She's laying out a message aimed squarely at those Kansans.

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.”

Kansans who register at motor vehicle offices will appear on the regular voter rolls and get standard ballots for the upcoming general elections. 

"If they call and ask if they're registered voters, they should be told that the answer is yes," says Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Kansas. Online, those voters' status will be displayed the same as other registered voters. 

Lindsborg Police Department

A man involved in a racist incident at a rural Kansas college has been trying to gain a foothold in state politics.

The chalk outlines of bodies and messages including, “Make Lindsborg White Again," scrawled on Bethany College sidewalks earlier this month rattled the campus and surrounding community

A police report of the chalkings from Sept. 3 names Gabriel James Wilson as a suspect.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3 / File

The Kansas general election ballot is now set.

Officials in the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office late last week cleared the last hurdle to certifying the roster of candidates for the Nov. 8 election by granting presidential candidate Jill Stein’s request to change the person listed on the ballot as her vice presidential running mate.

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts says the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is crucial for farmers wanting access to new and growing markets. But in the midst of the presidential campaign the deal faces an uphill battle.

Speaking on a panel at the Kansas State Fair Saturday, Roberts, who is the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman, distinguished the TPP from other trade deals. He says the agriculture industry stands to benefit too much for it to be allowed to fail.

Susie Fagan / KHI News Service

Former Democratic Gov. John Carlin and former Republican House Speaker Mike O’Neal have starkly different views on the condition of Kansas government. That divergence was plain as the two met in Topeka Thursday for a discussion about the size of government recorded for KCUR’s Statehouse Blend Kansas podcast.

 

O’Neal and Carlin agree on one thing -- that they don’t know exactly what the “right size” of state government is.

 

Stephen Koranda / KPR

A bipartisan group of four former Kansas governors is predicting dire consequences if conservatives successfully oust four state Supreme Court justices.

Former Democratic Gov. John Carlin has the harshest assessment. If the justices are kicked off the bench in November's retention election "then the hole this (Brownback) administration has dug for us may be too deep to get out of," said Carlin, at a stop in Kansas City Tuesday. Carlin, who was in office from 1978-1986, also called this retention fight “chaos” and said it has “an indirect effect on economic growth” in the state.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

A large section of what used to be Mercy Hospital in Independence, Kansas, has been torn down in the year since it closed.

On a hot August day, a bulldozer is prepping the lot where it once stood for construction of a new city garage.

Andy Taylor, the editor of the weekly Montgomery County Chronicle, says many residents of the community of about 10,000 still aren’t sure exactly what happened. But he says they believe city and state officials could and should have done more to save the hospital.

Sam Zeff / KCUR 89.3

The postmortem on the primary election in Kansas is still going on. How did moderates oust so many incumbent conservatives?

One big reason is the unexpected emergence of a couple of grassroots education groups in Johnson County, especially one that sprang up just a few months ago.

On primary election night, Johnson County Republicans were gathered at the Marriott, their traditional place.

One by one, moderates picked off conservative seats in the Kansas House and Senate.

And in one corner, a group of moms was a little giddy.

Kansas Legislature

Primary election night was brutal for conservative Republicans in the Kansas Legislature. 

Six Republican members of the Senate lost their primaries. The more moderate candidates won two additional seats left open by conservatives who decided not to run for reelection.

Eight Republican House members were ousted in the primaries. The Kansas Chamber, which has been known to back lawmakers who align with Gov. Brownback on tax policy, had endorsed all of those defeated incumbents. Eight others the Chamber endorsed in 13 open House races also lost.

Last night's primary election was an exciting one on both sides of the state line. In Kansas, losses by several conservative Republicans caused a surprising swing to center. In Missouri, a bruising primary campaign for governor ended with Eric Greitens as the Republican nominee.

Guests:

Missouri:

Abigail Wilson / KMUW

Primary losses by a Senate Republican leader and a slew of Johnson County conservatives Tuesday night will swing the Kansas Legislature back toward the center. Moderate Republicans won eight state Senate races against more conservative opponents, ousting six incumbents.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a conservative Republican from Hutchinson, had aspirations of being the next Senate president. But former community college president Ed Berger defeated him handily in what was perhaps the most surprising result of the night.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp lost his Congressional seat from western Kansas Tuesday night, beat by a political unknown in a primary race that turned on farming and a firebrand personality.

Huelskamp, 47, who rode in the Tea Party wave of 2010 and became known as the most aggressive of its Freedom Coalition, fell to Roger Marshall, an obstetrician and an outsider, who won with lots of insider money.

KCUR

Candidates for U.S. Senate  (3,511 of 3,511 precincts reporting) 

Republican:

  • Jerry Moran (Incumbent) (79%)
  • D.J. Smith (21%)

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

Concerns stem from reports of possible tampering in 2014 election

Kansas doesn’t have a reputation for corruption like Chicago where political bosses stuffed ballot boxes and sometimes raised the dead to alter the outcome of elections, or like Florida, home of the infamous hanging chad from Bush v. Gore.

But concerns about tampering appear to on the rise, at least among Kansas Democrats, because of unusual voting patterns in the 2014 elections and persistent reports about the vulnerability of electronic voting machines.

Americans tend to think that each election is a littler dirtier than the last. Certainly that is the feeling among many candidates running for the Kansas Legislature as attack postcards fill mailboxes as the Aug. 2 primary quickly approaches.

This year the postcards often focus on education. Who is for kids and who is against them? Let's use the Republican primary for House District 21, which includes Prairie Village, Mission Hills plus chunks of Overland Park and Leawood, as an example.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

More often than not, Republican incumbents in Johnson County are skipping what was once a mainstay of campaign season – the candidate forum.

I’m not talking about one or two no-shows. I’m saying the League of Women Voters invited every candidate in a contested primary to participate in a political meet and greet in June, but not one of 14 Republican incumbents showed up.

Their challengers did, but they didn’t.

Which begs the question: where are current lawmakers campaigning?

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

A brawl is underway in Kansas’ ‘Big First’ congressional district, which covers more than half of the state. Republican incumbent Tim Huelskamp is fighting to keep his seat against an outsider who recently landed a big endorsement.

Guest:

  • Peggy Lowe is the investigations editor for Harvest Public Media, which is based at KCUR. 

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