Monday, October 02, 2006

Top 6 Kansas state house races

Back in the land of Oz (well, not exactly, but I do know someone with a dog named Toto) there may be some major changes come November. Jim Barnett is running against Kathleen Sebelius for governor, and newcomer Chuck Ahner is taking on four-term incumbent Dennis Moore (which is always interesting, because in this GOP-heavy district there is always a chance that Ahner can pull it off, although it's a longshot at this point given Moore's advantages of incumbency, money, and special-interest spending, which earns him the votes of far too many Republicans. However, all of these races are being overshadowed by the Attorney General's race between incumbent Phil Kline (R) and Johnson County DA Paul Morrison (D), which will be extremely close. However, the Democrats also have a chance to make some gains in the state legislature. These are the seats in danger (from most to least vulnerable) that Democrats are throwing money, fundraisers, and appearances by Sebelius into, while Republicans are sweating and working hard to keep these seats:

1. 39th District--Owen Donohoe (R) vs. Cory Mohn (D)
Incumbent liberal Republican Ray Cox retired and endorsed a moderate successor who lost in the primary, so Cox endorsed the Democrat, in a blow to conservative medical supply owner Donohoe. This is a tough district politically for the GOP, encompassing far western Shawnee (past Monticello Rd.) and parts of heavily-democratic Wyandotte Co. (KCK, Bonner Springs, Edwardsville) and Leavenworth in a district that is large in area but small in population. Corey Mohn is an extreme liberal, a supporter of Howard Dean who ran for U.S. Congress for Missouri but lost in the Democratic primary because he was even too liberal for the St. Louis area. Now, he is trying in Kansas under the guise of a "mainstream" candidate. He's slick and is receiving top consideration in funding right now, and this is a race that the Republicans can't afford to lose. Owen was underestimated in the primary and showed a conservative could win, so this race is a good opportunity for him to fight hard to get this seat.

2. 18th District--Rep. Mary Pilcher Cook (R) vs. Cindy Neighbor (D)
In their third rematch, this time in a general election in opposing parties rather than the usual moderate-conservative battle, this race had been the top target by the dems this year, until recent developments in the 39th District. Most of Shawnee and Lake Quivira make up this district (this is my home district and my rep--whom I work for). Internal polling and Mary's travels throughout the district indicate that Cindy is losing steam, and this is becoming an increasingly safe seat for one of the most conservative reps in the house. Mary has an impeccable record in constituent service, and her strong positions on abortion, taxes, and gay marriage is often eclipsed by her thoughtful newsletters, town hall forums, and other outreach to constituents. This seat is still in play, but it seems that momentum is shifting to Mary. After all, although public education is a #1 issue, we cannot forget this is Phil Kline's old district.

3. 23rd District--Judy Morrison (R) vs. Milak Talia (D)
This district encompasses eastern Shawnee (east of Quivira and Shawnee Mission Pkwy) and all of Merriam. Merriam's proximity to KC gives this district a high number of Democrats, and before her election several years ago, Morrison's only political experience was serving as precinct committeewoman when she was chosen to serve the rest of Cliff Franklin's term and then run on her own. Morrison is a moderate conservative who does her best to stake out moderate, middle-of-the road votes on increased education spending and health care, while downplaying her otherwise conservative record. Two years ago, she narrowly won by only 5% against an unknown, underfunded Democrat. This year, her opponent has deep pockets and plenty of financial support from the state party (during the primary, his yard signs were everywhere).

4. 24th District--Ed O'Malley (R) vs. Andy Sandler (D)
O'Malley, a freshman in the house, is up for re-election for the first time, and despite being the son of a famous and well-known legislator, he is facing a tough battle in a district that includes the close-in KC suburbs of Mission, Northern Overland Park, and Southern Roeland Park. His opponent is new, bold, and a workaholic. O'Malley has walked a thin line, retaining his pro-life views while winning the support of Mainstream Coalition and other liberal-leaning groups due to his education and spending votes. This district is becoming increasing liberal, this may be the year O'Malley's in trouble. This race could go either way.

5. 20th District--Kevin Yoder (R) vs. Alex Holsinger (D)
Yoder, a lawyer and recent KU Law school grad is a freshman up for re-election, after being elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2004. This district includes a sliver of Leawood and a large portion of central Overland Park between 95th and Metcalf and 115th and Metcalf. This district is home to Sprint and Applebees, two largest corporations headquartered in JoCo. Yoder began as a moderate, but has become more conservative in four years he's been in the house, costing him the endorsements of several more moderate to liberal single-issue groups that have endorsed his opponent. Holsinger, is an avowed liberal, both socially and economically, and his major backing by the party, and Yoder's conservative leanings (as one of the more conservative moderates out of JoCo's moderate Republicans) put this race in play, but Yoder is heavily favored at this point.

6. 25th District--Terrie Huntington (R) vs. Missy Taylor (D)
This district consists of the cities of Fairway, Mission Woods, Westwood, Westwood Hills, parts of Prairie Village and Roeland Park, and the wealthy enclave of Mission Hills. Huntington, one of the most liberal Republicans in Kansas, represents this liberal-leaning district well, but is facing a tough challenge from former teacher Taylor, who is accusing Huntington of being an extreme, right-wing conservative, and doing the bidding of Bush. There is no question that moderates and even disgruntled conservatives will unite to vote in the lesser of two liberals, or rather keep out a far left liberal in favor of a moderate liberal, but the question is whether that will be enough. As liberal as the district is, they tend to vote for the R (even in presidential elections, although only slightly) and maybe the "R" next to her name will be enough to let Huntington squeak out a narrow win.


Federalist said...

I was sad to see Mary loose.

I have met and visited with her on several occasions. I liked her principles and thought she was astute as to how things worked.

I hope we can get her to try again in two years...I am not in her district, but would be willing to work for her.


Brandon Kenig said...

Glad to hear it. I worked on her campaign, writing literature and recruiting volunteers. If you are serious about helping out on her next campaign, we would appreciate the help. She can win next time--she's had her share of losses and wins in this district, and this loss is so small, I'm sure she'll run again.

Federalist said...


The campaign should start the least the planning. And this does not mean that Mary has to lead anything. What I would really like to see is a bit of "template" developed for this area.

The Sun backed MPC's opponent because of school funding. My representative, Stephanie Sharp is also a big pusher for lots of school funding.

And yet, many conservatives call the schools "overfunded".

What are the basic premises that need to be spelled out:

basic objectives
accountability for delivering

I have talked with Mike Kerner about this on a couple of occasions. I am sure he will run again as a libertarian, but I would be willing to bet that he would help flesh something out.

If a template already exists, I don't know about it. Maybe there is something you could share on this issue (a web-site) that might be useful.

I have suggested there needs to be a "history" of the whole debate consolidated so that positions can better be understood.

But we can't wait until the election cycle starts. It is to tough to fight against the cry of "you just don't want the best for our children" if you don't have a well established, pro-active argument (program) in place.

If you see Mary, please say hi for those of us who were pulling for her....but could not vote for her.


Brandon Kenig said...

I agree with your assessment. The school argument has been hijacked by KFUPE, whose radical aims are not to promote a more equitable distribution of education dollars, but to just increase the education budget every year no matter what.

Mary was much more clear in her position this year. She's for stadardized, school-based budgeting, so teachers, parents, and students can know how money is being spent.

And she's consistently fought to make sure Johnson County gets more funding for education--it's fair share (currently, we pay 30% of the taxes, and have 20% of the state's students, but we only get back $1 out of every $8 we send to Topeka for education.

In fact, Mary has voted for numerous increases in spending for education (all by shifting spending in other areas without a tax increase). Yet she's voted against increasing taxes for education (most of the plans which provided less for JoCo schools than the plans that didn't require a tax increase). This has enabled opponents to label her anti-education.

I gave Mary advice on her education position, and I wrote her direct mail pieces on Jessica's law and protecting children from child predators.

I look forward to working with you and brainstorming ways that we can convey our message from a pro-education viewpoint, so our opponents won't be able to label us in any other way.