Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): November 2016

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dems Won't Take DailyKOS advice; Maybe Rs Should

I recommend reading a Daily Kos journal by Kansan Chris Reeves. If Democrats actually listened to him, Republicans would have a reason to be worried.

In his latest blog post, he writes about how Democrats have ignored the rural voters to their own detriment. He doesn't suggest that Democrats would win in rural Kansas with their lefty progressiveness, but he suggests Dems should at least make the effort to drive up voter turnout in those areas even knowing that they won't win. A few more rural voters on their side, and Dems have a smaller gap to cover when the city votes.

He writes:

I often hear this one from Democratic members: well, we just need to run up our numbers in the cities and… let me stop you right there. Let me explain how this works out...

When Democrats don't bother campaigning in safe districts and big cities because victory is assured, he writes: 
...Turnout in those “big cities” doesn't always jump.  And what does this mean to rural votes?  Well, let me give an example: A large county has about 80k eligible voters. Fantastic!  It is a Democratic stronghold, reliably 60/40 Democratic.  But only 54% of the voters turn out.   So, let’s do the math: 80k*.54=43200 (rough) In a 60/40 split, you get 25,920 Democratic votes and 17,280 Republican votes.A blowout! Fantastic. Democratic voting is to the positive 8,640.
Now, let’s take a rural Republican county. There are only 13k eligible voters. I mean, so small, right?  But their turnout is about 75%.  So, 9,600 people vote. And they vote 77 to 18%..
The gap?  5,943.
Suddenly, a rural county with a population that is a drop in the bucket in comparison to a large metro area has just swallowed up the lead a metro area provided in a statewide. Why?  Because their turnout percentage is higher and their victory is far more lopsided.  
Reeves suggests that Republicans work tirelessly to turn out the vote in rural areas where they're assured victory. I think that's a laughable assessment. I think many rural conservatives  believe that voting is a sacred right and show up whether they've received any mail or had a candidate on their doorsteps. 

Since Democrats--mercifully--never listen to that guy's advice, maybe Republicans should. He has a point about campaigning hard no matter how safe or difficult the district. Though Republicans certainly have great reasons to be happy with this year's election results overall, Kansas Republicans have a hefty load of work to do in the off season. It's disappointing that Republicans didn't have candidates in every race. Republicans have an enormous bench, and a whole lot of people just sat on it this cycle instead of lacing up their shoes and getting in the game. 

The Kansas Dems, bless their hearts, drive candidates to Topeka and pay the filing fee for them on the filing deadline if it looks like there won't be a candidate in a particular seat. Some of those candidates lose every time in embarrassing ways, but having a placeholder who does a tiny bit of work in each district can make a difference up and down the ballot and it can sow seeds for the future.

This year, Republicans basically ceded all of Kansas City, Kansas, to the Dems. We didn't challenge David Haley, Pat Petty, or Oletha Faust Gouduea in the Senate. In the House, we didn't challenge Ruiz, Curtis, Borroughs, Winn, or Frownfelter. We forfeited huge swaths of Wichita and Topeka, and a Senate race in Manhattan. Many of these races may not have been winnable, but creating a toehold in a liberal strong hold takes time and effort. We didn't bother using the time or making an effort.

Most painfully, we ceded the 79th House district, which covers part of Cowley and Sumner counties, including Belle Plaine, Oxford, Winfield, and Udall in south-central Kansas. Trump/Pence beat the pants off of Clinton/Kaine in those counties. In Cowley, 8,270 voters selected Trump versus 3,551 who voted for Clinton. In Sumner, 6,827 people voted for Trump versus 2,080 for Clinton. Representative Ed Trimmer, an incumbent Winfield Democrat, earned 5,150 votes in Cowley county and 1,899 in Sumner. 

I can't tell you anything about what is happening on the ground in those counties. Maybe Trimmer is so popular he'd be impossible to pick off. Maybe he spends the off season rescuing baby deer from hunters and giving away free puppies. But a limited look at the numbers in the 79th district suggest he's beatable, and Republicans didn't put up a candidate. (Hint: If you know a good Republican in the 79th, maybe you should encourage him or her to run for the Kansas House in 2018.)

I'm not suggesting that the Republican Party should spend buckets of money campaigning on lost causes, but can we make a goal of recruiting a candidate and loaning those campaigns an intern for a weekend once each cycle? If the goal isn't winning those seemingly impossible races like the ones in KCK but simply driving Republican turnout to a specific percent. For what it's worth, I don't consider KCK a lost cause for Republicans, but it's definitely the long game and not the short con.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Clinton Outperformed Obama in JoCo

Nate Silver theorizes that college education was a large predictor of whether someone cast a ballot for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. He analyzed data from heavily populated counties and determined that those with a high percentage of college educated residents were more likely to vote for Clinton.

Johnson County is one of the most educated counties in the country. More than 52 percent of its residents have college degrees, placing the JO as the 16th most-educated county in the country.

Trump won Johnson County, but only narrowly. Clinton lost JoCo by 2.7 percentage points. However, she gained mightily on President Barack Obama's 2012 numbers. In 2012, Obama lost JoCo by 17.4 percent.

Over on Twitter, Patrick Miller, a political science professor at the University of Kansas has crafted a handy map showing just how blue JoCo was this election. 

I'm more interested in why Clinton outperformed Obama in JoCo and if that signals a bluer--though still red--Johnson County than the one that existed in 2014. If education level was the determining factor, I suspect that the JoCo shift toward Clinton had more to do with the opposing candidate and with local politics than an actual shift in philosophy. 

Most well-educated professionals like those who inhabit Johnson County weren't casting a vote for Clinton exactly; they were casting ballots against Trump, a sometimes vulgar candidate. Call it a dash of pretentiousness coupled with a whole lot of college-educated JoCo dwellers who had pastoral upbringings out west. Rural Kansas kids who finish college often wind up in Johnson County or another more heavily populated county like Douglas, Riley, or Sedgwick.

The other fly in the red ointment in 2016 JoCo was the Governor Brownback phenomena. Kansas went deep red between 2010 and 2014. This year's election was an over-correction. Johnson County unquestionably moved left this year, but I suspect that's temporary--no matter how many college degrees are thrown into the Golden Ghetto. 

That's like, my opinion, man.  

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Dark Horse for the Fourth

It's been about 10 days since President-elect Trump's transition team announced it would snatch Congressman Mike Pompeo from representing Wichita. Since then, approximately every Republican who has ever driven past Wichita has put out feelers on the possibility of replacing Pompeo in Congress.

Sedgwick County insiders say that about 50 people have expressed interest in running for the seat. The 126 Republican delegates from the Kansas Fourth District will choose a GOP candidate to run for the seat in a special election. Of those 50-ish people, here are a list of people widely considered to be front runners:

  • Ron Estes--Estes is the Kansas State Treasurer. His wife, Susan, currently works for Americans for Prosperity-Kansas. Estes is well-liked and he and Susan are both Republican delegates to the Fourth District. Here's Estes' challenge: He's been a bureaucrat now for almost two decades now. In his elected positions as Kansas State Treasurer and as the treasurer of Sedgwick County, he hasn't had to make votes. Estes appears to be conservative, but it's really, really hard to say just how conservative when he hasn't been in any controversial positions or had to make votes. For my money, I think he's the front runner in this race, and I think he'd do a great job, but it's tough to say for sure!
  • Ty Masterson-- Masterson serves in the Kansas Senate. He's well-liked by the Republican delegation. That said, I don't know how seriously his candidacy for the Congressional seat is. He's also running for Kansas Senate President. It's unlikely he'll win the top job in the Kansas Legislature, but his candidacy for that role should give Republicans an idea of how conservative the Kansas Senate will be. 
  • Susan Wagle--Wagle is the current Senate President and is likely to retain that job, despite Masterson's efforts. Sources tell me Wagle is in the running for the Fourth District and then they tell me she's out, and then they tell me she's in again. I think she's an incredibly long shot for the gig as she's alienated most of the conservatives, and conservatives make up the majority of the Fourth District delegates.
  • Joseph Ashby--Ashby is a conservative radio talk show host, and a personal favorite, but he's a long-shot candidate. The person who succeeds Pompeo needs to earn the votes of 64 Republican delegates to the Fourth District. Ashby appears to have broad support of many of his listeners, but he needs delegates. The delegates are the penultimate party insiders. I think Ashby may have a difficult time getting 64 delegates on board. Insiders are much, much more likely to vote for someone who they think will have an edge in things like fundraising and party organization than someone who carries the conservative message.
  • Mark Kahrs--Kahrs is a well-liked insider who currently serves as Kansas Republican National Committeeman. Prior to that, he served in the Kansas House. He didn't run for another term because he said it was important for him to focus on his family for a season. I don't think his very recent retirement and reason for not running again for the Kansas Legislature bodes well for a Congressional run. If he didn't have time to serve in Topeka, it seems like a tough argument to suddenly announce you now have time to serve in Washington, D.C. (Update: Kahrs appears to be out of the race.)
  • Alan Cobb--Cobb worked for the Trump campaign, is the former director of the Americans for Prosperity-Kansas, and got his chops working for former Sen. Bob Dole. He's well-liked by insiders and knows what he's doing. There's a snag in his candidacy however. I don't think he actually lives in the Fourth; last I heard, he lives in Topeka. If he decides to run, however, Cobb has plenty of time to set up residency in his hometown and launch a campaign. Turns out, you do not have to live in the district in which you represent--you only have to live in the state you would represent in Congress. Still, I would love to see Cobb challenge for Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins' seat in the Kansas Second District. Topeka is in the Second District and Jenkins is going to run for Governor. Cobb would likely face Attorney General Derek Schmidt in a Republican primary for that seat.
Cobb may not be the only carpet bagger aiming for the Fourth District seat. The rumor mill is suggesting that Congressman Tim Huelskamp, who lost a hard fought primary against Dr. Roger Marshall in the First Kansas Congressional race, may be interested in a shot at the Fourth District seat. Guys, if this happens, watching the meltdown from Marshall campaign folks would be worth the price of admission.

Anything can happen in one of these races, because it takes more 50-percent plus 1 to win the Republican nomination. The sheer number of potential candidates means it's unlikely any candidate will become the Republican nominee on the first ballot. Whichever candidate the delegates choose will face a Democratic opponent in a special election. It's highly unlikely Republicans will lose the Fourth District seat, but we can't take it for granted. Democrats are rumored to have a pretty decent opponent lining up for a shot. It's going to be interesting to watch!

I'll Take Things That Should Terrify Taxpayers for $1,000, Alex

A coalition of leftists is going to present a plan to balance the budget and reassess the state's tax policy. Rise Up Kansas intends to present a proposal sometime in December.

 If this was a group of reasonable, common sense folks I'd be cheering, but nope! That's not who the Rise Up Kansas coalition is. It's Kansas Action for Children, an organization which will fight to the death to preserve the cigarette slush fund that bankrolls it; the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, an organization bent on ensuring that the failures of previous administrations to do things like properly fund KPERs remains buried. (Realistically, this outfit should be called the Kansas Center for Absconding Money from Taxpayers); and the Kansas National Education Association--no bias there! 

This coalition thinks government can spend your money better than the individuals who earned it can. This coalition wants to redistribute wealth, taking money from the people who earned it and giving it to their friends. If conservatives don't come up with an answer to this nonsense, if this coalition is successful in passing a wealth distribution scheme, the people who have and create wealth in Kansas will vote with their feet. These are dangerous times, friends. Conservatives are going to need all hands on deck if we hope to maintain some fiscal sanity in the Sunflower State and have a few nickels left to rub together in our wallets. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Pardon My Confusion--You Mean OTHER KS Governors Made Cuts? What?

Prepare to be flabbergasted. Apparently, Gov. Sam Brownback isn't the only Governor in Kansas history to face budget shortfalls.

Knock me over with a feather. I thought the sun eternally shined on the Sunflower State from January 29, 1861, until January 10, 2011. That's the day Gov. Brownback was sworn into office, at which point the sun turned as black as a sackcloth of goat hair, and the moon turned to blood. Kansas was cast into a pit of darkness and despair where children suffer and old people are ripped from their wheelchairs and thrown into the Marais des Cygnes, at least that's the narrative the media has been spinning until today.

Today, we learn from media that Gov. Brownback ISN'T the first Kansas Governor to have budget shortfalls. Turns out, those vaunted team of former Governors John Carlin, Bill Graves, Mark Parkinson and even the liberals' beloved Kathleen Sebelius cut the budget. By the way, Sebelius saved her deepest cuts for public education and healthcare. Guys, I am GASPING here. Gasping. This isn't the story we've been told just about every day circa 2011.

So you're wondering why a member of the media arose from his turkey-induced slumber to supply us with the information about previous Governors making cuts. Allow me to explain. 

The media has deigned to offer these facts, because they are once again attempting to beat Brownback over the head for not making the cuts himself in advance of the legislature returning to Topeka. Sigh. 

Kansas has budgeted to spend more than its likely to bring in. To keep the lights on, someone is going to have to make cuts or raise taxes--both deeply unpopular. The legislature--the branch of our government supposedly responsible for the budget--doesn't want to have to make those political decisions, and so they're stompy mad the Governor won't do it for them in advance. Brownback announced a few weeks ago that he will wait on legislators to do the heavy lifting on this one.

Honestly, I don't really care who makes cuts as long as they happen, but I can and have explained why the Governor is reluctant to fall on his sword for legislators in this instance. Here's what I wrote on Nov. 14:

Brownback's decision to wait until January and let lawmakers handle necessary cuts is one I completely understand. First, legislators should be in control of the purse strings. The current budget that everyone is raging about isn't really the Governor's. The legislature passed it. They compromised in 2012, removing all of the pay-fors from Brownback's proposal. He didn't craft the budget the legislature passed, but he's certainly hanging for it. The Governor has made some unilateral cuts in the face of budget shortfalls, but with a new legislature and likely a hostile one, it doesn't make much sense to give this batch of lawmakers political cover. 

Second, if polls and the recent primary and general election are to be believed, it appears voters don't actually want the Governor making the decision. Democrats, moderates and even some conservatives worked awfully hard at telling voters that they aren't Brownback allies. Some of it was political expedience, but the end result is that anyone who won using such a campaign tactic has an unrealistic expectation if they expect the Governor to fall on his sword for them now. 

Finally, this next legislative session is going to be a nasty one, and the Governor is a lame duck. Brownback will have limited leverage to accomplish anything or even to save some of his initiatives. If the Governor is still around through the 2017 legislative session, any tiny scrap of leverage will help. The Governor has already magnanimously said repeatedly that he doesn't like the word "veto" and that he refuses to say whether there are any policies he would reject right now. This means the Governor isn't much for playing offense. And if he's going to only use defense to advance his causes, he's going to need some bargaining chips. By not making cuts himself, he retains a few in his arsenal.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Succession: What Happens if Brownback AND Colyer go Trump?

It's a long shot, but it may not be as long of a shot as people think. President-elect Donald Trump needs to hire/appoint 4,000 people between now and about January 20/ Obviously, Trump, who has several advisers like Alan Cobb and Michael Torry with ties to the Sunflower state, has been eyeballing a lot of that talent in the Great Plains. While the names of Gov. Brownback, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and Congressman Tim Huelskamp are widely considered potential candidates for the Trump administration, there's a rumor that Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer is a dark horse who may be galloping towards Washington.

It's not much of a secret that Colyer's ultimate ambitions are pointed in the direction of D.C. and sticking around Kansas for the 2017 legislative session doesn't sound pleasant to anyone--not even the so-called Republican mods and Dems who recently got their tickets punched to Topeka. It's not going to be a fun session, and it's probably going to be downright horrid for the lame duck Governor Brownback and members of his administration. 

Rumors suggest that Colyer may be seeking a ticket on the eastbound Trump train if at all possible. As a doctor and politician, he's uniquely qualified to serve in a healthcare role in the Trump adminstration. So what happens if both Brownback and Colyer board that Washington-bound train? It kind of depends on the order in which they depart.

If Colyer resigns or is confirmed for a slot before Brownback is, then Brownback will appoint a Lt. Governor to replace Colyer. If Brownback leaves before Colyer, Colyer will become Governor and appoint a Lt. Governor--and then hop on the train making the just appointed Lt. Governor the Governor, who will appoint a new Lt. Governor.

In the completely unlikely event that both offices are vacant at the same time, the next in line for succession is the Senate President. At this point, the Senate President is Susan Wagle. Wagle will have to stand for re-election for the spot on December 5. It looks likely that she'll recapture that role, but she does face competition from Sen. Ty Masterson. 

Meanwhile, Wagle is apparently still considering taking a run at the seat that Congressman Mike Pompeo will vacate when he's confirmed as the head of the CIA. Find how Pompeo's replacement will be selected here.

In the not just unlikely but nearly impossible column, if the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Senate President roles are all vacant at once, the next in line to become Governor is the Kansas Speaker of the House. Right now, that's Ray Merrick. The House will vote between Reps. Russ Jennings, Ron Ryckman, and Jene Vickrey to be the next speaker on December 5. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pilcher-Cook versus Hiatt: The Recount

It's not quite over

Vicki Hiatt, who lost to Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook by 960 votes, has requested a recount. Unless the vote split is 1 percent or less, the recount requester must pay for the recount. I will be curious to learn how much this is costing Hiatt.

Hiatt doesn't expect to win the recount, according to the Kansas City Star. Her request for the count was about "fairness." I don't even know what that means, but OK. 

The liberals really, really wanted to knock off Mary Pilcher-Cook. I'm sure it rankles like sand in their socks that they were close, but not nearly close enough--not even close enough to trigger an automatic recount.

By statute Ballot counters have until Wednesday to finish the recount. At 5 p.m. on Wednesday, the end result will be the same: Pilcher-Cook retains her seat for another four years.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanksgiving Infotainment

Looking for a little light reading over the Thanksgiving break? Here's a quick list of some political news reading: Inclusion on this list in no way equals endorsement.

The Koch Brother's Hidden Election Gambit (Salon)

Pope Francis Indefinitely Allows Priests to Absolve Sin of Abortion (The Atlantic)

Liberals Should Seek Out Silent Trump Voters (The Federalist)

Dear Liberals: Start Practicing the Empathy You Preach (New York Post)

Camille Paglia on Hillary: The Woman Is a Disaster (UK Spectator)

Let's Not Start 2018 Campaign Yet (Manhattan Mercury)

America Called BS on Cult of Clinton (Reason)

Court Strikes Down Wisconsin GOP Map (DailyKos)

'Hamilton' and the Implosion of the American Left (Washington Post)

Donald Trump Lost Most of the American Economy (Washington Post)

Trump Adviser Tells House Rs You're No Longer Reagan's Party (The Hill)

We Work Less, Have More Leisure Time and Earn More Money (Reason)

Kansas Legislature Leadership Races Revisisted

Campaign season for leadership positions in the Kansas Legislature are in overdrive as members of the Kansas House and Kansas Senate will choose leadership for both chambers on December 5.

Much of the race for House Speaker remains unchanged. Reps. Russ Jennings, Ron Ryckman, and Jene Vickrey are seeking the House's top job. Reps. John Barker and Don Hineman are competing for Majority Leader.

Reps. Kyle Hoffman, Ron Highland, and Scott Schwab are running for Speaker Pro Tem.

Last week, Reps. Dan Hawkins, Willie Dove, and Tom Phillips were locked in a three-way race to be Assistant Majority Leader. However, Dove is now seeking the role of Caucus Chair against Susan Concannon, who was running unopposed. Meanwhile, Blake Carpenter, who was running unopposed for Majority Whip will face a challenge from Kent Thompson.

Meanwhile, over in the Senate it was widely assumed that Sen. Susan Wagle would walk right back into the Senate Presidency without much of a fight. Her main opposition for the gig--Sen. Terry Bruce--lost his primary back in August, and it appeared Wagle would be unopposed for President. 

That no longer looks quite so certain. Word on the street is that Sen. Ty Masterson may toss his hat into that ring. There is also wide speculation that Wagle may attempt to run for the seat Congressman Mike Pompeo is vacating in order to serve as Trump Administration intelligence director. If she decides to run for that seat, the special election would likely fall in the middle of the Kansas legislative session. Would she bow out of leadership to focus on currying favor with Fourth District Republican delegates?

If Wagle faces opposition for Senate leadership, the odds are in her favor, as she's had a major head start campaigning. She is very unlikely to earn the Republican nomination from the Fourth District delegates. The number of potential hats in that race continue to increase, and the delegates who will make the selection seem to be much more conservative than Wagle.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Not Totally Buying Moran for Ag Secretary

Early yesterday morning, the Hill, a DC paper that covers Capitol Hill, released a story saying the Trump Administration had asked Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran if he might have any interest in serving as Secretary of Agriculture. 

By yesterday evening, the story changed to suggest that Moran had been offered the job. Only, I'm not so sure that's accurate. The story saying Moran had been offered the job came from a Wichita television station. Originally, it included a breathless "Breaking story" headline. However, the story, available here, simply notes that sources tell the Hill that the Trump has offered Moran the job, but it links back to the Hill story from the morning, suggesting that the Trump Administration asked if Moran was interested. 

These are two different things--being asked if interested and being offered the gig. I suspect the Wichita television station misread the Hill story or jumped the gun on rumors circulating. Meh. In this rumor rich environment it can happen to anyone. (Ahem.  Me. Two days ago. And if you want a plausible theory into how the Kobach AG nomination was torpedoed, I send you here to Yael against my better judgment.)

I can't find anyone who will confirm that the Trump Administration made Moran an offer. This isn't the sort of thing a staffer would refuse to confirm off-the-record. Getting an offer makes Moran look good! The closest thing anyone is saying is it's unlikely Moran would accept that role.

I love the idea of Moran being named Secretary of Agriculture. At this point, if that job goes to anyone who isn't a Kansan, I will probably curl up in the fetal position and cry for a whole 5 seconds. (This game of watching the musical chairs is fun!) However, I am not convinced that Moran has received an offer, and if he has, he won't take it. 

In the meantime, the rumors that Gov. Brownback may have a shot at the top Ag job have all but fallen off a cliff. The Hutchinson News, which by my count has NEVER scribbled a nice word about the Governor in its billion-year history, just penned an editorial all but begging the Trump Administration to take the Kansas Governor for Ag Secretary. So here's the rich irony, Hutch News editorial board: Rumor has it that Brownback won't receive the Ag Secretary nod because of the controversy over the Kansas budget. You know what the difference is between Kansas' budget challenges and the budget challenges in other states: Papers in other states are honest about it, whereas in Kansas, we have the media laying 100 percent of the budget blame at the feet of the Kansas Governor and the Governor alone. You put this anvil around his ankles, Kansas press. Though it looks like an ag cabinet role is unlikely for the Governor, there is talk that the Governor may say ciao to Kansas and hello to the Trump Administration despite the hatchet job of the Kansas press. 

Stay tuned.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Musical Chairs--Secretary of Ag Style

A Wichita television station is reporting that Sen. Jerry Moran has been offered the Secretary of Agriculture position in the Trump Administration.

The Governor gets to appoint Moran's replacement. Will that Governor be Sam Brownback? Jeff Colyer? Can see Colyer getting appointment to Senate.

The Dem Whisperer

I don't know much about the Dems in the Kansas Fourth District, but a Dem from the Wichita area served in the U.S. Congress for almost 20 years--Dan Glickman. 

So Republican friends, I don't want to put a damper on the celebration that is Congressman Mike Pompeo getting a sweet gig in the Trump Administration. BUT before we get our rolls too far down the hill, we need to do what is necessary to maintain that precious Congressional seat.

The Dems don't have a very deep bench, but they have one. Word on Douglas Avenue is that Carl Brewer, former Wichita Mayor and current Wichita legislative liaison, is considering a run for Congress. It was rumored at one time that he was also considering a run for Governor in 2018, so it appears Brewer hasn't yet hung up his running shoes.

Wichita's wildly popular first black Mayor may have the chops to be a winner in a likely low turnout special election.

So, Republican delegates of the Fourth Congressional District, choose your candidate wisely.

Alan Cobb Exploring Pompeo Seat

According to Politico, Alan Cobb is considering a run for Congressman Mike Pompeo's seat. Cobb is a member of the Trump transition team.

Can Confirm--Estes In

Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes will contend for Congressman Mike Pompeo's seat in the U.S. House, should Pompeo be confirmed as the CIA director.

Here's Estes' statement:

"My entire life has been focused on finding solutions. In both the private and public sectors, some of the most frustrating problems I’ve dealt with have come from constraints placed by federal laws and regulations. The people of the fourth district have been well served by Representative Pompeo and his private sector experience. If Rep. Pompeo is confirmed as the next CIA director, it's crucial that his replacement lead the way to reduce over regulation and help develop the environment for a return of jobs and greater prosperity to south-central Kansas. The federal government is not working and continuing with government as usual will not fix the problem. I've been encouraged by many constituents across Kansas to consider running if there is a vacancy, and I feel I owe it to them to consider doing so. It's time to make Washington DC work for the people.”

Moran for Ag Secretary?

I know I said this yesterday: Literally every human who has ever seen a corn field is rumored to be on Trump's list for Ag Secretary, and apparently, special consideration is being given to Kansans.

Yesterday, the world reported Congressman Tim Huelskamp was on a list to be Ag Secretary. Before that, Gov. Brownback was high on the list. Today, the Hill is reporting that the Trump transition team has reached out to Sen. Jerry Moran.

What on Earth? I have nothing untoward to say about any of these potential candidates, but um... it's the world's longest list. So, pardon me while I go drop off my resume. This job must be one of the sweetest in Washington, everyone is clamoring for it and I happen to have a few of the (apparent) top credentials: I'm a farmer AND I'm from Kansas!

How Pompeo Will Be Replaced

You can find the Kansas Statute here. If I understand it correctly, once Congressman Mike Pompeo's seat is vacant--probably once he's confirmed at CIA director??-- the Governor, who may or may not be Gov. Brownback will have 5 days to set an election date. The date has to be more than 45 days but less than 60 days after the vacancy occurs.

This election proclamation must be delivered to the Kansas Secretary of State--who may or may not be Kris Kobach. The Secretary of State will notify the chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties. In this case, the SOS would notify Lee Kinch, the Dem Party Chair who is of Wichita, I believe; and Kelly Arnold, the KS GOP Chair. There's talk that Arnold may be considered to replace Kris Kobach, if Kobach gets a Trump Administration slot. So, that notification may be delivered by Arnold to Republican Vice Chair Ashley McMillan. 

The parties will then schedule a district convention. Republican 4th District delegates will select a Republican nominee for Pompeo's seat, and Democrat 4th District delegates will select a Democratic candidate. Independent candidates can have access to the ballot through a petition process. Voters will choose between those candidates in the special election. 

For Republicans, the District Committee includes delegates from each county in the 4th district--the county chair and vice chair. Counties also get bonus delegates according to a formula that is based on how many ballots were cast in the Republican primary. Here's the breakdown:

ELK    2

Here are the 66 Republican 4th district delegates from Sedgwick. Their phone lines are probably burning up right about now as people attempt to curry favor. A Congressional seat is a pretty big prize.

Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes is rumored to be interested in the seat. (He and his wife are both 4th District delegates, so he'd probably start with a 2-vote lead.) I've also heard Arnold may have interest in the role. Other names being tossed around? Susan Wagle. Michael O'Donnell. I'm sure there are more. Former Congressman Todd Tiahrt may be interested in his old seat. It's anyone's game, but remember--the chosen candidate will have to beat whoever the Dems choose in a special election.

Trump Harvests Great Plains to Drain the Swamp

The New York Times is reporting that Sen. Jeff Sessions has been offered the Attorney General slot in the Trump Administration. So... I was wrong yesterday. Sad face and apologies. 

So where does Kansas Secretary of State Kris (Kurt, according to Harry Reid) Kobach land now? No clue. All signs pointed to Kobach being given the nod, and so I'm left to wonder, what happened? Will he be offered something else? Back in March, it was rumored that Kobach would be a contender for Director of Homeland Security in a possible Trump Administration, and columnist Michelle Malkin is shoring up a defense for that occurrence. 

Meanwhile, it looks like Gov. Brownback may not be the preferred choice for Secretary of Agriculture--but guys, the gig he's rumored to be a contender for sounds far more amazing--Ambassador to the Vatican. If there is a dreamier job on the planet, I can't think of what that would be.

Yesterday, Congressman Tim Huelskamp looked like a crazy long shot for Secretary of Ag, but Trump transition officials--a Kansan no less--confirmed they were considering Huelskamp for the gig. If Trump is serious about draining the swamp, there are probably fewer people more qualified than Huelskamp.

And finally, about Congressman Mike Pompeo: Anyone else find it interesting that Pompeo visits Trump Towers to speak with the President-elect and hours later, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, resigns? A lot of Washington pundits are suggesting that Pompeo will replace Clapper, and perhaps more tellingly, people who live in Pompeo's district and are close to the Congressman and his staff believe that move is likely. 

So this is my favorite new game: Who does Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer choose to serve as his second? And who would take that job? Who names Kobach's replacement--Colyer or Brownback and who gets that nod? Many of those candidates likely come from the Kansas Legislature. So who do precinct people choose to replace say, a Sen. Julia Lynn or a Rep. Scott Schwab? If Kelly Arnold--Kansas GOP Chair--gets an appointment, who replaces him?

And on a personal note, when all of this gossip and innuendo dies down, what will I do with my spare time? Asking for friend.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

This Just In.. Probably, Kobach

The speculation has been flying for days, but the whispers have reached a fever pitch. Word on the street is that Kris Kobach will get the nod for the coveted Attorney General role in the Donald Trump administration. 

Stay tuned!

Pompeo Visits Trump Towers

Speaking of folks rumored to be on short lists for... things: Guess who made a visit to Trump Towers yesterday? If you said Congressman Mike Pompeo, give yourself a Scooby snack.

I mentioned this on the Andy Hooser Show on Tuesday--the shake-up in Kansas may be dramatic come January. I have had feelers out for about a week now seeking to learn if Pompeo is potentially being considered for Director of the CIA or another security-type position in the Trump Administration. (Ahem, people I reached out to. Taps foot.)

Anyway, in light of the visit to Trump Towers, it's probably safe to say that Pompeo may be on the receiving end of a very big job in Washington. I have no more information than what I've given you here, but here's what happens in Pompeo takes a Trump Administration appointment:

His office will remain open, staffed and available for constituent services until a special election can be called. Replacing a member of the U.S. House of Representatives requires an election, including a primary, and general if necessary. The Governor is responsible for calling the special election.

Those rumored to be interested in Pompeo's seat: 

Sen. President Susan Wagle
Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes
Wichita businessman Wink Hartman

The Democrats would probably find a candidate as well. 

Huelskamp Is Just Going to Leave a Resume

Congressman Tim Huelskamp is hoping to land a gig with the Trump Administration, according to the Daily Caller. He's expressed interest in Secretary of Agriculture.

Love Huelskamp, but I think this one is a long shot. There's another Kansan rumored to be interested in that gig--Gov. Sam Brownback. That also isn't assured. Some insiders think Brownback may be too toxic to land a cabinet position. I'm not sure I'm buying that story, but it's out there.

And I'll say this: Kansans in Washington ought to be going to bat for Brownback if there's any truth at all to the toxicity rumor and if Brownback wants a Trump Administration gig. Let's not forget how both U.S. Senators fell all over themselves to help former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius take over one-sixth of the U.S. economy. For those keeping score, that was then-Sen. Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts. You'll recall both men went out of their way to say nice things about Sebelius and to pave the way for her confirmation as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Brownback deserves to have the same treatment from Kansans in Washington today--meaning they should be batting for their guy.

Literally every human who has ever seen a corn field is rumored to be on Trump's list for Ag Secretary. In addition to Brownback, rumored potentials include all million people on Trump's agricultural advisory committee: Roberts and Brownback are both on that lengthy list as is Jay Armstrong of the Kansas Wheat Commission. That trio is joined by Dave Heineman, former Nebraska Governor; Sonny Purdue, former Georgia Governor; Rick Perry, former Texas Governor; some ag donors and a lot of farm-types from Indiana, like the president of Indiana Farm Bureau, and the director of the Indiana Department of Agriculture. 

Brownback's name is mentioned most frequently in the press, but if I were going to put money on it, I'd probably split my betting money between Brownback and Mike McCloskey, a guy who runs a massive dairy farming operation in Indiana.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Kansas House Leadership Races

For many legislators, campaign season hasn't yet ended. They're running a race to the finish line in hopes of getting a role in leadership. Members of the House and Senate will vote on leadership positions on December 5. 

I've written about the race for Kansas Speaker of the House before. 

Reps. Jene Vickrey, Ron Ryckman, and Russ Jennings are vying to replace Ray Merrick. If I were a betting woman, I'd place money on Ryckman winning the job--though on a personal note, Vickrey is one of my favorite humans. That said, from what I hear from the whispering class, it sounds like he is a long shot for Speaker, despite serving in leadership for a number of years most recently as House Majority Leader and before that as speaker pro tem. 

The majority party--that would be the Republicans--chooses the Speaker and Speaker Pro Tem, which then are approved by the entire House on the first day of the session. That's the tradition anyway.

One of the Speaker's roles is making committee assignments, and one of the most powerful committee gigs is the Appropriations committee chair. Word on the street is that one candidate has offered that particular job to three different people in return for securing their votes. If that candidate wins, things could become awkward in a hurry.

Those running for Speaker Pro Tem include Kyle Hoffman, Ron Highland, and Scott Schwab. Rep. John Barker and Don Hineman are chasing the Majority Leader gig. Those running for Assistant Majority Leader include Dan Hawkins, Willie Dove, and Tom Phillips. 

Blake Carpenter is running for Majority Whip, and Susan Concannon is running for Caucus Chair. Rep. John Whitmer was rumored to be seeing Caucus Chair, but I'm told he's changed his mind. 

There may be more people who throw their hats into the ring for the lower gigs. These are just the folks that I know of who have declared their intentions to other legislators via email, postal service, or phone calls.

I know I've said this before, but I'll go ahead and say it one more time--the conservatives running for leadership positions in this toxic environment are a little loco. Nothing good is going to come of the 2017 session, and conservatives should be extremely careful less the so-called mods and Democrats try to wrap the oncoming train wreck around conservative necks and bury them with it.

All of that said, here's my predictions--subject to change:

House Speaker: Ron Ryckman
Speaker Pro Tem: Scott Schwab
Majority Leader: John Barker
Asst. Majority Leader: Dan Hawkins
Whip: Blake Carpenter
Caucus: Susan Concannon

This is just my gut feeling. And the rest of the state's Republicans may view the top of this crew as too northeastern--Ryckman and Schwab are both from Olathe, and Barker is from Abilene--so there's always a chance the members try to break up the crew. In that instance, I'm guessing Hoffman--challenging for Pro Tem would benefit.
Hawkins and Carpenter are from the Wichita area. Concannon is from Beloit--north central, representing.

The leadership elections will occur on Dec. 5. It's secret ballot, so we can make a whole lot of guesses about who voted for which candidates, but we'll never know the truth. This is baffling and frustrating to me. 

Jenkins Leaves House Leadership

Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins is no longer a member of U.S. House leadership. Once the fifth most powerful member of the U.S. House, she declined to seek another term as the Vice Chair of the House Republicans, and I'm pretty sure I know why.

Jenkins hasn't formally announced her intention to run for Kansas Governor in 2018, but that writing has been on the wall for some time. It's rumored that she's already asked Kansas Sen. Jim Denning to run on the ticket as Lt. Governor. It's also rumored that Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt will seek her Congressional seat.  Jenkins' decision not to seek a leadership role in the House suggests that she needs to use her spare time mounting a statewide campaign OR she could have a major conflict of interest with Donald Trump and his incoming administration. My guess is it's the former rather than the latter.

Calling Conservatives

The Joseph Ashby Show lives on. As many in Wichita know, he was let go from KQAM, and his last day at the station was Nov. 9. 

BUT, he's back with a podcast, and you can listen here.

You can still hear conservative thoughts on KQAM, as Andy Hooser--the Voice of Reason--continues to host a show on the station. 

Speaking of local talent, Kim Quade, a Johnson County grassroots activist writes at a conservative blog called Victory Girls. You should check it out.

I'm certain that almost every thinking conservative or libertarian in Kansas is familiar with Bob Weeks' Wichita Liberty, but on the off-chance that you've been living in a dark cave for the last several years, Weeks blogs about all things liberty and has been for quite some time. His most recent post is a scathing take down of Duane Goosen, Kansas' former budget director and potentially the guy most responsible for Kansas' current budget challenges. You NEED to read it. This is the part I found most eye opening, Weeks writes:

...In May a coalition of spending groups called for what they termed “Option 4.” It would eliminate all tax cuts enacted since 2012. This action would reinstate the tax on pass-through business income — the so-called “LLC loophole.” But this would also raise income taxes wage income, as those tax rates also were reduced in 2012. For example, income tax rates for a married family earning up to $30,000 would rise to 3.50 percent from the current 2.70 percent. That’s an increase of 30 percent in the income tax rate. For other income levels the increase is greater.
A spokesperson for the Option 4 coalition argued that rolling back the tax cuts could increase revenue to the state by $1 billion. By the way, the Option 4 coalition did not call for the rollback of the sales tax increase passed in 2015. 
There's a chance I'm missing some people here. If you know of any Kansas conservative blogs, podcasts or other content, please send me an email! (gidget.southway@gmail.com).

Monday, November 14, 2016

Biggest General Election Disappointments

November 8 was kind of a euphoric night. The could-be good guys beat the definitely bad guys on a national stage, shocking everyone. But into each life a little darkness must fall, and the darkest parts of election night 2016 were reserved for the people of Johnson County. We screwed up on a pretty epic scale. The damage to our wallets is going to be painful in ways we haven't yet considered. So, here's a short list of the most painful--and disturbing--losses.

1. The Courthouse Sales Tax

I can count on one finger the number of people that I know who voted for the so-called public safety sales tax. I know A LOT of liberals and Democrats and with the exception of one movement Dem who thinks government always knows best--no questions asked--none of them voted for this thing. It's not that the county couldn't use a modern and larger courthouse. It's that the tax proposal included a slush fund for local governments--one they didn't even ask for! They literally created a tax proposal that will bring in more than they need to spend on the courthouse for no reason. Under the sales tax initiative, municipal governments will get a cut of the proceeds. 

This is awful on so many levels. First, once the cities get used to this sales tax gravy train, they'll never willingly get off. This sales tax, which will supposedly sunset in 10 years, will become a permanent part of most city budgets. When it is set to fade down the memory hole, I can guarantee you many of these cities who NEVER requested this money in the first place will be at the county commission with hats in hand saying they'll never survive unless another sales tax initiative passes. This is a form of subtle blackmail and manipulation on the part of the county commission, and it's repulsive.

With this latest sales tax increase, most places will see sales tax rates of up to 10 percent. In my hometown, the sales tax has doubled over the last 20 years with no end in sight. Will we one day pay 25 cents on the dollar in sales taxes? 

2. Ugh. The County Commission

My ability to stomach the neverending sales tax train that's about to pull into the county commission station would be greatly improved if voters had elected fiscal conservatives to the commission. In one instance, I can say for certain, they did not. In the other, the jury is still out.

Voters elected Steve Klika, a guy who has yet to vote against any spending increase, rather than elect Benjamin Hodge. Hodge would have been a voice of fiscal sanity on the commission, and now we're stuck with a guy who thinks government is just awesome. We should all just hand him our wallets and be done with it. This was a painful loss.

Voters also refused to re-elect John Toplikar. I've heard Mike Brown, Toplikar's replacement, will be a conservative voice on the commission. It will be difficult to out-conservative Toplikar. Additionally, I've heard Brown was a proponent of the King Louie purchase. I'm going to give the guy the benefit of the doubt for now, but it's a short rope. That King Louie purchase is the dumbest, most inappropriate thing I've seen a political body do in quite some time, and if Brown thought it was a good idea, I question his judgment. The King Louie purchase was a complete waste of money, done for reasons that I still haven't discerned. Living in Johnson County is about to get a lot more expensive--and not because everyone is getting pay raises. We're all about to get a pay cut in the form of even more tax increases.

3. The Judges

Speaking of having your wallet absconded in a holdup, the Kansas Supreme Court is about to go no-holds barred on Kansas taxpayers. In the last few months, Kansas' highest court has been unusually quiet, as the judges likely quaked in fear for their futures. 

Despite campaigns that spent millions to oust four of five judges through retention election, all of the judges will keep their black robes. The majority of the court has made no secret that they think they should determine how much money the Kansas Legislature should spend on schools. In the latest school funding case before them, the justices will determine the dollar amount of a word "adequacy" that isn't even the Kansas Constitution. This charade is one of the most disturbing in all of politics, and I'm sick about how much time and effort was spent to toss these judges out and about just how little it helped. I thought the judicial retention races were going to be close; they weren't.