Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Spread the Wealth"

If there is to be an upset of historic proportions in this campaign, and McCain confounds conventional wisdom, the pundits, and the odds, he will have one man to thank: Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher. Obama's campaign invaded Joe's neighborhood, coming to his yard, and Joe had the audacity to ask a tough question--one that the media has been awol on for the entire campaign--and received a suprisingly truthful (if unintentional) answer: "I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody," Obama stated. Never has so much been said in so few words. Obama is someone who doesn't resent or regret tax increases--he thrives on them, and requires them. He sees western Europe's economies as the models for the United States; he knows that if he is elected, taxes will be raised on not only the rich, but also the middle class, because there is no way he can afford to spend billions for his new programs while only taxing the rich--the money is just not there. We have insight and an intriguing view into Obama's worldview with this exchange between "The One" and Joe the Plumber. The question is: will America wake up in time?
This may be one of those moments that turns the tide of the entire campaign.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Races to Watch: KS State House

With several open seats this cycle, the KS legislature will look very different come January 2009. Here's a look at some of the top races:

1. 24th District--Ronnie Metsker (R) vs. Jim Slattery (D)
When Metsker was selected by Republican precinct committee members to fill the vacany left by Rep. Ed O'Malley's departure, he was consider the more conservative candidate. In his almost 2 years in office, Metsker has skillfully navigated the moderate-conservative divide in the state and positioned himself as an authority on education in this district, gaining the endorsement of several education special-interest groups (also assisted in no small part by his wife, Susan, who sits on the Shawnee Mission School Board). This time around, Metsker faces Mike Slattery, son of U.S. Senate candidate Jim Slattery, who won his race against former 2006 Democratic challenger Andy Sandler by only a few votes literally. This district encompasses the KC inner-ring suburbs of Mission, Northern Overland Park, and Southern Roeland Park, and is becoming increasingly liberal (as proven by O'Malley's single digit win in 2006 and the fact that the 24th was the only house district in Johnson County to go for Kerry in the 2004 election). Slattery has greater name recognition in the 2006 Democratic challenger, Andy Sandler, but since voters are unlikely to send his dad to congress, we are going to bet they will not send his son to the legislature either. The close Democratic primary left some wounds that have been slow to heal, and we do expect the increase in turnout and the new voter registration numbers to have an impact, but we expect Metsker to pull out a 4-5 point win.

2. 16th District--Jim Yonally (R) vs. Gene Rardin (D)
Yonally held this Overland Park/eastern Lenexa seat (which follows 95th Street to Quivira south to 119th Street, and includes such staples as Johnson County Community College and Oak Park Mall) until he was beaten by Dennis Kriegshauser in the 2006 primary, in one of the county's classic moderate-conservative battles. Kriegshauser then went on to lose by only 2 votes out of more than 8,000 cast, in an election marred by potential voter fraud and registration fraud. Rardin, a first term Democrat, has not done much in the capitol to warrant another term, but he has worked the district and has more signs up and fundraising appeals. Yonally escaped the prospect of a bruising primary, and as a moderate, should be a lock for this district, but there are indications that he has not worked as hard as he should and has been slow to organize. High Democratic turnout and enthusiasm may be a factor, but that will also be blunted by high and energized Republican turnout in a presidential election year. Rumors concerning Rardin's deteriorating health may also affect voters' attitudes towards re-electing Rardin. Complete toss-up.

3. 22nd District--Lisa Benlon (D) vs. Joy Bourdess (R)
Sue Storm's decision to step down from this seat to run for State Board of Education puts this seat in play for the first time in more than 10 years. For many years, Storm served as the sole Democrat from Johnson County in this northern Overland Park-based district that takes in a sliver of Prairie Village and is bounded by 75th and Switzer on the west side, Nall on the east side, and 91st Street to the south. Lisa Benlon's decision to switch parties and run as a Democrat may be a factor, although Benlon enjoys a reputation and resume as a leading voice for public schools due to her previous work as a state representative (preceeding Stephanie Sharp in District 17) and her work in public relations for the American Cancer Society. However, Benlon is not running in her old district--she's a carpet bagger who made a deal with Storm to run as a Democrat and move to 22nd District, which will not sit well with some, and many just do not know her story and background. Joy Bourdess, homemaker and longtime GOP activist and resident of the district, is working hard and running an incredibly organized, grassroots, disciplined campaign, making this a tight race and the one race to watch for an upset--a chance for the GOP to take back a seat it hasn't held in years. This race may go down to the wire, but Joy's lack of real opposition in the primary and her early grassroots organization (contrasted to Benlon's slow start and perceived misplaced-confidence) could result in an upset, but Benlon does have the endorsement of Storm, which does matter in this left-leaning district. Just way too close to call.

4. 23rd District--August Bogina (R) vs. Milack Talia (D)
Judy Morrison retired after winning several razor-thin margins in this district, which includes 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, producing very close races, including the 2006 election, in which Morrison only beat her heavily-underfunded opponent by 3 points. Shawnee Planning commissioner Bogina has name recognition in Shawnee, but the district only includes only 6 Shawnee precincts, so the challenge is for him to introduce himself to Merriam voters. Talia is known here, for his past failed election attempts and has been rejected, and has a reputation for negative attacks. This district is most likely to be impacted by increased Democratic registration, which gives Talia the boost, but Bogina's reputation and experience in the community ensures it will be close. The deal-closer: can Bogina reach out to conservative and moderate Dems in the same way Judy Morrison did to seal the deal? We give Talia an ever-so-slight edge in a race that is still too very close to call.

5. 18th District--John Rubin (R) vs. Cindy Neighbor (D)
My hometown district, and in many ways, a bellweather district that signals the political direction of the county at large. This seat (formerly held by Phil Kline) shifted back and forth between Mary Pilcher Cook and Cindy Neighbor in GOP primary battles between 2000-2004 like clockwork (Mary won in 2000, Cindy won the primary in 2002, Mary won again in 2004) until Cindy joined the Democratic party and managed a razor-thin 159 vote win over Cook out of more than 8,000 votes cast in a Democratic-tidal wave year. This time, Mary's running for Nick Jordan's senate seat, and newcomer John Rubin brings gravitas with his experience as an FDIC judge, federal administrative law judge, and a jurist in the Navy JAG corps--experience that is especially relevant considering the state of the economy. Cindy, meanwhile, has displayed somewhat erratic behavior while in office and on the campaign trail. She tried to block the implemention of Alexa's law, which charged those who killed a pregnant woman with a double crime--for taking the life of the mother and her unborn baby. Cindy tried unsuccessfully to kill the bill in committee than reluctantly supported it in a full house vote. Her cheesy mailers that read more like a high school senior's resume than an accomplished legislator, combined with her propensity for rudeness towards constituents and comments that come across as out of touch (in reference to seniors being unable to pay their property taxes under her proposals, she opines that they should have planned better), makes this seat a top GOP target. Many Democrats in the district have been disappointed in her, and if we are to see a large crossover vote for any candidate, it will occur here, among more moderate Dems. No libertarian is running this year, so Rubin has the slight edge. Voters here seem to be schizophrenic in who they choose, making this a classic swing district, but with a new face on the ballot in a year no worse for Republicans than 2006, an energized GOP base voting in a presidential election, and a lack of opposition from the right, Rubin has the slight edge and should pull out an upset in the low to mid single digits.

Stay tuned as we profile the last two races to watch: 19th District: John Skubal (R) vs. Dolores Furtado (D) and 39th District: Owen Donohoe (R) vs. Joe Novak (D)

Races to Watch: District Attorney and State Senate

It’s a blockbuster election year, not only on the national level but on the local level as well. Here in Kansas, only one thing is certain: Sen. Pat Roberts will be re-elected handily. Dennis Moore is in the fight of his life to hold on to the KS 3rd congressional district after revelations of his involvement in the financial mess, and the 2nd District race between Jenkins and Boyda is a tossup—with the edge going to Jenkins.

Here, just like in 2006, we will profile Johnson County’s hot races—the races that will be the closest and can go either way.

District Attorney: This ho-hum race lacks passion and excitement, but Republican turncoat-turned Democrat Rick Guinn is flush with money, endorsements, and has TV ads up. Howe has less money, but has the GOP united behind his candidacy. Despite Guinn’s financial advantage, this race leans Republican, due to the county’s GOP leanings, and the fact that Howe is not Kline—and has all Republicans supporting his candidacy.

State Senate:

1. 8th District—Tim Owens vs. Judy Macy
This central Overland Park-based senate district, formerly held by Barbara Allen, went for Bush in 2004 55 to 45 percent. Macy is a former legislator and has some name ID, but she’s been removed from politics many years, and does not enjoy the same level of recognition and experience as Owens, a former Army officer, OP city councilman, and current state representative. Owens has the distinct advantage in this race, but the vote margin will be modest, not large, and Macy has the ability to ensure a competitive race right through election day. In the end, Owens should definitely come out the winner—just not by a landslide, most likely a margin in the high single digits.

2. 10th District—Mary Pilcher Cook vs. Pete Roman
Sen. Nick Jordan vacated this seat to run for congress against Dennis Moore. Cook stunned her critics when she won her primary against State Board of Education member Sue Gamble by 14 points—a much larger margin of victory than expected. The 10th district takes in most of eastern Shawnee, Lake Quivira, and a portion of northeastern Lenexa, making it much less reliably conservative than Cook’s former house district. Although Cook is much more conservative than Jordan, who united the party and retained the seat for a decade, she still has the advantage in this Republican-leaning district, against Pete Roman, a perennial Democratic candidate who has run for this seat many times. Still, this will be a fight—the KS Democratic Party is pouring money into this race to aid Roman, and amount of mailers and calls ensures this will be one of the most watched races this cycle. Cook as shown that she is a prolific fundraiser though, and should pull out a win in the low to mid single digits.

1. 9th District—Julia Lynn vs. Ron Wimmer
This reliably conservative district takes in portions of southwest Lenexa and a broad swath of Olathe. Normally not in play, Olathe Superintendent Ron Wimmer’s decision to run as a Democrat puts this race at the top of the list. Wimmer, a former Republican, is no liberal, and his experience in education and moderate stances will garner attention from many voters, as evidenced by some of his supporters, including JoCo movers and shakers such as Ben Craig and Bank of Blue Valley president Bob Regnier. However, even though she took Kay O’Connor’s place, Julia Lynn is not a polarizing figure, yet she is a stalwart conservative who is known for impeccable constituent services and keeping open lines of communication with her district. She is in the fight of her life, and really, this race could go either way, but Lynn’s very likable, and her ability to lock up her base early, work across the aisle, and vote her district (even at odds against her own base at times) will work to her advantage, so we predict she will squeak out a 3-5 point win. This will be the closest state senate race in the county.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Moore's ties to the financial crisis exposed!

Nick Jordan’s campaign announced yesterday that just last year, Moore and five other house members sponsored a bill to regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

This euphemistic bill, however, included an amendment that "guts the one provision that made it worth the effort,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Federal regulators would not longer be able to adjust or limit the size of loans issued by the mortgage giant—even if they were too large and might pose risk to the financial system.

Of course, we all know that the mortgage mess led to the collapse of the housing bubble, the increase in debt, the failure of many financial institutions and the current financial crisis. We now know that not only was Dennis Moore partially to blame, he willingly and proactively blocked the very regulations which would have prevented the financial meltdown.

Is this a surprise? Of course not—Moore has accepted campaign contributions of more than $30,000 from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He’s just looking out for his friends, giving them political favors and paying them back in a typical Washington, political quid pro quo, the kind of corrupt and abusive politics Americans detest.

Even more astonishing and in the same vein, Moore received $34,000 in contributions from companies that benefited from the $700 billion bailout passed just a few weeks ago.

10 years of corrupt, status quo politics or a fresh new face with years of verifiable accomplishments on the state and local level? That will be for the voters to decide on Nov. 4th.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nick Jordan's Newest Ad

Clear, concise, and effective. This ad takes Moore to task for his support of the largest corporate bailout in history, and his financial ties to the financial culprits.

After years of slyly running negative ads on his opponents, Moore is now in the hotseat for his record (or lack thereof), his financial ties, and his controversial vote of the largest corporate bailout in history.

Jordan v. Moore

Nick Jordan and Dennis Moore debated this past Sunday at JCCC. Having attended these congressional debates the past 2 cycles (Ahner in 2006, Kobach in 2004), I was struck by the number of Jordan supporters present: this was the first year that Republican supporters outnumbered Moore supporters significantly.

Also, unlike previous years, instead of coming across as upbeat, happy, and bipartisan, Dennis was snippy, tired, frustrated and petty. His futile attempts to link Jordan and President Bush were straight out of the Washington Democratic playbook, and his inability to talk about his own record was apparent. Jordan strategically challenged him on his support of the $700 billion bailout (Moore was the only member of the Kansas delegation--Republican or Democrat--to support the controversial Wall Street bailout). Moore dodged questions regarding his failure to hold hearings as a member of the financial services committee and his thousands of dollars in contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, instead arrogantly accusing Jordan of not knowing or talking to the "right" people as he did (the Treasury secretary, the president, and congressional leaders--who are all responsible for this mess in the first place). Jordan called Moore out on his hypocrisy--you cannot claim to be a fiscal conservative concerned about the national debt and criticize the president when you turn around and vote for the most expensive corporate bailout in history, adding $1 trillion to the national debt.

The best moment of the debate came when Moore defended his lackluster record by claiming that the President had not provided any leadership. Jordan replied that an effective congressman does not wait for the president to lead--he himself leads.

The debate was a knockout and Moore lost. I have never seen him this bitter and tired.