Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): 2017

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Farewell Party for Gov. Brownback in the Works

While everyone is still quietly wondering whether Rome beckons Gov. Brownback to the east, a party at Cedar Crest is quietly in the works.

Former Brownback staffers from his days in the U.S. House and Senate are invited. Many are making plans to stop through Kansas and make an appearance. Former staffers from his first term as Governor will attend. The big event is set to occur soon at Cedar Crest, the Governor's residence.

No one is calling it a farewell party, but it certainly sounds a lot like one. If I liked to waste money betting on things, I'd place a chunk of change on the Governor stepping aside once this session is over. 

All of you legislators breathlessly awaiting his departure can speed it along by wrapping things up. As you consider that, please note that in my opinion, he's sticking around long enough to make sure you don't ruin everything. So, make some decent decisions to wrap up the session and you will likely find yourselves starting anew with a fresh face behind the veto pen.




Monday, April 10, 2017

Hug a Democrat Today and Tomorrow

Kansas Republicans are lucky, because the Kansas Democratic Party is pretty much incompetent. This bodes well for the special election to replace CIA Director Mike Pompeo in the U.S. Congress. Thank goodness. 

Without the help of a severely wounded Democratic Party, there's a real risk Republicans could lose the Fourth Congressional District. So hug a Democrat today, and thank them.

Here's the quick state of the race down in Wichita between a guy who spent $250 of campaign money on a razor # 2 haircut (ahem. James Thompson) and Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes:

1. It looked really, really bad until late last week. As of close of business on Thursday, April 6, Democrats had a 464 lead in advanced ballot requests. That was trending in the right direction at the close of last week, but there's no excuse for a gap in the left direction.

2. At close of day on April 6, Democrats had a three ballot lead in advanced ballots returned. 

3. While polls made public look good for the Estes campaign, every poll I've seen printed shows the Estes campaign moving in the wrong direction. Those polls still show a sizable Estes lead, but that lead continues to shrink. And let's chat a second about undisclosed polls: One such undisclosed poll (from a few weeks ago) showed Estes has only a 1 percent lead among likely voters who could name the day of the special election! 

THE ELECTION IS APRIL 11, FYI.

3. The lone bright spot for Republicans in this messy election is registered Republican advanced in-person voters out-voted Democrats by more than 1,300 as of April 6. 

That cushion isn't enough for me to feel comfortable, and it appears Democrats smell blood in the water. Their base is clearly a LOT more energized than ours, and in a special election, that could be the difference. Fortunately, the Democrats seem incapable of capitalizing on that advantage.

The Dems' troubles started the second Democratic delegates selected James A. Thompson as their standard bearer. Thompson hails from the Bernie segment of the party, also known as the socialist wing. Dems had other options. I was actually afraid of Dennis McKinney, a former state treasurer who is pro-life. (Wichita is perhaps the most pro-life part of a very pro-life state.) But party insiders voted for the Bernie guy who was instantly and loudly endorsed by Planned Parenthood. (These are the same folks disrupting town halls across the nation, screaming and wearing genital costumes on their heads, so you know, kind of not Kansas-like at all, so...)

And then Dems began campaigning. So far, it appears their campaign efforts involve attending every forum hosted by the League of Women voters and other leftist organizations and then complaining that Estes didn't show up, vandalizing signs, and vandalizing the Estes campaign office. Oh, and then complaining about a commercial that factually reveals Thompson supports abortion on demand for any reason.

The state party and the Thompson campaign publicly exchanged barbs after the Kansas Democratic Party refused to give the campaign $20,000. The state party admitted it didn't have the money! They said that out loud! 

It's odd that the Thompson campaign requested $20,000 for mailers rather than the party sending mailers on behalf of the campaign. It costs less for the party to mail than it does for the campaign. So strange. 

And I just want to reiterate, this is a campaign that spent $250 on a haircut. (I don't even... for context, I have unusual hair. I get it colored, cut, and styled every six weeks at a mid-priced salon. I pay $120. That's with tip!! Sometimes I add on the $40 blow dry. If someone charged Thompson $40 for a blow out, he should demand a refund. It's ridiculous, and it gives a great indication of how careful the candidate is with other people's money!! When your advertising dollars are in short supply, you don't blow a few hundies on a haircut! How frivolous.)

Meanwhile, the national Democratic party is sitting on the sidelines. 

Estes is likely to win this race, but it isn't because the Republicans ran a great campaign. I'm watching from other end of the state, so caveat emptor. From here, it looks a bit dismal. Trump won the Fourth Congressional District by 27 points. It is the most conservative district in red Kansas by a long, long way. And for that reason, I think Estes pulls it out. However, unless he can snatch a double-digit victory from the jaws of defeat, he's looking at a nasty, virulent primary in 2018. He'll have to campaign better next time, or his Congressional efforts will be short-lived.

Estes was always going to face a primary in 2018, but without a big win tomorrow, he'll face a crowded and vicious one. The only person I hear running in 2018 is Susan Wagle. I put her chances at success at near zero percent, but she won't be alone in that race. Starting April 12, Estes should watch his back.

When Estes pulls out this win tomorrow, we probably ought to thank Democrats for being so inept. This was theirs to lose, and it appears they'll do just that. Thanks!












Monday, April 3, 2017

Rep. Fred Patton Needs Your Help

Rep. Fred Patton is under fire as a wobbly squish. The good news is you can help the Topeka legislator find his backbone. 

Patton went a bit wobbly this weekend, telling people at a forum that he was torn on his votes against Medicaid expansion. (If the people at that forum were anything like the people who attended a forum I went to this weekend, the event mirrored a hippie drum circle--only instead of going shirtless, the attendees wore hats that are supposed to look like genitals and carried giant Planned Parenthood signs.)

Of course, that sort of aggressive protesting masquerading as constituent outrage can be persuasive, so Patton needs to hear from the level-headed folks prior to a House veto override vote on expansion. That may come as early as today.

Lobbyists tell me that if Patton becomes the tie-breaker in the House--which he has set himself up to become (bafflingly)--he'll vote to override Brownback's veto.

Here's some information to use in your emails and calls to Patton's office. 

First--Kansas can't afford to expand Medicaid. Of the 31 states to expand, guess how many spent more than projected on the expansion? If you guessed EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, you're correct. In fact, the average overrun in the 31 expansion states was 110 percent. It's laughable to think Kansas will somehow be different.

Second--the Kansas Republican Party platform specifically opposes Medicaid expansion in Kansas and any efforts to expand Obamacare nationwide. Many make the argument that Republicans control the U.S. House, Senate, and Presidency specifically because of the disaster known as Obamacare. Patton is a Republican, and Republican voters have a right to expect him to act like one.

Finally, many are reporting that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis won Patton's district in 2014. They're leaving out a pretty significant part of that story: Guess which candidate won Patton's county in the 2016 Presidential election? That would be President Donald Trump by more than 2,000 votes. Even more telling, the third party candidate to receive the most votes in that district was Gary Johnson--the libertarian candidate. Johnson earned 3,400 votes to Jill Stein's--the leftist near socialist candidate-1,700 votes. This tells any thinking person that Patton's district skews right in ways the mainstream media would rather not report.

Either way, Patton needs to hear from the reasonable adults in the room. Please reach out today as this vote could happen soon.

So, friends, give him a call and tell him the silent majority (and the party Patton says he belongs to) supports fiscal responsibility and small government.

Here's his phone number and email address:

(785)296-7460
fred@fredpatton.com

I also recommend a few well-timed, but polite, tweets to @FredPattonKS. Don't forget the hashtag: #ksleg


Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Myth That Voters Rewarded anti-Brownbackers in 2016

This legislative session stinks like a rotting animal in the desert. There are a lot of buzzards hanging on cheering the possibility of making economic carcasses of Kansas businesses and Kansas taxpayers through enormous tax increases, new regulations, and bloated government.

One challenge is lack of leadership. In the Senate, you have a Senate President who has largely abdicated almost all responsibility to a Senate Majority Leader. In the House, you have leadership on the wrong end of important votes, and leadership of both chambers quietly begged the Governor to allow that last tax abomination to become law. 

Meanwhile, you have a bunch of newbies who actually believe they're reflecting their districts by advocating and voting for massive tax increases and new spending at every turn. Some of those newbies are correct, but a whole lot of them are falling for a common misconception: The idea that simply being anti-Brownback is the key to winning future elections.

Allow me to dispel that myth once and for all. Here is a tale of two Senate candidates in Johnson County. 

You'll recall Johnson County was ground zero for candidates who were for the Governor's tax plan in 2012 before they were against it. So--let's compare two very similar districts and two Republican candidates who won campaigning on very different platforms.

In one corner, we have Sen. Jim Denning. In the other, Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook. Denning lives in Overland Park. Pilcher-Cook lives in Shawnee. Their districts are very similar.

In Denning's district, 47 percent of voters are registered Republicans and 23 percent are registered Democrats. In Pilcher-Cook's, 43 percent of voters are Republicans, and 25 percent are registered Dems. Though their districts are very similar, Denning enjoyed a slight numbers advantage on paper.

Denning also enjoyed an advantage in terms of his opponent. He faced Democrat Don McGuire. Pilcher-Cook faced Democrat Vicki Hiatt. McGuire raised $20,000 during his campaign to Denning's $160,000. Hiatt raised $60,000 to Pilcher-Cook's $100,000. Advantage: Denning.

Denning and Pilcher-Cook narrowly won re-election. Denning beat McGuire 52.7 percent to 47.2 percent. Pilcher-Cook defeated Hiatt 51.5 percent to 48.6 percent. 

The major difference between Denning and Pilcher-Cook's races was in how they campaigned. Both boasted similar voting records. They voted against the 2015 sales tax increase, supported block grant funding, and oppose Medicaid expansion.

They campaigned differently on a few things, however. Mary Pilcher-Cook voted against that education funding bill that came out of the special session last summer. Denning voted for it. 

Though Denning voted to implement the LLC-tax incentive in 2012, he is now its most vocal opponent. He campaigned heavily in favor of revoking the tax incentive. He campaigned as an anti-Brownback Republican. Pilcher-Cook campaigned in favor of maintaining the tax incentive and as a Brownback Republican.

Denning won by 1.2 percent more than Pilcher-Cook, and that was despite the fact Pilcher-Cook faced a better-funded opponent and much more engaged opposition. 

Though this tome is written about two Senate races, I primarily write this as a warning to supposedly Republican House members. Working to increase taxes isn't likely to be a winner come the 2018 election. In fact, it wasn't as much of a winner as many newbie House members probably believe it was.

I say this based on Presidential Voting Indexes (PVI) in House districts in 2016. PVI is a score based on how red or blue a district is. 

In districts where an incumbent Republican who supported the LLC-exemption lost, the PVI was 5.96. In districts where the Republican incumbent who campaigned for revoking the exemption lost, the PVI was 8.95.

All this is to say that more conservative districts didn't save incumbents who flipped on the LLC tax. 

The 2016 election marked an anti-incumbent wave. The LLC-exemption was but a side show. The results of the 2016 Republican primaries and in many cases, general elections marked an over-correction. 

There are an awful lot of Republican newbies who probably shouldn't get too comfortable in their Statehouse offices. Republican primary and general election voters are going to see videos like the one below--of people cheering for a tax increase--and feel disgusted. No one campaigned on raising taxes on low and middle income families. 





Those who are most vulnerable include Sean Tarwater, Shelee Brim, Anita Judd-Jenkins and Roger Elliott. Their districts are far more conservative than their collective voting records. 






Kobach Will Run for Governor

Secretary of State Kris Kobach will announce his candidacy for Governor in upcoming weeks. 

Word on the street is Kobach was weighing potential opportunities within the Trump administration, but the Secretary has reached a decision. He will throw his hat into the ring for Kansas Governor in 2018.

Kobach is likely to enter a crowded Republican primary. 



Wichita businessman Wink Hartman announced his candidacy several weeks ago. Ed O'Malley--some guy from somewhere who once did something--is on a listening tour. O'Malley created an exploratory committee several months ago, though he hasn't officially announced his intentions. 

Meanwhile, I think we can call this slobbery, cheerleading Steve Kraske column evidence that Congressman Kevin Yoder is eyeballing the race. (BTW, that column was so CLEARLY a plant by the Yoder team. Nice get guys, but kind of transparent.) 

Others rumored to be considering runs on the Republican side: Senate President Susan Wagle will run if she can ram through the legislation that makes campaign accounts portable. Garrett Love will be her running mate. I think I've said this before, but I'll say it once more: I don't know how anyone wins a statewide election after systematically stabbing every possible constituency in the back. Mods call her a conservative. Conservatives believe otherwise. I don't know how you win a Kansas Republican primary in that situation, but hope springs eternal. 

Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer may be running as an incumbent if and when Gov. Brownback departs for Rome. My sources tell me an announcement about the Governor's plans are premature. I think that means Brownback leaves, and the only thing being negotiated at this point is the timing. If I had to guess, Brownback wants to stay until the end of this session.

I still think there's a chance that Colyer could end up working for the Trump administration in some capacity, and I think there's a slim possibility he could choose to run for the Third District seat should Yoder decide to run for Governor. Colyer will really show his hand if and when he chooses a Lt. Governor to replace himself. If he chooses someone like Tim Shallenburger, a seasoned politician, we can infer Colyer isn't going to run for Governor. Shallenburger currently serves as Brownback's legislative director. He unsuccessfully ran against Kathleen Sebelius and lost, probably because of that mustache. If Colyer chooses someone with political capital from the Big First Congressional District, he's running for Governor.

On the Democratic side, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer is running for Governor. There may be others who run. Paul Davis, the former gubernatorial candidate, is rumored to be considering a run. 

The Democratic bench is pretty shallow, but that doesn't mean the winner of the Republican gubernatorial primary isn't in for a tough fight. The Dems will throw everything at the top of the ticket, and history suggests Kansas voters are a squishy lot. 




Sunday, February 19, 2017

Where Are the Conservative Leaders?

There was once a rumor that the top leaders in the Kansas House and Senate were conservatives. I think it's safe to say most Kansans knew what we were getting with Senate President Susan Wagle: 


She appears quite content to sail the USS Kansas right into the side of an enormous tax increase --only Democratic special interests need apply for life jackets.

I expected more in the House, though. There, conservatives, with the help of some moderates, elected Ron Ryckman, Olathe, Speaker of the House. Ryckman has conservative creds, and he promised to be fair. Apparently, fair only applies to some weird brand of Democratic special interests, however. 

There's nothing fair about balancing the budget on the backs of poor and middle class Kansans, and he allowed that bill to get onto the House floor. 

Last week with nary a word of debate, a bipartisan coalition of so-called moderates and the liberal lefty Democrats rammed through the House (and a day later, the Senate) a tax increase that will be an anvil around the ankles of middle class and lower income families trying to keep their heads above water. So, thanks for that. They did this despite not even having passed a budget. This means they decided, well, no matter what, we've got to give taxpayers a pay cut. We aren't sure why. We don't know the numbers or what we need, but they definitely can't keep all that money they earned in January, February and into the future. 

The House Speaker should rarely be in the minority on a vote. Ryckman has the ability to shut down any bill in the House, and he chose not to use it. This may have been some politics behind it: Now, everyone is on record, and there's definitely some political hay to be made from that. Grassroots conservatives know for certain that we can't trust Reps. Abe Rafie, Shelee Brim, or Sean Tarwater on fiscal issues. (I think the term I'm looking for here is one-termers.) So, now we know what we're dealing with. 

Here's the enraging part about so-called House leadership: This bill is going to be vetoed, but the vote was incredibly close to a veto-proof majority. What the fiscally sane people and taxpayers need is a champion who will whip the no votes and ensure they stay that way on a veto override vote. Word on the street is that Ryckman is refusing to do that.  

If you're one of the few people who has Ryckman's ear, now might be the time to mention that conservatives will write him off for higher office --I know he's eyeballing Yoder's seat--if he can't use his leadership position to fight for fiscal sanity in Kansas. Why on Earth would anyone send him to Washington (or even back to the Speakership) if he can't lead on something as simple as sound fiscal policy in Kansas. Real leadership means you have people following you. What does it say when you're on the wrong end of a 76-48 vote and you have ultimate control over whether that vote occurs? Conservatives need someone they can follow into battle, and right now, Ryckman isn't that guy, unfortunately.


Leaders Needed

Because Ryckman refuses to go to bat for conservative values, someone else is going to need to. We can't have another moment in which the conservative selected to speak against a massive tax increase is in the bathroom when the time comes. Yes, that actually happened. When it was time to debate that tax increase monstrosity, a few conservatives in the House had a plan to offer amendments and you know, say a few words about NOT GROWING THE SIZE OF AN ALREADY BLOATED GOVERNMENT BY TAXING CITIZENS TO DEATH. When the time came, the guy who everyone agreed would say something was in the restroom.

Um, other guys and gals not in the bathroom--you, too, can step to the well and say something. Even if it's not the most polished, brilliant thing you've ever said, conservatives needed a voice in that vote. It's soul-sucking that no one stepped up to defend the taxpayers. I know you were taken by surprise at the speed everything happened, but we're going to need you to be quicker on your feet. If you need some flash cards with some generic things you can say, let me know. I'll write those up, and I'll only charge you three times what the state is going to take from my wallet come next April. Wait, does that seem awfully expensive for some note cards? Well, welcome to my world. Taxpayers send you buckets of money each year, and it sure seems like we're not getting our money's worth.)

There's a new, loose organization working on political strategy to accomplish a few things. I'm hopeful that they'll have some success, but the jury is still out. 

About That Bill

Hopefully, this loose coalition of the sane, the Truth Caucus, can help with a bit of the messaging. It's absolutely enraging that the media is running around saying this tax bill simply rolls back the LLC-exemption from 2012. 

Guys, that's a lie--a complete and total lie. It does roll back the small business tax incentive from 2012, but it also raises income taxes RETROACTIVELY on even the lowest wage earners in Kansas. In fact, the back breaking income taxes on the middle class bring in the majority of the new revenue in this bill. The small business tax incentive, or LLC-exemption, is only a small piece of the revenue. 

Congratulations, entire world. All of those people who campaigned on rolling back the LLC-exemption weren't tell the truth about their actual aims. If that were truly their imperative--to end that tax incentive--they could do it in a clean bill that simply did that. 

But that's not what this is. It's a dirty bill with all kinds of tax hikes on everyday Kansans, and liberals blanketed their lie by pretending this just rolls back the LLC-exemption. Shame on mainstream media for allowing that myth to pass as reality, and shame on any so-called conservative or Republican who tries to say that's really what this bill does. That's smoke and mirrors.

By the way, legislators have tried clean bills in the past and failed. I think it's failed four times so far in the last two years. You know who wouldn't vote for it? Dems and moderates who say it doesn't go far enough. This is politicking at its worst. If rolling back the LLC tax incentive were really the "right thing to do" and what "the people" want, they wouldn't be using it as a bargaining chip. They'd do the right thing.

LLC versus Carry Forward Loss

Here's the truly infuriating part: These (hopefully, now) one-termers campaigned on raising taxes on the rich so Kansas could pay its bills and on tax fairness. (Because being a slave to government spending is super fair to people like me.)

They argued that the LLC-tax incentive busted the budget, and that it was just giving the rich a tax break. That's not what the data suggests. Instead, much of the tax break went to individuals who earned less than $25,000 per year. These are people who were likely working side businesses--like window installation, accounting, or hair styling--and created a business on their own after 2012. That may not seem like massive hiring--which is what the libs claim--but creating your own job IS job creation.

Meanwhile, the people screaming the loudest about the LLC tax incentive never mention that the legislation would also reinstate a tax break for the actual wealthiest. It's called the carry-forward loss provision. This provision remains a part of federal tax code, and it's the tax provision that allowed President Donald Trump to avoid paying income taxes for decades.



Here's how it works: Say you have a business that lost money in 2014, you can carry forward the losses, so that your spouse's taxable income is no longer taxable, or you can carry forward the loss into future years, meaning the income you earn the following year or a few years down the road isn't taxable, because you lost money back in 2014. Typically these are wealthy people by the way. If you're a tiny business and you lost money in 2014, the business doesn't exist a few years later for you to carry forward the loss. 

When legislators crafted the LLC tax incentive in 2012, they eliminated the carry-forward loss provision. They exchanged rewarding failure--producing losses--for rewarding success--creating a business. It's too bad the media didn't accurately portray that 2012 tax bill, because in hindsight, it was Kansas ingenuity at its best, and it appears it's going to work when the economy truly gets rolling. (With a Republican in the White House, an actual recovery appears imminent, and then it's watch out, world.)

If tax fairness is truly the concern of the legislators who oppose the LLC-exemption, I sure hope they're planning to make KPERS pensioners to pay taxes on their retirement incomes at some point. As it stands now, they don't pay taxes on the income on the way in and they don't pay income taxes on the way out. The rest of us pay taxes on our retirements. That's but one example of dozens in the Kansas tax code that doesn't treat people "fairly."

The Solution

Grassroots friends, the pressure for conservative legislators to capitulate to liberal nonsense masquerading as fiscal sanity is going to be intense. This bill is going to be vetoed, and we're going to need to call our friends to ensure they hold the line. 

If moderates are hellbent on eliminating the LLC-tax incentive, fine. Conservative legislators, with the help of the Speaker who is supposedly an ally, make them vote on clean legislation that does only that. We can't allow the lowest income taxpayers to bear the burden of a government that will not cut the fat. 

Your legislators need to know what conservatives expect them to do. Don't let up on the phone calls, emails, and letters. Twitter and Facebook work, too. If your legislator is going to be at a forum or town hall, please stop in and thank those who voted correctly. Don't mince words for those who voted to balance the budget on the backs of hard working Kansans.

Conservatives got complacent a few years ago, and it's time to step up our game. Everyday Kansans are doing our best to stay afloat without any lifejackets, while the wealthy and Democratic special interests row away in the lifeboats.  We need the help of strong, principled conservative leaders in the House and Senate. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Conventioneering: Musical Chairs to Continue

Kansas GOP officials and grassroots people gathered in Manhattan (Mecca) this weekend for the state GOP's annual convention. A lot of people asked why I'm writing less here: You can find me almost daily over at the Sentinel, a fresh news source designed to help keep the mainstream media and legislators accountable. I will be dropping by here a few times per week to dole out the 4-1-1 that, for a variety of reasons, just doesn't fit there. Things like the following:


Musical Chairs Set to Continue

It looked for a moment there like the music had stopped in Kansas. Congressman Mike Pompeo was named intelligence director; Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes has a clear path to win Pompeo's Congressional Chair on April 11, and Derek Kriefels, current President of the State Financial Officers Foundation and a former Assistant State Treasurer, is likely to be tapped as interim Kansas Treasurer. (Update: I'm told the whispers about Kreifels are false.) Or, perhaps, Brownback will name a former office holder who lost his last election. Someone like former Sen. Terry Bruce?

The exciting game of musical chairs is far from over.

As Lee Corso would say: Not so fast, my friend. 


If I were a betting woman, I'd put money on Gov. Brownback announcing his departure before month's end. Word on the street is that he'll be working with refugees from a base in Rome, Italy. (I am so jealous.)

Meanwhile, there's still a chance that Secretary of State Kris Kobach has one foot out the door for a Donald Trump appointment. Some sort of advisory gig? Kobach's people are the most tight-lipped folks in all of Topeka. It's maddening. However, I did hear Kobach's departure to D.C. may be imminent if he can get his wife on board. 

Obviously, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer replaces Gov. Brownback and names his next-in-command. Who Colyer names as his own replacement will be telling. If Colyer names someone like former state Sen. Garrett Love--someone young, upwardly mobile and able to fundraise-- as his Lt. Gov, I think it's safe to say Colyer intends to run for Governor in 2018. However, if he picks a place holder--say some person no one has heard of--I think it's safe to assume Colyer plans to run for the Congressional Third District seat, currently held by Congressman Kevin Yoder.

I don't think Colyer would primary Yoder, but Yoder may be gearing up for a run at the Governorship. For what it's worth, every politician in Kansas, and every human with any kind of name ID is quasi-considering a run at that top gig.) For Yoder, he's likely thinking about being closer to home now that he has two small children. He's also got to be considering the challenging race he'd have in the Third. He'll win of course, if he decides to run for re-election, but the Dems are gearing up to throw everything at him.

So, who will Colyer face in a Third District primary? My guesses include Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer for certain.

Over in the Governor's race, Yoder will face challenges from Wink Hartman, a Wichita businessman; that O'Malley guy (Right. I can't remember his first name either.); Sen. Susan Wagle; possibly Derek Schmidt.

And I haven't even addressed what is causing this second wave of upheaval--we'll call the first wave the Trump Tsunami: The second wave was Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins' announcement that she won't be running for Governor.

So, who will replace her in Congress? That's going to be a very crowded field. Potential candidates include Sen. Jake LaTurner, Sen. Caryn Tyson, Leavenworth DA Todd Thompson, Sen. Vicki Schmidt, and there's always a chance that Alan Cobb, the Trump transition team member who narrowly lost the Fourth Congressional Republican nomination to Ron Estes, may jump into the Second District race. (He lives in Topeka but is from Wichita.) For what it's worth, I think Derek Schmidt chooses to run for Second instead of Governor, which means Thompson will not run. 


That music you hear is another round of musical chairs about to pick up. So keep your ears to the ground and send your 4-1-1 my way!



Friday, February 10, 2017

Meanwhile at the Sentinel

A lie told often enough becomes the truth, or so Vladimir Lenin once said. At the very least, misleading information skews reality, and that’s where Kansans find themselves today–asked to believe that Kansas’ current budget problems are the result of a 2012 tax cut, and not the result of outrageous and continued growth in government spending.

....Hold the phone while the truth tellers put on some pants. 

Read it here.


Friday, February 3, 2017

This Bodes Well for Republicans

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced this week that it will target Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder. So says the Kansas City Star, revealing that Democrats are so desperate they've decided to spend buckets of money in off-season to campaign against candidates who won handily in a state and a place where Republicans didn't fare all that well.

Despite facing pretty strong head winds last fall, Yoder handily defeated DCCC-funded candidate Jay Sidie by 10 points. If a double-digit deficit is the best place for the Dems to spend their money, I'd say election 2016 was worse for the liberals than I thought.

The DCCC issued a press release saying they'll hire a community organizer and run some ads against Yoder on Twitter. (Um. That will be preaching to the choir. Have you BEEN on Twitter lately? It's filled with Kansas libs liberaling and very little else, so that's an awesome use of funds.)

And then there's the very real possibility that Yoder won't seek re-election to his current role. The Governorship will be open, and rumors suggest he may be eye balling that slot.

Regardless of where Yoder decides to run, the risk of a Democrat winning the Third District is about as high as the possibility that I'll win the lottery tonight. (Full disclosure: I haven't even purchased a ticket.)

Republicans control the Presidency, the U.S. House, and the U.S. Senate by greater numbers than they have in 70 years. Republicans control more Governorships and statehouses. The Red bench is deep.

Meanwhile, the Dems are setting things on fire and dressing up as genitals in public. Who could they possibly find to challenge for Yoder's seat in 2018? Paul Davis couldn't defeat Sam Brownback, and surely they've almost exhausted their supply of former union organizers who live in Mission Hills. That's the show they're planning to spend money on in Kansas. If Kansas, arguably the reddest state in the nation, is the best hope for Dems, it's game over. Write the obituary already. 




Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/the-buzz/article130362064.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Hippy Circle sans Drums

Fifteen  Fourteen Dems and one conservative gathered last night to share tales of woe and frustration about the Donald Trump inauguration. I had hoped to sneak into the back of the meeting and go unnoticed. For about 5 minutes, my diabolical plan to be a fly on the wall at the initial Indivisible Kansas meeting was successful. I had my bongos on hand so I could blend, but sadly, no one else brought their drums to the hippy drum circle at the JoCo Library in Prairie Village.

Individual Kansas (KS-03) is part of a national Indivisible movement to resist the Trump agenda. Crafted by former Democratic Congressional staffers, its goal is to take action against the President. Last night's meeting--for the first 5 minutes anyway--ran more like a Liberal Voters Anonymous meeting. We sat in a circle while everyone introduced themselves and explained how they were "woke." Attendees checked their privilege, explained how terrified they were for themselves and especially their minority friends, and bemoaned their common belief that beginning today, police will be shooting protesters in the streets and sending Democrats, Muslims, minorities and members of the LBGTQZYEIZLOEK (Do they have all the letters yet? I can't keep track?) to the internment camps. 

As we went around the table of individuals describing the challenges of privileged white people with government jobs living in wealthy communities like Prairie Village, I was trembling in fear. I was going to have to say my name. There are days I really wish my parents had the good graces to name me Jane. Or Carrie. or Emma. Or Jennifer. Fortunately, as I began introducing myself--long before I got to the part about my actual name--the wife of one Democratic Kansas House Representative j'accused, "You're Gidget!" She told the people that I wasn't one of their tribe, and so they should be careful what they said. Head desk.

They didn't kick me out--they were very welcoming--but I suspect my presence scuttled their real plans. Instead of planning an "action"--which is what the Indivisible group leader guide suggests doing in an initial meeting--they talked about elections, Johnson County's decommissioned voting machines, and the 13,000 provisional ballots that were thrown out due to a glitch in the state's voter registration website. It was all very innocuous and really, not crazy. There was no dancing. No bongos. And there was only one person who seemed to have an unhealthy, unrelenting general anger. (Otherwise, mostly a group of really lovely and pleasant people who care about our country and our state. Thanks for being so kind to me.)

I suspect their action--when they plan one without me--will be to stage some kind of sit-in in Congressman Kevin Yoder's office. I don't think they'll limit their efforts to emails and phone calls. As one person put it: We need "disruptive and effective" tools. 

And obviously, their short term goal is to find a viable liberal candidate who can beat Yoder in 2020. A very common refrain was--we just have to get through the next two years, though one person intoned: Are we all worried that 2020 might not come? (Because Trump may just stop future elections from occurring and name himself Supreme Leader forever.)

The group was comprised of 12 women, including me, and 3 men. There was one Millenial. I'd say the average age of the group members was mid-40s. Two of the men did the majority of the speaking, along with the wife of a Democratic House member. Oh, the patriarchy. That's not where the irony ended, however. Members remained suspicious that Republican were paying brown people to pose in photos at rallies and political events. Um... the only brown person in that room last night was the conservative--so I'll just leave that one there.

I did want to give them all a hug. I have been EXACTLY where they are right now, circa 2008. I still have some questions about shenanigans that occurred on Election Day 2012 in Pennsylvania and other critical states. I was worried that there may never be another election, and that Obama was going to take all of our guns and send us all to re-education camps. I didn't generally wear my tin foil hat in public, but I had one.

I feared the worst. The last eight years were pretty unpleasant politically, but for the most part, I came out the other side unscathed, as liberal Facebookers remind me almost daily with memes about how no one collected conservatives' guns. 

In a few hours, we have one of the greatest privileges in human history, a peaceful transition of enormous power. Conservatives came out the other side of the Obama Administration unscathed, and in four or eight years, my new liberal friends, you will, too. 
  











Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Solution to Gun Bans on College Campuses

Legislators are gearing up to make Kansas college students sitting ducks. I speak of course of plans to undo a law that allows students to carry concealed guns on campus.

I'm pretty certain this legislation will be dead on arrival. Though there are plenty of liberal Republicans in western Kansas willing to redistribute wealth, they have the good graces to support gun rights. Couple that fact with a Governor who is pretty solid on Second Amendment issues and this legislation is likely to belly flop.

That said, I've come up with a compromise that will mollify the people terrified of law-abiding citizens having the ability to defend themselves. I call it, The Gidget Southway Signs for Safety Act. Since some believe the height of personal safety is a sign making it illegal to carry a gun in certain places, I recommend printing t-shirts for them that make it clear that shooting a person is illegal. Problem solved. A t-shirt offers the same safety provisions as the No Guns Allowed sign, while still allowing law abiding citizens the right to protect themselves. 

I know I feel safer already.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Test of Wills

This legislative session is clearly going to come down to a test of wills. The group that digs its heels in hardest will walk away with some integrity. All other legislators are going to look like lily-livered, spineless eels. It's going to be so gross.




I write that not as an accusation. Compromise is going to be necessary, but we find ourselves in a place where honest compromise and negotiation are going to be nearly impossible.

If you think government spends too much (Ahem. This girl.), where do you compromise? There's simply no path. The Brownback plan increases government spending. Taxes on cigarettes! Taxes on alcohol! Taxes and more taxes, only less taxes than whatever hellish solution comes out of the Senate--where they seem to be seriously considering parts of the RiseUp plan, also known as the Great Wealth Transfer™. Under those genius's tutelage, the budget may just take money from the pockets of all the humans who have jobs and give it directly to teachers unions and construction workers, after laundering it through state coffers, of course. It is the Worst Plan in History™. 

So if you're a person who thinks government could shed a few pounds, you're in a boat alone in the middle of stormy waters. 

Over in the House, it appears the Democrat plan is to sit back and eat sandwiches the whole session. Those guys aren't going to vote for anything. They showed their hands when they named Rep. Jim Ward as House minority leader. He basically said he won't vote for a one-off LLC-loophole close; he'll only vote for a comprehensive tax package. I'm pretty sure I know the steps to that dance routine. When someone introduces a "comprehensive tax package," there will be some other reason he can't support it. He's probably got tap shoes lined up for every member of the Democratic Caucus in the House. (This is the long game in hopes that the Dems can retake the Governor's Office in 2018.) 



Back in the Senate, the likely purveyors of the Take all the Money and Throw It at Anyone Who Says a Mean Thing™ plan, are about to approve Senate rule changes designed to crush the spirits of even the strongest willed. I speak of a proposed rule change that would allow Senate leadership to make an undebatable motion to recess until a certain time. They're set to vote on this one today. Basically, this new rule will allow leadership (or Senate members) to extend the legislative session under the same legislative day. On the books, it will make it appear as though the session is fewer days than it may in actuality be. This little quirk also means legislators would only be paid for the one day instead of the actual number of days. In short, this will be used as a negotiation tactic, because there are members of the Senate who may not be able to afford staying in session for the rest of their lives with only a day's pay to show for it. 

With an inability to get an agreement of any sort in the House--no faction has the numbers--and a Senate gearing up to throw dissenters under a fiscal bus, Kansans are virtually assured a spike in spending and a bucket full of new taxes. 

The compromise position will require more taxes. For example, the laughable RiseUp proposal includes an 11 cent per gallon gas tax increase. (I will cut someone.) The "compromise" is a smaller gas tax. It makes me physically ill that we're about to tax off the deep end while Missouri is over there with some conservatives in power. Our current legislature is actually gearing up to stick a dagger in Johnson County. If by some miracle KCMO gets its education act together, JoCo will slowly cease to be the economic engine of the state. It's real trouble friends, with a capital "T" that rhymes with "P". And that stands for politics. The tragic part is the disastrous results of a fiscally sane Missouri and a Kansas Legislature acting like Detroit leadership won't be obvious for several years. This makes bleeding Kansas to a slow death the politically easy thing to do. Head desk.




Here's the unicorn I would like to see: A refusal of conservatives in the House and the Senate to vote for any proposal that increases bottom line government spending. This means for every tax increase added, there should be an equal or greater spending cut somewhere else. The likelihood of that happening is right up there with the probability of me marrying Prince Harry. 




It's going to be a very long session culminating in an epic test of wills. May the most frugal and principled win.






Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Brownback Gives an Address; Was It a Farewell?

If you weren't able to watch Gov. Brownback's State of the State Address, you can read the whole thing here. You can watch it here. (You'll need to fast forward to about minute 43.) It wasn't Brownback's worst address--oh, 2014 address, you still give me nightmares. 

For the first time--at least in my memory--Brownback  used his speech to talk about fiscal conservatism and the values of small government. However, Brownback can't just give a speech without the promise of additional spending. 

He proposed spending $5 million for a rural medical residency program. He proposed establishing a privately funded Doctor of Osteopathy School in Kansas, and he suggested creating a dental school. These proposals would be an attempt to fill a decades long shortage of doctors and dentists in Kansas.

I think these are decent plans, but I'm not sure they're affordable plans at this time. Also, it makes no sense to locate a dental school geographically at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Plant the school  as a KU Med satellite campus in rural Kansas, where the dental shortage is acute. There's a dental school right across the river from KU Med. The University of Missouri--Kansas City has a great dental school. It just doesn't make sense to locate a new one practically next door.

Honestly, the 2017 speech is kind of a microcosm of the entire challenge of the Brownback years--we've always needed to streamline government service; we've always needed to balance the budget so that it "reconciles spending with available revenue." Compare those words with previous Brownback State of the State Addresses in which he announced plans to grow government and the bureaucracy. And then consider this: Under Brownback some government processes have been streamlined. The so-called government cuts have been cuts on proposed spending increases, not actual dollars cut.

Meanwhile, we cut taxes, for which I am grateful. However, you can't cut taxes without cutting spending. THAT is what created Kansas' budget challenges in recent years. In past years, back when Sebelius just held onto your tax returns to balance the budget, the budget shortfalls were a direct result of just spending without any sense of abandon at all. 

On a side note, as a lover of words and language, I appreciated the effort of the Titanic metaphor. That's not the metaphor I would have chosen--far too many in the media have gone out of their way to liken Kansas to a sinking ship, so using that as a metaphor seemed well, not that smart. I would have used something aviation related and tied it to Wichita's aviation industry--or... something else. 

Finally, the speech reads something like a farewell address, and it's especially telling that many of the initiatives and goals set forth are absolutely in Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer's wheelhouse. (Goodbye, Kansas? Hello, Rome?)



Stuff Mainstream Beat Reporters Should Have Broken

According to Got News, Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain torpedoed a potential Kris Kobach nomination for U.S. Department of Homeland Security, swearing to block a Kobach nomination. 

I don't doubt the story's veracity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

We're Number 4...

If Kansas is number four, what kind of dictatorial hell holes are the rest of the country living in?
That sounds a teensy bit harsh, I guess. But I was flabbergasted to learn that Kansas tops the list of personal property rights freedom in the 50 states. 
Do you know the hell people go through in Johnson County to rezone property? To get permission to divide land? To get a building permit approved? Our local governing bodies -- including planning commissions, zoning boards, city councils and the board of county commissioners -- stop just short of requiring a live lung donation. It's abominable. I'm not kidding. 
At least in Johnson County, the processes to rezone, get a building permit, divide land is awful. You'll need lawyers, engineers and a bevy of professionals to argue your case. You will miss work. You will probably spend half your life savings, all the while, knowing that at any step in the process some bureaucrat could pull the plug based on the height of a proposed sign. Or, a governing body -- a planning commission, a zoning board, a city council or the county commission -- could decide your plans for the property you own aren't good enough. It would be better suited as a hotel or a highway or as a park. So what if it may be 20 years before that happens? The bureaucrats and public body members can't take the risk that your plan for your property might limit the amount of tax money they can squander from you in the form of future property taxes. In some communities -- and I don't mean Home Owners Associations -- I mean in some municipalities, there are rules about what color homeowners can paint their houses. There's a reason almost every home in Johnson County is "Johnson County beige."
And don't get me started on the smoking ban. No, I'm not a smoker. And I don't really like being around it, but it takes a lot of hubris for a governing entity -- yeah, that's you state of Kansas -- to tell a property owner what legal activities they can allow in their own establishments. 

The survey, it appears, takes into consideration things like eminent domain processes and land-use regulations. It also considers things like local rent control laws. That's a very limited list, but it's still extensive enough that the final results have me scratching my head.

So, color me super surprised to learn that Kansas tops nation where personal property rights are concerned. What sort of dictatorial hell holes is everyone else living in? I don't even want to know. 


Monday, January 9, 2017

Calling Yourself a PhD Makes You Truer

The Leavenworth Times will apparently believe anything you say if you put this behind your name "PhD." The paper recently printed a letter to the editor written by a Ruth Heflin, "PhD." In the letter, she suggests that regular citizens need to do math, because Kansas spends way less than 50 percent on public education. She writes that the state spends between 9.7 percent to 36.9 percent of its budget on public education, or $587 million of a $6 billion state budget. 


I don't have a PhD so take this with a grain of salt, but a quick glance at the Kansas Department of Education website reveals that the state spent $3.9 billion on public education last year, or $8,540--in state aid per pupil. That figure doesn't include money from federal and local. When those numbers are included, Kansas districts spent $13,025 per pupil. 

She quotes a Kansas per pupil expenditure of $9,972 from Governing Magazine. Admittedly, I know little about that magazine. Perhaps, that periodical's careful editing includes the same amount of fact checking the Leavenworth Times employs. (So, that's none.) 

Dr. Ruth writes that legislators like Mary Pilcher Cook and organizations like Kansas Policy Institute use suspect numbers to advance their agendas to "undermine the actual value of Kansas public education systems." As Heflin intones in her nonsensical letter, "A little fibbing helps, too. After all, who is going to check their figures?" Right back at you, Dr. Ruth. 



By the way, my Google machine tells me Dr. Ruth taught English at Kansas City Kansas Community College, and that she had a somewhat litigious and complicated relationship with the school. (The Google machine also tells me she once wrote a letter to the editor calling former Rep. Tony Barton a bigot.)

By the way, AP Style doesn't confer the title of "doctor" on anyone but medical doctors. It's odd (to me) that the "PhD" would be used in a letter to the editor unless it was somehow relevant to the topic at hand. The topic at hand in her letter appears to be math. I'm guessing her doctorate is in English.