Politics/Elections

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, picked up an endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Monday.

“He values American energy exploration,” said U.S. Chamber National Policy Director Rob Engstrom. “He knows it’s the fastest way to create jobs in this country. He’s also not afraid to push back against the EPA and the other alphabet soup of government agencies.”

U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts won re-election for his U.S. Senate seat in Kansas in 2014, but Greg Orman gave him a run for his money. Though Roberts ultimately won by 10 points, polls had Orman leading the Senate race in the final weeks — as an independent.

On KCUR’s Up To Date this week, Orman told host Steve Kraske his campaign proved independents can win in a place like Kansas. 

The battle over religious freedom and LGBT rights has moved from Arizona and Mississippi to Missouri. Conservatives there are backing an amendment to the state Constitution that would protect certain people — clergy, for instance — who refuse to take part in same-sex marriages.

But the measure has run into some unexpected — and unexpectedly stiff — opposition, from a longtime ally of the religious right: the business community.

Kansas Legislature

The vice chairman of the Kansas Senate Ways and Means Committee says he's been told by Gov. Sam Brownback that the governor might consider rolling back a major portion of his signature 2012 tax cut bill.

Sen. Jim Denning, a Republican from Overland Park, joined KCUR's Statehouse Blend Podcast this weekend and told host Sam Zeff that Brownback might not veto a bill that would close the loophole that allows more then 300,000 small businesses in Kansas to avoid state income tax.

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The Johnson County Election Office is coming up short on polling places to use come November.

Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker says he’s anticipating record-high turnout, possibly with more Kansans voting than in 2008.

“We would like to have 285 polling locations throughout our county,” Metsker says. “Right now we’re at about 195.”

Metsker says concerns about safety and security have crossed many places off his list.

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Did U.S. Election Assistance Commissioner Brian Newby's recently unearthed emails with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach violate federal rules? 

The Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Allied Progress alleges they did and now wants the EAC's Inspector General to dig further into the matter. 

Kansas Elections Board

An earnings tax question tops the ballot in Kansas City April 5, and the Kansas City Elections Board says voting will be quick. But some waited in line for hours March 15 to vote in Missouri's presidential primary. After, the elections board was apologizing for technical glitches that came with an over-sized turnout.

A few months ago, Starsky Wilson ended his time on the Ferguson Commission with stirring and strong words for politicians who would have to do the work ahead.

“If the win for you is getting elected, we don’t need you,” said Wilson, the president and CEO of the Deaconess Foundation. “If you eat steak because you got what you wanted in the community that’s still fighting for a generation, you’re not the one.”

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The first time Kansas City Mayor Sly James says something to me about the earnings tax, it’s right after Thanksgiving.

I’ve already turned off my recorder, and we’re chatting as I pack up my equipment. I ask if he has plans for birthday (he turned 64 on Dec. 9).

"Oh," he tells me, "I have to go to a fundraiser for the earnings tax campaign."

"Gee, you sure know how to party," I reply.

In the months since, I’ve talked to James about the earnings tax probably a dozen times.

Two days after the primary vote in Missouri, Sen. Bernie Sanders has conceded defeat to Hillary Clinton.

The Associated Press reported Thursday afternoon that Sanders says he will not seek a recount of results in the state's Democratic primary. Clinton has a narrow lead of 1,531 votes.

In an interview with the AP, Sanders said it's unlikely the results will affect the awarding of delegates in the state and he would "prefer to save the taxpayers of Missouri some money."

KCUR 89.3

Updated, 7 p.m. Thursday:

Hillary Clinton has won the Missouri Democratic presidential primary.

The Associated Press reported Thursday afternoon U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will not seek a recount, which candidates are entitled to request if the margin is less than one-half of 1 percent.

It's still possible Ted Cruz could ask for a recount on the Republican side. He finished about two-tenths of a percent behind Donald Trump in Tuesday's presidential primary.

The original post continues below.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Just a day after canceling a rally in Chicago due to violence and unrest, GOP front-runner Donald Trump came to the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland in downtown Kansas City on Saturday to try to boost his chances of winning Missouri's Republican primary.

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Brian Ellison / KCUR 89.3

When Missouri voters go to the polls in next Tuesday’s presidential preference primary, they might be surprised by their choices — mainly how many there are.

Not happy with the big-name candidates? You have alternatives.

How about a convicted felon from Texas? He will be on the Democratic ballot. Or maybe a grandfather from Illinois who announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in a video shot in his kitchen? A Libertarian from Texas who ran for Missouri Secretary of State in 2004 under a different name?

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Stumping for his wife in Kansas City Friday, former President Bill Clinton drew a laugh when he said it had been an interesting election for both parties – albeit for different reasons.

“I like our reasons better,” he said.

Bill Clinton praised Hillary Clinton and her challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, for sticking to the issues. He said that while the Democratic contenders agree on many points, they differ on how to achieve those goals.

“You don’t get anywhere dismissing your opponents as being opposed to the revolution,” he said.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A long wait to see Bill Clinton ended in disappointment for many Hillary Clinton supporters after weather prevented the former president’s plane from landing in Kansas City Tuesday.

Hundreds of people showed up at the Carpenters Training facility near the Truman Sports Complex to see Clinton stump for his wife.

Liz Rider, who brought her two daughters to the political rally, says she thinks Hillary Clinton is more electable than her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders.

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."

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Updated, 5:15 p.m. Saturday: Ted Cruz is projected to win the Kansas Republican primary.

With two-third of precincts reporting, Cruz had captured 51 percent of the vote, though Johnson County results are not in yet.

The next closest candidate, Donald Trump, had 24 percent of the vote. Rubio trailed with 14 percent, despite having the endorsement of the 2012 Kansas caucus winner, Rick Santorum.

Brenda LaMar was one of thousands of Johnson County residents who waited in long lines to caucus. She said she voted for Ted Cruz.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says he’s the only presidential candidate who can block Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination.  

During a rally at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park on Wednesday evening, Cruz lambasted Obamacare and business regulations, characterizing them as huge drains on the economy.  

Justin Grimes / Flickr--CC

Update, 9:15 a.m. Tuesday: this post was updated after Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz announced they will visit Kansas later this week.

OK, Kansas. Your turn.

Come Saturday, Kansans will have their chance to weigh in on the presidential hopefuls.

Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, called it “a presidential Saturday” because this year both parties will caucus on the same day.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Thousands of Kansas Citians crowded Bartle Hall Wednesday afternoon in support of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who visited just before state caucuses in Kansas and primary in Missouri.

Phil Roeder / Flickr--CC

Kansas hasn’t gone Democratic in a U.S. Presidential election in more than 50 years, but ahead of his visit to Kansas City Wednesday, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders told KCUR he thinks he’ll do well in the state’s caucuses on March 5.

“Sometimes to be a Democrat in a conservative state means that you are pretty progressive because you’ve got to stand up to the tide there,” says Sanders. “So we think we have a chance to do very, very well in Kansas.”

McCaskill for Missouri

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, announced Monday she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She made the announcement on Twitter and linked to a short post on her Tumblr page.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio less than three weeks before the Kansas Republican presidential caucus.

Brownback called Rubio “a true conservative who can unite the party.” Brownback’s son-in-law also works for the Rubio campaign.

Patrick Miller, a University of Kansas political science professor, says Brownback holds some sway with evangelical voters, and that could give Rubio a boost in a divided Republican field.

Kansas conservatives want a new weapon to use against what they consider an “activist” state Supreme Court: impeachment. 

The Lawrence Journal-World recently sought information on fraternity hazing from the University of Kansas under the state’s Freedom of Information Act. But the documents the newspaper received were so heavily redacted as to shed almost no light on the issue. 

Guests:

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City is no longer the target of a conservative Missouri lawmaker who wants to repeal the earnings tax.

Columbia Sen. Kurt Schaefer dropped Kansas City from his bill challenging the earnings tax on constitutional grounds. The bill, which advanced out of committee Thursday, now focuses solely on St. Louis.

Mayor Sly James credits a strong showing of Kansas Citians in support of the earnings tax for getting Schaefer to back down. James and others testified in Jefferson City earlier this month.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Gov. Jay Nixon didn’t mince words when asked about the earnings tax during a stop at Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley Wednesday.

“It is wrong for the legislature to say to local communities who’ve voted on how they’re going to fund their services to take away after the people have voted the option for them to fund their services that way,” Nixon said.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

City officials kicked off a campaign to save Kansas City’s 1 percent earning tax Monday at Union Station.

It’s sometimes called a “fly over” tax by opponents because about half of the people who pay it commute from the suburbs to work in the city.

“I don’t care whether you call it an earnings tax or a fly-over tax or a ground tax or a water tax or whatever the heck you call it, $230 million would have to be replaced,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James said.

The White House

White House Press Secretary and Kansas City native Josh Earnest called Mayor Sly James one of the three best in America during Thursday’s briefing to reporters.

James is in Washington, D.C., for a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Along with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Fresno, California, Mayor Ashley Swearengin, James participated in the daily briefing.

Sam Zeff / KCUR

  We already know that the budget problems in Kansas are eating into some core functions of government.

The state will have to postpone maintenance work on hundreds of miles of highways. And those highways are a little less safe because the Kansas Highway Patrol is at least 75 troopers short of full strength.

But budget problems for state law enforcement run even deeper.

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