Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): February 2016

Monday, February 29, 2016

Kris Kobach kills political future

My favorite politicians are forcing me to say bad things about them. And I say this as someone who truly understands the feelings of Donald Trump supporters. I get it. The Republican Party has done us wrong. As a party, it deserves a beat down. I don't think Trump is the person for the job.

I cannot vote for Trump. In fact, I will not vote for Trump. I have been a faithful Republican voter since the day I turned 18. I held my nose and pulled the lever for John McCain, and I really think the Republican Party owes me a ticker tape parade because of it. Voting for McCain was traumatic. However, Trump doesn't actually believe or agree with half of the Republican Party's platform. I won't vote for him. 


I don't intend this post to offend the very select few people I know who support Trump. Again, I get it. 

That said, I'm stunned that Kris Kobach is publicly endorsing Trump. The vast majority of conservatives, especially evangelicals who regularly attend church, do not support Trump. Trump earns winning (not majority, but plurality) numbers among almost all demographics with the exception of church going evangelicals.

I would have called Kobach an evangelical. I think he's a Baptist. (I think. I don't know for sure.) 

When I heard Kobach was set to endorse Trump, I didn't believe it. I thought Trump's questionable moral stances and hello -- he said he doesn't believe he's ever done anything that would require God's forgiveness would disqualify Trump in the eyes of Kobach.

And if not that, I thought the fact that Trump praised the Kelo decision, the fact that he said he'd appoint his sister to the Supreme Court, the questionable things he's said about free speech and the very troubling way he's hinted he would use the bureaucracy to punish his detractors -- surely, those things would make Kobach uneasy. 

Politically, I believe Kobach's Trump endorsement may have been suicide. There's no way on earth Trump wins Kansas, and it's equally unlikely a Trump administration would have room for someone with the conservative street cred of Kris Kobach.

When I saw Kobach's press release, I was trying to understand why a Baptist, active political insider conservative would ever endorse Trump. I've been trying to wrap my brain about Kobach's endorsement all afternoon. I've got nothing -- at least -- I've got nothing I'm willing to say out loud.

Blood bath probably tomorrow

So, February's revenue numbers come out on March 1. That's tomorrow, for those keeping count.

If those numbers show a deficit of more than $6 million -- that's how much the budget leaves in the till -- then Gov. Brownback will make budget cuts without legislative oversight.

This won't be the first time this has happened. 

I'm just going to tell you what Brownback is going to cut -- that will be KPERs payments. Cutting KPERS doesn't affect current people withdrawing from the system. 

It's the Kansas equivalent of kicking the can down the road. There is money in the KPERs account, and it is set to run out far, far down the line. 

I anticipate a lot of blood letting tomorrow. There will be gnashing of teeth and anger. I would like to say I told you so. Because really I did. The Kansas Legislature made all kinds of tax cuts a few years ago. They made those tax cuts before making spending cuts. So, so stupid. (And now Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer is saying IN PUBLIC that those tax cuts created an unintended loophole. Ugh! So now Republicans are for tax loopholes, Lt. Gov.? Seriously, watch your words, man.)

Anyway, there's probably going to be a budget hole. Again. And tomorrow is going to be so ugly.




Sunday, February 28, 2016

Now Seeking Sam Brownback's Marbles

Gov. Brownback has got to be leaving a trail in his wake, because clearly he’s losing his marbles.




On Thursday, Brownback told reporters he will consider vetoing a provision in the budget that disallows the use of STAR bonds for Wyandotte County projects until the STAR bond program is reformed.


The gem to deny WyCo STAR bonds in the short term was dropped into the budget to protect Kansans from subsidizing an expensive horse arena project known as the American Royal. The more I learn about this project, the angrier I become. (Hard pause. Also annoying -- the Border War: Using my tax dollars to subsidize big business for net gain of zero dollars.)


This looming project was discovered when legislators -- specifically Jim Denning and the Senate Ways and Means Committee -- were attempting to find the funding to keep Kansas afloat. Maybe you’ve heard, the state has a bit of a money crunch. So, one bright spot is that in 2017, the Kansas budget was to see an influx of $42 million extra dollars each year, thanks to the final payment, due on Dec. 31, 2016, of the bonds for the behemoth at WyCo -- the Legends. For 15 years, the state of Kansas hasn’t seen a penny of the sales tax generated from the project. Not one red cent.


When you buy a sofa at Nebraska Furniture Mart -- instead of buying from the shop downtown -- the sales tax, all 9.5 percent of it, has been used to pay off the infrastructure debt related to the project. (It’s been going back to big business developers. Super.)


Legislators noticed that $42 million was somehow missing from future budget projections and wondered where it went! And Denning discovered a Kansas Department of Commerce project to build the American Royal, a hockey arena, some car lots, and a convention center using STAR bonds.


There’s a lot, A LOT, to hate about this proposed project:


  • It was done under the cover of darkness. Legislators only discovered it due to a desperate search for the funding to make ends meet.
  • Local municipalities are supposed to take the lead on STAR bond projects. As envisioned, projects using this funding mechanism would start at the ground level and work their way up to the state. That didn’t happen in this case. Instead, developers (ahem. Polsinelli. Ahem. Cerner) are working directly with the Department of Commerce. (See George Hansen). This is the wrong kind of teamwork. It’s not how STAR bonds were designed to work.
  • About that darkness-- the project was so far along that there are actual PLANS for it. The part that makes me extra stabby? The plans include a convention center next to Cerner, but no parking lot for said center. Why would someone build a convention center without a parking lot? Answer: The center isn’t intended for public use. As part of this diabolical plan, Cerner gets a convention center solely for the use of its employees and I don’t know -- big executives when they fly in? Someone please explain why all Kansans should subsidize that? Seriously, Governor, I’m awaiting an explanation.
  • A hockey arena, a horse barn, and a convention center can’t pay for themselves using sales tax revenues. Exactly how much can those projects generate in sales taxes? Probably not enough -- hence the scheme to roll those projects into the district in which the Legends sits. That way, sales tax revenues from all of those stores and Nebraska Furniture Mart, and Schlitterbahn, and car lots next to Schlitterbahn will pay off the debt to build a private convention center for Cerner, a horse arena and a hockey rink. (Small aside: Did you know that car sales generate 17 percent of all Kansas sales tax?)
  • This diversion of sales tax would continue for another 20 years, if approved. 20 YEARS!! That’s almost two full generations of Kansas school children. Let that sink in -- for 20 years, the Governor of Kansas wants to divert money away from the state, which funds (always whining) public schools and public safety, and gift wrap that cash to help private businesses make a profit. For those keeping count, that amounts to $840 million dollars, assuming sales taxes don’t increase (Ha!) over the life of the project. That’s $840 million that can’t be used for schools or public safety or mental health or (insert critical state project here).


This nefarious project was so far along when legislators discovered it that a press conference to announce the American Royal move from Kansas City, Mo., to Kansas City, Kan., was scheduled for Feb. 8. A PRESS CONFERENCE WAS SCHEDULED and legislators, who were trying to draft next year’s budget, didn’t even know about it. (You know who Brownback hates? Legislators in his own party.)

The budget amendment to remove WyCo's access to STAR bonds passed the Senate unanimously. That's 40-0.


Those are the facts, and they are undisputed.



Stay tuned. I’m mad as hell, and you should be, too. I’m not done writing about this.


Oh, and if you find any of Brownback’s marbles, please return them. Obviously, he needs them.

Friday, February 26, 2016

The 4-1-1 on the Kansas Caucus

It's unlikely the national media is going to swoop into Kansas and cover the Kansas Caucus the way it does in Iowa -- the first in the nation. However, Kansans will have a say in choosing the Republican and Democratic Presidential nominees during the Kansas Caucus on March 5. 

Caucuses are party functions, and I'm not a Democrat, so I can't speak to how their nomination process works. (Something, something super delegates.. huh?) However, in the Republican nomination process, there are 2,472 delegates who will select the Republican nominee for President. So, a candidate needs 1,237 delegate votes to win.

Kansas will send 40 delegates to the convention, which will be in July. There's a formula that determines the number of a state's delegates. Forty is the maximum Kansas could have -- 10 per state, 3 per Congressional district or 12 in KS, 3 national committee members and a variable number based on the number of elected state and federal Republicans. (Kansas has a BUNCH. All statewide offices are held by Republicans. We hold 32 of 40 seats in the Kansas Senate, and I believe 97 of 125 House members.) Basically, Kansas Caucus results make up 3 percent of a possible winner's share of the presidential nomination. Bottom line: In the scheme of things, we're really not all that important. California has 172 delegates.Texas has 155. Iowa only has 30, but their first, and therefore more important. Bah humbug.)

Kansas' delegates to the national convention are bound by party rules to vote proportionally for the winners of the Kansas Caucus, meaning at least in Kansas, there are no super delegates. Kansas' delegates will vote in accordance with Kansas caucus voter wishes. (This is in direct contrast to the Democratic nomination process, which apparently allows delegates to vote for Hillary no matter what primary or caucus voters desire.) A Republican candidate must receive at least 10 percent of Kansas Caucus votes to earn any Kansas delegate votes. 

Caucus goers will vote via secret ballot. There are dozens of caucus sites across the state -- 9 in Johnson County alone. Johnson County Republicans can vote at any Johnson County caucus site. I believe voters in every other county will be required to caucus at specific designated county sites. Johnson County and Sedgwick County caucus goers can pre-register. You must be a registered Republican Kansas voter to participate in the Kansas Caucus.

The Dems are having a caucus, too. Their caucus is also a closed caucus, meaning participants must be registered, Kansas voters to participate. (No details on whether they'll be requiring IDs to ensure that is the case, though!)

Gidget's prediction: Ted Crus will win the Kansas Caucus, but no guesses on the margin. If it were up to Johnson County alone, I'd say Marco Rubio would win. But the Big First is clearly #TeamCruz. 

I sense a berning sensation coming from my Kansas Dem friends --not that it matters.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Metsker will be missed

Johnson County Republicans hosted a celebration honoring Ronnie Metsker for his 8 years of service to the county party. Metsker, who served as the chair of the Johnson County Republican Party, was named as the Johnson County Election Commissioner by Secretary of State Kris Kobach. 

His departure leaves a big hole to fill, and judging from the masses that surged through the JCRP offices earlier this week to send Metsker off, his efforts as party chair were noted and appreciated.

Metsker has gigantic shoes to fill. Brian Newby accepted a fancy gig as the executive director of the Election Assistance Commission, an independent, bipartisan organization in Washington, D.C. Newby will be missed.

Metsker will be missed as well. To his credit, Metsker headed the party in an era that saw Republicans take every statewide office.  During his leadership, Republicans also made huge advances in the Kansas Legislature. The legislature is a much more conservative place than it was 8 years ago, and Metsker definitely deserves some of the glory.

Metsker deserves the congratulations and well-wishes. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his one major misstep from his time in service to the county party: the Jody Kramer Experiment. (I really hate to beat a dead horse, but I think it’s critical that grassroots people, who nominate and elect a party chair recognize how key the position really is!)

Save your arrows, disgruntled readers. I know some of you have great appreciation for Kramer HOWEVER had she voted appropriately in the role granted her by Metsker, had she advocated as the party wanted, I do believe Johnson County residents may not be the not-so-proud owners of King Louie. The county’s legislative body likely looks very different than it does today.

Metsker appointed Jody Kramer (and to his credit Clay Barker, KS GOP Executive Director) to the Johnson County Charter Commission. Having no knowledge of Jody Kramer at the time – and who could have guessed at the time the depths of her duplicity – it seemed Johnson County Republicans may have been on the cusp of realizing a party goal: partisan county elections.

The Charter Commission was to examine the county charter and suggest changes to Johnson County’s version of the Constitution. Here’s how I described the Jody Kramer Experiment way back in 2012:

…Long story short: The party crafted a resolution asking all Republican members of the commission to support partisan elections for Johnson County Board of Commissioners. Kramer was placed on the board by Metsker as the appointee from the Johnson County Republican Party. Kramer led the charge, working with Democrats, to ensure that voters never got the chance to consider returning county races to partisan elections… Let's just say partisan elections got tossed in order to protect the perceived power of the so-called moderates. It's abominable. 

Metsker couldn’t have known that Kramer would choose to work with Democrats to stick a knife in the county party. Even today, it rankles. Despite the misstep of the forever notorious Kramer Experiment, Metsker leaves a huge hole in the Johnson County Republican Party. He definitely did everything  he could to mend fences in a very divided county Republican party, and his efforts are noted and appreciated . 

Thank you, Ronnie, for your service, and best of luck in your new endeavor!


Theresa Segraves, the former Vice Chair, has replaced Metsker as the head of the county party. She’s going to have big shoes to fill!

Confusingly, Bob Drummond

The least covered board with a ginormous budget is about to be one member short.

The Kansas City Star is reporting that Bob Drummond will resign from the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees. This means members of the board will select his replacement.

They've dropped the ball on this one in the past. The board had an opening in 2013, when then Trustee Melody Rayl resigned from her seat on the body. 

Trustees selected Bob Drummond, a previous member of the board, to replace Rayl then. In doing so, they overlooked former state Sen. Karin Brownlee. (They had 13 applicants and interviewed four people, including Brownlee, Drummond, Michael Lally and Steven Wolf.)

I'm not saying Drummond is a bad guy. He's fine. But I Brownlee would have brought a more conservative voice to the big spending JCCC Board of Trustees. 

I'm sure they'll replace Drummond with some Johnson County old money. The JCCC Board of Trustees is where Johnson County's elite go to serve out the remainders of the careers and offer jobs to their supporters. 

It will be interesting to see who applies for the gig and interesting to see who the board selects to replace Drummond. I'll be one of the few people who takes notice, unfortunately. 

Whew! It wasn't my imagination

I was beginning to think my tale about Ron Stricker running for Johnson County Sheriff was all in my head. I swore I heard it on the news, and then I scoured the Internet all day yesterday trying to determine if I told the truth on my blog!

Good news. I was telling the truth. Whew. 

Anyway, for those interested, here's a Facebook page to prove it. 

Personally, I don't think he stands much of a chance. He faces Calvin Hayden, a former sheriff's deputy and county commissioner, in the Republican primary. 

Stricker doesn't have any law enforcement experience, and I would say limited name recognition. However, he does have cash, and I've been wrong before!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Hayden vs Auctioneer

Well, that was short-lived.

For about 5 minutes, it appeared that Calvin Hayden, former sheriff’s deputy, would run unopposed in the race for Johnson County Sheriff.

As noted yesterday, Sheriff Frank Denning has said he will not run for re-election. Meanwhile, the rumored Ed Eilert supported candidate, John Douglass, has found a cherry assignment working for the Shawnee Mission School District. 

So it appears he won’t be vying for the sheriff’s seat.
However, former county commissioner Calvin Hayden will have a primary opponent it appears. Ron Stricker, an auctioneer, will throw his (considerably large) cowboy hat into the ring, according to Channel 4 News. (I can’t find it online just yet.)



How Stricker managed to get his mug on the television news announcing his campaign I’ll never know. Other candidates would run over puppies to make that happen. Somehow, Stricker managed it.

I do not know if he has law enforcement experience. I do know Stricker has a lot of experience in cowboy hats and running a very successful auction.

Stricker has plenty of his own cash to bankroll an expensive run for countywide office. Rumor has it he also has the backing of the Nigros.


The race for county sheriff just got spendy.

Shakes fist at Department of Commerce

So, yesterday I handed Sen. Denning a little bit of a stick. Perhaps I should have led with a carrot, because he deserves heaps of praise for being the catalyst that shut down (or at least slowed) an insane Kansas Department of Commerce effort to use taxpayer money to build a horse arena. 

This deserved more press than it initially received. 

Under the cover of virtual darkness, the KDOC was working to build a hotel, children's museum, hockey arena and move the American Royal arena from Kansas City, Mo., to Wyandotte County. The plan would have used STAR bonds to fund the project. 

There's no kind way to say this: Brownback and the KDOC should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe they never received the memo, but Kansas' budget is in tatters, largely due to overspending, in my humble opinion. But also because we divert taxpayer funding to pet projects and friends instead of using public money for critical and necessary services. How else to explain a bloated state budget that somehow manages to underfund the Kansas Highway Patrol? (Public safety seems like a necessity, whereas a horse arena does not.)

STAR bonds essentially take an increment of sales tax revenues from a project and divert them to developers. (Obviously, it's a lot more complicated than that. For more, click here.) Basically, we give developers a tax break, which means the rest of Kansas gets to subsidize the project. 

I don't even... 

Hence, a widely reported effort by the Senate to cease and desist on the use of STAR bonds immediately. Initially, it was to be a statewide ban on the use of STAR bonds, but people in Salina have some project that they think everyone in Kansas should underwrite. As it now sits, only Wyandotte County, which has an atrocious history where STAR bonds are concerned, is exempted from using STAR bonds temporarily. 

Denning told Jim Mclean that he discovered the plan by examining budget documents and projects. He said had he not been bean counting the Kansas budget, legislators would have learned of the plan to lure the American Royal to KCK by reading the newspapers. 

I have a YUUUGE problem with that. What on earth is the Brownback administration doing? I've said in the past that who Brownback really detests is Republican legislators and I stand by that. Brownback, it appears, goes out of his way to stab legislators in the back, surprise them at every turn, and in general make their lives exceedingly difficult.

Do I think GOP members of the Kansas Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback need to be in lock step on every issue? Of course not. (In fact, I think a healthy debate is a best practice).

That said, I know for a fact that Brownback's young staffers (Don't get me started on the way Brownback surrounds himself with youngsters and others who coddle and stroke his ego. Ick.) have threatened legislators with well-funded primary challengers if they refuse to handle issues behind closed doors. This means, don't run to the media, essentially.

The problem is that Brownback is largely inaccessible to many lawmakers, and even if they can get a meeting, good luck having a real discussion or reaching a consensus. That's generally not the point of any meeting Brownback takes with legislators.

If the American Royal wants to come to Kansas, I'd like to be the first to roll out the welcome mat. But it needs to pay its own way, just like the rest of Kansas is supposed to. Call me un-American, but I don't want to subsidize wealthy developers (and Cerner). 

For what it's worth, the STAR bonds have a pitiful record. Prairiefire is really cool, but taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing it. Shlitterbahn is nice, I suppose, but I'm not riding that giant slide, AND I don't want to subsidize it. 

Here's the money shot: Last year, three of six STAR bond projects in the state did not meet revenue projections. Even if you're someone who thinks government should be in the business of picking winners and losers (gross), you must admit that government is really bad at it.




Monday, February 22, 2016

JoCo Sheriff Race: Denning out. Hayden in.

So this happened:

Calvin Hayden, a former Johnson County Sheriff’s deputy and a former Johnson County commissioner, has thrown his hat into the ring to replace outgoing sheriff Frank Denning.

No word yet on whether he has an opponent, but I’ll dish what I’ve heard. A few months ago, Sheriff Denning was planning to run for re-election. Word on the street at that time was he would have an Ed Eilert-backed opponent.

Eilert and the sheriff had a bit bad blood based on the budget. Denning requested funding for additional sheriff’s deputies. Eilert wanted to spend money on King Louie. A compromise of sorts was reached.  Rather than the 42 new deputy hires, the commission approved budgeting to hire 21 new deputies and 21 un-deputized sheriff’s staff.

I don’t believe the Eilert and Denning ever really made up, but I don’t know. Their budget fight was fairly public. What happened in the aftermath—if anything—wasn’t, and I heard whispers of an Eilert-backed opponent likely to enter the sheriff’s race.

Now that Denning has decided not to run, it will be interesting to see if Hayden winds up with a Republican primary opponent. I would be surprised to learn that Denning didn’t back Hayden’s bid for the office, and I would likewise be surprised to learn Eilert didn’t back Hayden.


Things could get interesting. Or not. It’s still a little early to tell.

Can we just make cuts? Pretty Please!

Good news, guys. Steve Rose, with the help of Sen. Jim Denning, has found the way to solve Kansas’ budget problems.

Sigh. 

I am baffled by almost every single suggestion in this column. 



First, this columnist and conservative legislator theorize that we just need to raise revenue, and bam! Problem solved. When someone from the government wants to “raise revenue” it always, ALWAYS, means by taking money out of your wallet. It’s legal pick pocketing and nothing more.

Denning says a proposal to add cigarette and alcohol sales taxes will be dead on arrival, and then he advocates for increasing sales taxes on e-cigarettes. Seriously, what's the difference? (I hate both proposals, btw.)

Second, it should be noted that Kansas revenues are up, despite what Rose calls “damaging tax cuts.” Kansas is consistently bringing in more money month over month than it did the year before. Kansas is not however bringing in the amounts of revenue that the “experts” predicted. I am not sure who makes these revenue projections, but since that person or group has been wrong repeatedly, maybe it’s time to find a new brain trust.



So please understand that when you see those news stories saying that revenues are too low, know that means revenues aren’t meeting projections. They are NOT lower than they were the year before. Also, note that spending isn’t in the tank.

Next, let’s talk about the other side of the economic equation. Yes, we can make further spending cuts. Cutting taxes is relatively politically easy. Who is going to object to government allowing citizens to keep more of their own money (I mean, who other than socialists?). Approximately 60 percent of Kansas’ budget goes to the sacred cow of education, and I am continually amazed that despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary – evidence that clearly shows spending more doesn’t equate to better educational outcomes – politicians and the media and their dupes in the general public believe that if we just pour even more money into public schools, we’ll suddenly begin graduating a bevy of Kansas Einsteins from our public indoctrination camps. Historically, this idea is a big fat failure, but we keep going to that well and drinking until we can’t button our pants.

To hear Steve Rose tell it, you’d think this was Kansas during the days of the Dust Bowl. But guess what? General fund spending is about even or trending slightly upwards. These painful budget hacks apparently shaved off about zero cents from the state budget.



I could deal with the whining and caterwauling from liberals a lot easier if it wasn’t so darn sanctimonious. Just be honest, liberals. Be honest and say yeah, we’re spending the same as we’ve been spending, but it’s not enough, because we don’t want anyone to have more money than we deem they should have. (This is essentially the cry of the liberals. It’s politics based on envy, and I’ll tell you what, it’s immoral.)

So let’s jump into Denning’s proposed “budget adjustments” ahem – mostly tax increases.

First, he’d like to “fix” the LLC loophole. I won’t go too much into it. I have really mixed feelings about it. He says the “fix” would add about $110 million to Kansas’ bottom line. (Steve Rose calls it “saving” money in the Kansas budget, which completely enrages me. When I “save” money in my own budget, I do not take dollars out of the pockets of other people.)

Second, Denning proposes raising the sales tax rate. So help me if that plan passes either legislative body, I will cut someone. Sales taxes are the most regressive tax policy, because the poor bear the greatest burden when sales taxes are raised.

Third.. and again, I’m sharpening my knife – Denning proposes raising the gasoline tax. Again, gasoline taxes are a dagger in the backs of hard working, middle class Kansans. It’s as bad or worse than adding a tax to an effective cancer treatment.I’m talking pitch forks and stake burnings. I’m not kidding.

I don’t understand Denning’s fourth suggestion, modifying a passive income tax law, well enough to offer comment.

Denning then, according to Rose who can’t always be trusted so grain of salt and all that, suggests making changes to Medicaid. I can get on board with tightening the Medicaid eligibility error rate. The other Medicaid policy changes mentioned in the column don’t give enough details for me to comment. However, I will warn that changes to Medicaid that “add” money to Kansas revenues are likely to be fraught with federal strings. Blech.

He suggests taxing the healthcare companies that administer KanCare. Meh. In general, I hate taxes, so I probably hate this suggestion, too, but again, not enough detail.

Denning also suggests cutting some itemized deductions. I’m fine with this, even though I believe it will likely cost me more. I hate government choosing winners and losers – even in the very few instances in which I am a winner. His final suggestion involves realizing more in returns on KPERS. I mean, it has a nice sound to it, but can we really guarantee any amount of earnings from investments? Good luck with that.

I’m sickened that it’s come to this – that conservatives are spiking their obligation to make spending cuts – real, actual cuts. I could even live with proposed solutions that make cuts and add revenues. I can’t live with proposals that do nothing but pad the pockets of Kansas government.



So, how does one find $600 million in the Kansas budget? I'm just spit-balling here -- but do the work necessary to cut spending. (This likely means somehow crushing the Kansas public school monopoly, which I realize is easier said than done, but can we try? Please.)


I don’t want to say I told you so.  Wait, yes I do. A few years ago, I begged – via virtual blogging means – legislators to make spending cuts at the same time they made tax cuts. They did not. And this is what they’ve sown. 

Thoughts on the Kansas GOP Convention

First, many kudos to Sen. Jerry Moran for offering training at the Kansas GOP convention. It has always struck me as amazing stupid and wasteful to gather a bunch of Republicans in one place only to ply them with elevator speeches, chocolate, and the occasional snack or drink.

You’ve got grassroots people anxious and ready to learn. Networking is easier when there is a concrete focus as opposed to random, over-dressed social climbers demanding to know who you are and why you’re there.

So, many thanks to Jerry Moran to providing a focus and purpose to the first day of the event. If I could go one step further, I would really love to see the first day appear more like a conference than a convention. It would be really nice to offer several short classes that people can attend. This serves a few purposes. One, if you’re looking to get more people involved and engaged – and I would argue that should be the intent – the more offerings, the more likely you are to get people in the door. This is also a very good way to collect data. If you get 10 people in a room with a lobbyist explaining the importance of Medicaid reform (or whatever) and you maintain a list of those who attend, you can be pretty well certain that Medicaid is an issue of importance. Or offer a session where a legislator explains his or her ideas for school funding or consolidation, or a session in which Brownback’s budget director really detailed a budget proposal.

If I were in charge of planning, I would do my level best to have at least 10, hour-long sessions with at least 3-5 at a time running concurrently. And yes, I’d cap them at about an hour. That’s my little dream for the convention. There are a ton of things conservatives need to learn – how to engage digitally, how to talk about the issues, how to write a press release. I could go on.

A few years ago, I wrote that the convention often went down like this:

The Republicans have Buffy, Mitzy and their husbands crowded around a punch bowl talking about investment portfolios. (That is a complete exaggeration, but you get the idea.)
It was better this year, and I think that’s in part because there was a focus and a purpose thanks to Moran’s training sessions. Although, can we be a little honest: The final goal of that training session was to get people to actively make phone calls for the Moran campaign. I can live with it, but um…

A few years ago, I also wrote:

“If I could truly change one thing about the Republican Party, it would be the organization's outreach to regular, everyday people, most of whom in Kansas at least, share its values. However, the conventions are used for the Establishment folks to shore up their bases. When Tea Party groups and grassroots people crash the party, there's a lot of eye rolling and sighs from (most) of the politicians themselves and their staffers.”

This, sadly, still remains true. The Establishment – once again—went too far in being Establishment-y. I give you the stump speeches for Marco Rubio at every turn. Rick Santorum advocating for Rubio from the stage at Saturday night’s dinner, a dinner in which donors paid a not-minor fee to attend. I guarantee you some or many of those donors were not and are not Rubio supporters. And then Sen. Roberts took his turn at the microphone and offered a mention of Rubio.

This should go without saying, but it must be said, apparently, repeatedly: The Kansas GOP Convention mainstage is not the place to advocate for your candidate during primary season. In fact, I thought that was a rule – not a suggestion.

This, Establishment, is why the grassroots people don’t trust you. The grassroots campaigners (and grassroots types who were allowed to hold a microphone, a small number, mind you) followed the rules. They did not advocate for their candidates from the mainstage. In typical fashion, however, the Establishment types (and definitely the vast majority of elected officials) seem to believe the rules don’t apply to them.

People Watching

My favorite thing to do at convention – or really any Republican gathering – is people watching. This year’s crowd was more diverse than in year’s past, and I credit the Moran training sessions. If anyone attempts to say that Republicans are the party of old white men, I would beg to differ. Lots and lots of women. Lots and lots of young people. A handful of minorities.

I’m continually amazed at the clear and obvious divide between the Kansas City and Wichita grassroots and activist types. It irks the ICT folks that election year conventions occur in the Jo, and this year, the Wichita folks took their revenge by electing one of their own to replace Todd Tiarht as Kansas National Committeeman. Folks from this end of the state had a dog in the fight – one Chad Bettes. 

(A brief aside, I mean no harm or foul to Chad Bettes or Singularis. I would have voted for Chad had I been able. I'm simply noting that the Wichita folks seem better organized en masse than the folks in the JO.)

Personally, I had some very mixed feelings on this race, which Kahrs won 103-79, I believe. Bettes works for Singularis – Kansas’ answer to Jeff Roe. A savvy reader tels me Bettes no longer works for Singularis, FYI. (I’ll not bore you with the details, and Singularis has a better, kinder reputation than Roe's outfit). And Kahrs is a member of the Kansas House from Wichita. In my heart of hearts, I really wish these committee men and women were elevated from the ranks of volunteers. It’s impractical, I guess, but a girl can dream.

The most stunning people watching always occurs when political staffers demand that volunteers pay deference to their bosses. It’s a disgusting and stunning display. These staffers will tear verbal holes in people working registration tables when they believe their bosses, or their boss’s friends, aren’t sitting at tables close enough to the front at a dinner or breakfast.

This is the part of politics I can’t handle. Too many egos. Far too many people who think they’re chiefs, and far too few people who recognize the great honor they have in their service. The politicians and their staffers should literally be washing the feet of the volunteers and grassroots people at these events. They should be so humbled and honored. Instead, they act like kings waving and lording over their fiefdoms. I don’t know how to fix it, but I wish I could wave a magic wand and do so. Alas, I cannot, but I can offer this reminder to politicians – and especially their staff members – please remember the great honor and fortune you have and recognize that it’s due largely to the committed grassroots volunteers. 

Straw Poll

Someone hosted a presidential straw poll throughout the KS GOP Convention in Overland Park. I was mildly surprised by the results. Judging from the remarks from the podium -- see above -- I assumed everyone in Kansas was all-in for Marco Rubio.

I was wrong-ish. A straw poll, in which people pay to vote, is not even close to scientific. Still, I thought Rubio's misguided supporters were so numerous it was pointless to even cast a straw ballot. 

Had you asked me last week which candidate would win the Kansas Caucus, I would have said Rubio in a landslide. However, the straw poll results suggest otherwise. Cruz won. 


  • Cruz -- 49%
  • Rubio -- 41%
  • Kasich -- 6.5%
  • Trump -- 1.5%
  • Carson -- 1.5%
  • Bush < 1%
Not bad, Kansas. 




Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tax and Spender vs John Toplikar

Mike Brown, of Johnson County, apparently, is going to throw his hat in the ring for Johnson County Board of Commissioners. We last heard from Mike Brown in 2004 when he competed against John Segale for a seat on the commission.

Brown, then of Lenexa, lost. Now word on the street is that he intends to run against John Toplikar in the 6th District.

Good luck with that. 

Here’s what little I could find about Mike Brown on the Facebook and other super sleuthing places – he supported Eilert’s last bid for commission chair.

Eilert has been a disaster and I mean YUUUGE disaster. With Patricia Lightner as commission chair, we do not own King Louie. With Patricia Lightner as chair, county property taxes aren’t increased by 14 percent in ONE YEAR.

Worse, rumor has it that not only did Mike Brown support Eilert, Brown was also supportive of the purchase of King Louie itself. This purchase is quite possibly the dumbest, least supported action in Johnson County history.

So Mike Brown – whoever he is – is dropping from the north to I guess save southern Johnson County from conservative principles. Um. Good luck, dude.

If ever there was a legislative district tailor made for a candidate, I give you Johnson County’s 6th District and its commissioner John Toplikar. The 6th is the kind of district where people proudly display testicles on their truck hitches. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) The 6th District is a place where Congressman Kevin Yoder debates whether he needs a passport. It's conservative in a boots wearin', whiskey drinkin', way. 

I hear Brown intends to run against Toplikar’s inattentive constituent services. I’m pretty sure that’s been tried once before – by an incumbent. 

A quick rehash: Calvin Hayden, a former sheriff’s deputy ran against Toplikar in 2008. Hayden narrowly squeaked out a victory, but only after a sign stealing controversy. Fast forward four years: Toplikar ran against incumbent Calvin Hayden, who I thought was well liked and popular.

Not popular enough. Toplikar cleaned Hayden’s clock. And seriously, Toplikar did it with a few homemade signs and I don’t know what. Toplikar won decisively.




There’s a chance I suppose. But there’s also a chance that I could be bitten by a shark while delivering octuplets in a pond in western Kansas. 

Commence Circular Firing Squad Positions

I hate to betray the sisterhood, but yes, when two women in power are bickering, there’s a serious rift. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and I suspect there’s about to be some burnt earth in the Kansas Senate.

I won’t bore you with the sketchy details, but here’s the short and dirty: Sen. Susan Wagle, Republican, removed Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, Republican, from her chairmanship of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.

Pilcher-Cook scorned Wagle by insisting on debating a proposal to expand Medicaid in committee. 

For what it’s worth, Wagle appears to want to dress up her support of Medicaid expansion as some sort of grand opportunity to show charity to the poor. (Heaven, save us from people who want to rob others to show their own goodness. Or as C.S. Lewis once put it: a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.)

Basically, the public committee debate would have forced Wagle to admit her support for expanding Medicaid, or basically for Obamacare. And Wagle, had a list of ultimatums for P-C. The list of demands was essentially – don’t make Wagle look bad – which a Kansas Republican supporting Obamacare looks bad (because it is bad, but I digress).

I’ve got to think Wagle is regretting her decision to remove Pilcher-Cook now.  Half of the Senate Republicans penned a letter requesting Wagle reconsider her decision. Twenty-six House Republicans signed a similar letter.

As political watchers know, there’s more to this story than the few bits and pieces we’re being fed. First, I suspect at least one of the Senate signatories to the letter to Wagle is angling to replace Wagle as the Senate leader.  Hence, the bitter battle and the slow leak of information that will stick a dagger in Wagle.

Second, I personally believe Wagle had plans to run for Governor.  Surely those plans are circling the drain right about now, and I can’t say I’m sorry about that.


By the way, here’s the other piece of this about to get super ugly skirmish that I find really, really interesting – Wagle hails from Wichita and Pilcher-Cook from Shawnee. It will be interesting to see how the Senate fault lines divide. It appears to be a division along ideological lines as of now, but I won’t be surprised if the fault lines become more geographic if this isn’t resolved soon. The Wichita folks have a way of supporting their own. At least, that’s how it appears from this end of the state.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

KS Supreme Court pukes up some stupid

So the Kansas Supreme Court’s foray into politics decision in the Gannon case is 80 pages. There’s no point in reading the entire thing, because surely you have better things to do with your time. And also, you’ve probably already guessed what it says, which is essentially: pay up, taxpayers. Also, legislators, the old formula – that big forever litigated train wreck – was awesome. (I guess it was awesome, because it guaranteed that the Kansas Supreme Court would have something to do.)

Anyway, over at Kansas Policy Institute, Mike O’Neal, has some thoughtful questions in light of the Court’s decision. You can read O’Neal’s thoughts here. Many of his questions are worth repeating:
  • Given the provisions of Art. 2, Sec. 24 of the Kansas Constitution whereby the people have reserved the power of the purse exclusively to the legislative branch, how would the Court force passage of an appropriations bill?
  • Given the fact that it would take a majority of House members and Senators to agree on a single form of the appropriations bill, how would the Court force an affirmative vote?
  • In the event a majority of members of the House and/or the Senate determined, in good conscience, that he or she would be violating their oath of office or would be proceeding in a manner adverse to the will of the people or best interests of their district, how would the Court force an affirmative majority vote?
  • Would the Court threaten contempt of court proceedings against any member refusing to vote in the affirmative, thereby substituting the will of the court for the will of the people’s elected representatives?
  • • In the event of passage of legislation satisfactory to the Court, the bill would require assent by the Governor. Would the Court order the Governor to sign the bill? What if he vetoed the bill? Contempt proceedings?
  • • Would the Court draft the proposed legislation, order passage and signature by the Governor, thereby assuming the role of both legislative and executive branches?
  • What is the basis for closing all schools over a dispute representing something like 1.8% of the total school budget for K-12?
  • What about the schools that are not involved in the equalization issue? Wouldn’t closing those schools be a violation of those students’ constitutional rights to a public education, as this Court insists they have? Could they sue the Supreme Court?
  • In the absence of legislation by June 30, 2016 meeting with the Court’s satisfaction, how would the Court enforce school closures or prevent teachers and students from reporting? The Kansas National Guard is under the jurisdiction of the Executive branch.
Yes, the bozos who sit on the state Supreme Court, essentially nominated to the bench by unelected attorneys (puke), threatened closing schools in their opinion. The suggestion would be so utterly laughable, if it wasn’t an opinion authored by supposedly the wisest legal minds in the state. (Seriously, if their logic and reasoning is what passes for best and brightest in Kansas, we’re in deep, deep trouble. And no amount of public school funding is going to fix it!)


O’Neal asks, "Is this kind of threat the product of rational thought?" I know the answer to this one -- no, no it isn't.