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It’s sort of a quiet election in Kansas this year. We’re not a presidential battleground state. We are solidly Republican at the presidential level, and we have just six electoral votes.
We’re not electing a U.S. Senator this year. Our four U.S. Representatives are Republican and secure, as the Democrats fielded no challengers with realistic changes of winning.
We have no statewide races like governor or attorney general. We do have a constitutional amendment to consider. All it does is allow the legislature to assess boats differently from other property. It’s thought that Kansas boat taxes are very high compared to surrounding states.
There are some legislative races to watch, but the real action was in 2010 and in the August primary this year. Until recently, political power in Kansas was wielded by a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans, with either a Democratic or moderate Republican governor.
In 2010 conservative Republicans gained a majority in the House, and are expected to retain that, although Democrats may take back a few seats.
In 2012, all 40 senators ran for four-year terms. In the August primary eight moderate senators were defeated by conservatives, including the senate president. There are about five senate races hotly contested today, but the Kansas senate will have a conservative majority.
Democrats across the state have been running on a few themes: That conservative Republican legislators are only rubberstamps for Governor Sam Brownback, that the income tax cuts passed this year will wreck the budget and require increases in property taxes, and that the cuts will also decimate school funding. Republicans often tie Democrats to Obamacare, whether that makes sense or not.
No matter what happens today, Kansas will have a large turnover and many new faces in its legislature. Kansas failed to pass a redistricting bill this year, and a panel of federal judges drew new boundaries. The court created districts with no deference to the political considerations that legislatures consider. As a result, many incumbents were placed in districts with other incumbents, and many had their districts changed or redrawn considerably. The political class hated the court’s new maps, but I thought it did a good job.
In Sedgwick County there are 28 district court judges are up for re-election, but only one spot that is contested. There were more judicial contests in the primary.
Also in Sedgwick County a conservative is challenging a long-term Democratic incumbent county commissioner. This could shift the balance of power from a moderate Republican and Democrat coalition to a conservative Republican majority.
An interesting contest is the decision as to whether Wichita will add fluoride to its water supply. With a population of 380,000 Wichita is the largest city in America that doesn’t fluoridate. A recent SurveyUSA poll had the No vote ahead 44 to 43 percent, with 13 percent undecided. Campaigns on both sides have been very active, and the pro-fluoride side has been advertising extensively.
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