Primary may have changed the course of Kansas politics

Kansas voters changed the course of Kansas politics last night during the Republican Party primary.

They ousted legislative critics of public education and adherents of Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts and replaced them with public school advocates who say they will push for a fairer tax system that starts to address Kansas’ revenue problems.

With votes still being tabulated, six conservative state senators, including Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, were defeated. No moderate incumbent was defeated, including two moderate senators who held off tough challenges from conservatives.

In addition, several House and Senate seats currently held by conservatives who are retiring, appear to be in line for moderate representation. On the House side, as many as seven conservative incumbents were bounced by moderate challengers.

The bottom line is that Brownback’s conservative majorities in the House and Senate have been severely reduced—if not ended—depending on the results of the Nov. 8 general election.

Conservatives could make gains if they defeat Democrats in the general election or Democratic numbers could increase. The final results in November will determine who leads the Kansas House and Senate and who will be appointed chairs of committees.

The importance of the November general election cannot be overstated for school advocates. Also on the ballot are five Kansas Supreme Court justices up for retention.

Brownback and his conservative allies would like to non-retain four of those justices and have often criticized the Kansas Supreme Court for its decisions in favor of plaintiff school districts in the long running school finance lawsuit.

While Brownback was not on the ballot, the tax changes he has signed into law and his school funding policies were. Critics have blamed the tax cuts for the state’s continued financial mess and have blamed the block grant school finance system that he signed into law for schools having to make cuts to the classroom.

Moderate Republicans campaigned on trying to right the state’s fiscal ship by repealing the business tax exemption that has allowed more than 330,000 LLCs to avoid paying state income tax. Moderate Republicans also campaigned for a more stable system of education funding.

Grassroots groups, such as Game On for Kansas Schools and Kansas Fami­lies for Education, and education organizations worked to elect more pro public education candidates who are less focused on vouchers and pushing mandates from Topeka and more focused on supporting local school boards, teachers and the State Board of Education.

—Reported by the Kansas Association of School Boards

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