Friday, November 26, 2010

KS-3: Analysis of a Republican Victory

Perhaps no win on election night 2010 was as gratifying for local Republicans as the return of the 3rd congressional district in Kansas to Republican control after 12 years. As of this writing, all outstanding U.S. house races have been resolved, and Republicans gained 63 seats this cycle - well in excess of the 39 needed to take majority status in the House of Representatives. With 242 members in the 112th Congress, Republicans will have their largest majority in the lower house of any party since 1949. The takeover of KS-3 by Republican Kevin Yoder played a significant role in the Republican comeback strategy of 2010.

So how did it happen? Kevin Yoder not only won the 3rd District, he won it handily with a landslide 59 percent to Moore's 38 percent, a 21 point margin. Let's look at the numbers:

  • Conventional wisdom holds that any Republican running in the 3rd District needs to get 55 percent of the vote in Johnson County to win the district at large (assuming that the Republican will lose Wyandotte County and the 3rd district portion of Douglas by 40-50 percent). Since Johnson County represents the population center of the district, a strong win in the county will cement overall victory despite the strong Democratic nature of Douglas and Wyandotte. In 2002, Adam Taff came the closest to beating Moore, winning Johnson County with 53 percent of the vote but falling just short of the magic 55 percent needed to win the district, losing overall by a narrow 50-47 percent margin to Moore. In 2004, Kris Kobach lost Johnson County with 48 percent of the vote, losing to Moore by 12 points. The low point for local Republicans came in 2006, when Chuck Ahner only received a paltry 38 percent of Johnson County's vote, leading to a landslide 64-34 percent win for Moore.

  • For the first time since 2002, a Republican not only won Johnson County but took it in a landslide. Yoder easily surpassed the 55 percent threshold, winning Johnson County with a landslide 65 percent of the vote (compared to Nick Jordan's 45 percent showing just 2 years prior). That margin in and of itself would have ensured a comfortable win for Yoder in the district, but it is Kevin's performance in Democrat-dominant Wyandotte and Douglas Counties that made the difference between a comfortable point-spread and a landslide win.

  • On average, previous Republican performance in the 3rd District Congressional race averaged 23 percent of the vote in Wyandotte Coundy and 27 percent of the vote in Douglas County. Yoder not only outperformed prior Republican results in these liberal areas, he increased the Republican percentage of the vote by 50 percent in each locality, an incredible 15-point increase over Republican performance in 2008 for Wyandotte County and a 12-percent increase over 2008 results for Douglas County. Yoder garnered 36 percent of the vote in KCK and Lawrence, remarkable feats for any Republican. This combination of a strong (>55%) win in Johnson County and greatly improved numbers in Douglas and Wyandotte led to a strong 59 percent win in the district.

Here's a look at the raw numbers:

So how did these impressive and historic numbers materialize? A number of factors, including Yoder's incisive and well-executed campaign strategy and Stephanie Moore's campaign blunders deserve credit for this outcome:
  1. Selection of the "Right" candidate, a.k.a a nominee that unified the Republican Party. Contrary to popular belief, the 3rd District is not a Republican bastion. Cook's Political Report gives it a slight Republican lean of only +3, making it more of a swing district, especially now with the recent demographic shifts and influx of minorities from KCMO and Wyandotte County and recent transplants of younger, upwardly mobile career professionals lured to Johnson County by jobs at many growing technology firms and corporate headquarters. The 3rd District is diverse ideologically and has long been dominated by Republican moderates, ensuring a continuous conservative vs. moderate showdown that led to a string of election losses. The right candidate needed to assume a delicate balance and rise above the moderate-conservative divide that has fractured Kansas Republicans for so long. In short, the ideal candidate must uphold basic conservative principles so conservatives don't defect to a third party Reform or Libertarian nominee and yet be palatable to moderates to prevent them from voting for the Democrat or not voting at all. As we said back in 2008, Kevin Yoder "is known as a pragmatic voice in the legislature who transcends the moderate/conservative political divide in the Kansas GOP and is well-respected by moderates and conservatives alike." Fiscally conservative and socially moderate, yet pro-life, Kevin was the perfect candidate to unite all factions of the party.

  2. A campaign strategy that targets northeast Johnson County. In the past, Republican congressional nominees have foolishly (and to their detriment) ignored the dense, northeast part of the county in favor of the fast-growing and sprawling suburbs of Overland Park and Olathe. Meanwhile, Dennis Moore continued to to rack up lopsided margins in these areas, enabling him to win again and again. Northeast Johnson County isn't extremely liberal, but it is not conservative territory either - it is a moderate Republican stronghold, full of fiscally conservative - socially moderate to liberal voters and in some cases, voters who are only fiscally conservative when it comes to the federal government - not to state and local government. This year, the CEOs and country club Republicans in Mission Hills had every reason to vote Republican (impending tax cuts for the rich, card check legislation, health care burdens on employers) and unease over conservative stances on social issues took a backseat as moderate Republicans throughout the region saw their disposable income plummet amid higher taxes and greater regulations. Yoder's campaign aggressively targeted northeast precincts with sustained door-to-door canvassing and phone calls throughout the campaign. In 2008, Nick Jordan only won 1 out of 9 cities in the northeast part of the county (Mission Hills). In 2010, liberal-trending northeast Johnson County turned bright red as Kevin Yoder carried 7 out of 9 cities (Fairway, Merriam, Mission, Mission Woods, Mission Hills, Prairie Village, and Roeland Park), losing only Westwood and Westwood Hills by very narrow margins.

  3. Dissatisfaction with the circumstances surrounding the nomination of Mr. Moore's successor. Dennis Moore announced his retirement in 2008, declaring he wanted to spend more time with family. In spring of 2010, Moore's wife, Stephene, announced that she planned to run for the seat, contradicting her husband's reasoning for stepping down. To the average voter, this reeked of political cronyism - and nepotism - at its worst. A congressman announces his retirement, gives a phony reason, and paves the way for his wife, who many view as unqualified since she has no prior history in elected politics and would not have been taken seriously without her husband's name. Stephene Moore attempted to deflect criticism by stating she would be her own person and vote irrespective of her husband - even differing from him on some issues. Yet she subsequently took positions on the issues that matched her husband exactly. The slogans wrote themselves: "No MOORE: It's Not a Family Business." Even Democrats were uncomfortable: a no-name, somewhat eccentric former Republican - a perennial candidate who has run for congress several times - changed parties to run against Mrs. Moore at the last minute in the primary. Despite being outspent by more than 20 to 1 and doing virtually no campaigning, Mr. Scherrer held Moore to 79 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. This was only a sign of things to come.

  4. Moore ran as a liberal in a very business-friendly, decidedly non-liberal district. Dennis Moore cleverly adapted to the district, stressing his blue dog credentials, voting for free trade pacts, and even voting for the 2001 tax cuts before he became beholden to his party when they gained the majority in 2006. Yet his wife strangely decided to run as an avowed liberal. Stephene Moore unabashedly took stands in favor of Obamacare, Cap-and-Trade, and union card-check legislation. Although her husband always curried the favor of the local business community, Stephene promoted her support by various unions - all of which had small memberships in Johnson County. Johnson County, a hub of small, independent businesses in Kansas City, loathed union card-check legislation and this lack of support was apparent at the debate sponsored by the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce, where members applauded Yoder enthusiastically and visited his table before the debate. Meanwhile, Moore was clearly out of her element. Yoder keenly grasped on this disconnect and reiterated Moore's support for Obamacare, Cap and Trade, and Card Check, along with his opposition to all 3, and tied Moore to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (a deeply unpopular figure in the 3rd) at every opportunity. Moore claimed to be the "moderate" in the race but could not articulate what that was via a single stance or issue she supported.

  5. Moore's unfocused and lackluster campaign. Campaign theme? Platform? Message? Stephene Moore's campaign lacked any coherency. The only consistent theme to emerge was Stephene's claim that her experience as a wife, mother, and nurse qualified her for congress. She ironically labeled Yoder as a "career politician" while asking for a vote for in the same breath - the wife of the consummate career politician who had had spent nearly 25 years of his life in elected office. Moore's campaign displayed banners that read "fiscal conservative" at local parades, even though she supported the Obama stimulus and all other spending priorities of the Democratic majority. And she simultaneously promised "moderation" to the business crowd while reassuring the unions and progressive activists that she would be a reliable liberal vote. The confusion reached a tipping point when Moore was confronted by KMBC Channel 9's Michael Mahoney, asking her to explain her claim that repealing healthcare would add several billion to the deficit. Moore stumbled and finally provided an incoherent answer that seemed to contradict her position - indicating that a repeal would reduce the deficit - clearly a mistake, as that position was argued by Yoder. In the final weeks, the Moore campaign seized on revelations that Yoder had refused a pre-breath test during a traffic stop in 2009 and released a ridiculous TV ad attempting to link Yoder to Lindsay Lohan and Mel Gibson. The ad was not only completely ridiculous and irrelevant, it violated Moore's promise to maintain a clean campaign and her professed, strong antipathy to negative campaigning. Another contradiction and episode in cognitive dissonance. Not only that, Moore had apparently realized that a campaign centered on her personality and positions would go nowhere, so this complete act of desparation was an attempt to gain votes against Yoder, not for her, by default. Needless to say, it backfired incredibly.

  6. Yoder builds a campaign warchest. The Yoder campaign realized early on that raising money was crucial to defeating Mrs. Moore, who would have access to funding from her husband and donors who had supported her husband in the past. As expected, Stephene raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, surpassing her husband's previous fundraising records, but Yoder took several steps further. The Yoder team raised $1.5 million over the course of the race, including 703K in the 3rd quarter alone. This enabled the Yoder campaign to generate up to 15,000 calls to voters every week, knock on 1-2 thousand doors a week, and make expensive media buys that enabled them to run positive ads while also targeting Stephene Moore for taking unpopular stands and ambiguously deflecting questions about whether she'd vote for Pelosi as speaker. Moore could not compete in fundraising - although, most likely she would have outraised any of the other Republican candidates had they made it out of the primary.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

GOP Reclaims Johnson County

Any notion that Johnson County is trending Democratic has been refuted by this month's election results. Conventional wisdom held that Kansas City's most populous suburban county - highly-educated, highly-mobile, wealthy, and densely-populated Johnson County - was moving from a Republican bastion to ripe territory for future Democratic gains. Recent history seemed to confirm this, as Sebelius won the county in her gubernatorial re-election in 2006 and Democrat Paul Morrison also won in the same year as Democrats picked up 3 house seats, giving them a record 6 statehouse seats out of 22 from Johnson County.

Yet those gains were shattered on Tuesday, Nov. 2nd 2010 when Johnson County swung to the right in dramatic fashion, taking on a dark crimson hue. All Republicans running statewide won the county with 60 percent or more of the vote (Jerry Moran led the way, garnering 66 percent of the vote in Johnson County - a substantial increase over now fellow Sen. Pat Roberts' 57 percent in 2008). For the first time in eight years, a Republican congressional nominee won the county, and five of the six Democratic state legislators were defeated, leaving one lone Democrat (Mike Slattery - Mission) in Johnson County's 22 member statehouse delegation.

Key to this lopsided, landslide victory was the incredible turnaround in the northeast part of the county, a moderate stronghold that has veered to the left in recent elections. Jerry Moran won EVERY municipality in the northeast of the county, including the most liberal-leaning cities of Mission, Roeland Park, and Westwood (which straddles stateline and barely lies within the county). Additionally, Kevin Yoder also won the northeast region successfully, taking every city except for Westwood and Westwood Hills.

It should also be noted that Republican statehouse incumbents who won in 2008 with percentages in the 50s were re-elected with percentages in the high 60s (a dramatic shift was seen in State Rep. Owen Donohoe's race, where the incumbent won with a 26 percent margin unlike his '08 race, where he won by only 5 percent). Two Republican incubments - Sheryl Spalding and Pat Colloton - won with 74 and 75 percent of the vote this year, margins that can only be deemed as "super" landslides.

The local Democratic Party in Johnson County is demoralized and its ranks are depleted. Out of the 5 GOP pickups in local statehouse seats, we at the Konnection correctly predicted four that would switch (3 definite pickups, 1 GOP-lean), one that was a toss-up, and one that leaned Democratic. Let's look at how those predictions panned out:

1. We rated the 19th District, Furtado (D) vs. Denning (R), as most likely to switch and predicted a margin of 55-45 percent. Our prediction for Jim was exact, as he took 55 percent of the vote to Furtado's 42 percent.

2. In Overland Park's 16th District, we predicted that Amanda Grosserode (R) would defeat Gene Rardin (D) 53-47 percent. Grosserode outperformed our expectations, but we were still close in our prediction as Grosserode won, 55-45 percent.

3. We predicted that FDIC Judge John Rubin would finally take the Shawnee-based 18th District seat from Cindy Neighbor, but few predicted the incredible blowout that occured, as Rubin racked up a 59-41 percent win, far surpassing our overly-cautious prediction of a 51-48 percent victory.

4. We predicted that Greg Smith, father of slain Shawnee Mission West senior Kelsey Smith would win a suprise upset in this longtime Democratic district that has only been held by a Republican once - for a 2 year term - in its entire history and we were not only correct in our predicted, we predicted the results accurately as well - 51 to 49 percent against Democrat Lisa Benlon.

5. The Merriam and eastern Shawnee-based 23rd district came out strongly for Obama in 2008 and Democrat Milak Talia was swept up in the Obama tide after a previous loss in 2006. The district's rapidly changing Democratics led us to hesitate in predicting a strong win for Hildabrand, although his strong grassroots campaign and incredible work in the precincts would make it competitive - we didn't see Hildabrand winning the seat by more than a percentage point. Fortunately, we were wrong again as Hildabrand won by an 8 point margin, defeating Talia, 54-46 percent.

6. Mike Slattery, representing one of the most liberal districts in Johnson County, had only nominal opposition from Republican Michael Foltz, and as such, he won with 60 percent of the vote - far stronger than our predicted 56 percent. Look for Mr. Slattery's political fortunes to change when Republicans in Topeka re-draw the map and add 7-8 more house seats in Johnson County due to census results and attempt to draw a more GOP "friendly" 24th District.

Yes, folks the consensus is in: Sebelius' attempt to dramatically alter the political landscape in Johnson County has failed. Her Bluestem fund was still flush with money and thousands was spent on behalf of local Democrats this cycle just like in 2008, but their message fell on deaf ears. Johnson County's flirtation with Democrats is officially over.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A First Look at Last Week's Election Results

Where do we even start? Last week, history was made. Republicans have won at least 60 additional seats in the U.S. house (and possibly up to 65 pending a few unsettled races), racking up the largest gains of any party since 1948 - far outpacing their performance in the Republican Revolution of 1994. While the GOP did not gain an outright majority in the Senate, they did gain 6 seats, bringing their numbers up to 46 in that legislative body. The GOP also made incredible gains in statehouses around the county - the GOP now dominates in Wisconsin, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Maine - all former Democratic strongholds. While the Democratic Party attempts to use diversity as a wedge issue and argument for quota-driven policy, the GOP welcomed the election of members of all backgrounds:
  • 2 Republican African Americans elected to the U.S. House
  • The first Latino woman governor of any state (Susanna Martinez, New Mexico)
  • The first Indian-American woman governor of any state (Nikki Haley, South Carolina)
  • A young and rising Republican star in Cuban-American Marco Rubio of Florida, U.S. Senate

And many other new faces of all backgrounds and races. Too many victories to name them all, but winning Obama's Senate seat in Illinois was also a major coup!

Here in KS, we also made history. We elected a Republican governor and Republican candidates swept all statewide offices (Secretary of State, Treasurer, Insurance Commissioner, and Attorney General). Republicans posted large gains in the statehouse races increasing their numbers by 16 seats, increasing an already large 76-49 seat margin to a blowout 92-33 seat margin, a history-making feat since the last time the GOP held such a super-majority in Topeka was in 1954 when fellow Kansan, Dwight Eisenhower was president! Here in Johnson County, 5 of the 6 incumbent Democratic state legislators were crushed by their Republican opponents, leaving one, lone delegate in the 22-member house delegation from Johnson County.

Our next series of blog postings will analyze some of these local races in greater detail.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rating the Races: the JoCo House Races Most Likely to Flip Republican

12 Days until one of the most impacting elections of our lifetime. Johnson County is represented by 22 state legislators in the House of Representatives in Topeka, 16 of whom are Republicans. Just 6 years ago, Johnson County only sent one Democrat to Topeka. Buoyed by Democratic gains in 2006 and the Obama wave in 2008, the Democrats now boast of 6 representatives from Johnson County. With an anemic 28 percent approval rating in Kansas, Obama is political anathema to most Democrats, and that rings true in Johnson County, the state's most populous, prosperous, and urban county whose flirtation with the Democrats will end this year. The Democrats stand to lose what little progress they've made in Johnson County. Here is our analysis of the Democratic seats most likely to flip this cycle, starting with those seats almost certain to move to the Republican column:

1. 19th District - Jim Denning (R) vs. Dolores Furtado (D-inc.) - this longtime Republican district that takes in a large but narrow portion of Overland Park from 87th and Metcalf to 132nd and Metcalf was represented by Tim Owens for many terms until he stepped down to run and successfully fill the senate seat vacated by Barbara Allen of Overland Park.

Incumbent Dolores Furtado, a former JoCo Commissioner, is the most liberal member of the Democratic delegation from Johnson County and won by just about 200 votes over John Skubal, the Republican and OP city councilman whom many say ran a lackluster campaign.

This year, Jim Denning, well-known CEO of Discover Vision Centers and brother to JoCo Sheriff Frank Denning, is running against Furtado on the salient themes of holding the line on taxes, cutting spending, and balancing the budget. Denning is a successful business owner who has created jobs and operates in the healthcare field, giving him keen and unparalleled insight on the recent healthcare law and reducing healthcare costs in Kansas. Jim also has the advantage of having his incredibly task-focused and detail-oriented wife, JoCo GOP secretary Marearl Denning, as his campaign manager. Jim is a top-tier candidate in a Republican year running an aggressive and top notch campaign.

Prediction: Definite GOP pickup, Denning 55-45 percent

2. 16th District - Amanda Grosserode (R) vs. Gene Rardin (D-inc.)
Former educator Gene Rardin has maintained a very tenuous hold on this district since he was first elected in 2006 after a bitter GOP primary with a classic moderate-conservative battle. Despite that, Rardin has never locked down this district, which includes a sliver of southeastern Lenexa and a large portion of Overland Park, stretching along US-69 from 91st street to 119th St., anchored by downtown Overland Park in the north. Amanda Grosserode, a young wife, mother, and darling of the Tea Party movement here in Johnson County stemming from her first 2009 protest outside Dennis Moore's office, is the Republican nominee. Grosserode has created a local profile for herself and has aggressively campaigned in the district, walking the entire district door-to-door twice already. Rardin is much older and questions have been raised about his health and ability to campaign--even at the height of Obama mania in '08, Rardin won by less than 1 percent (less than 100 votes) against a GOP opponent who never walked the district. Youthful and energetic conservative Grosserode is in a prime position to reclaim this seat for the GOP.

Prediction: Likely GOP pickup, Grosserode 53-47 percent

3. 18th District - John Rubin (R) vs. Cindy Neighbor (D-inc.)
This district, which takes in a large portion of Shawnee, including the entire eastern half of the city, has developed a reputation as a swing district, a bellweather that signals the political direction of the county at large. This seat switched back and forth between Mary Pilcher Cook and Cindy Neighbor in GOP primary battles like clockwork from 2002-2004 (Cook won in 2000, Neighbor won in 2002, Mary won the seat back in 2004), until Cindy became a Democrat and squeked out a razor-thin 159 vote margin over Cook out of more than 8,000 votes cast in the Democratic tidal wave in 2006. Even in 2008, Neighbor could only muster a 5 percent margin against John Rubin, a longtime Shawnee resident and former FDIC judge. Rubin is back again and has name ID from his first run, and should be able to pull off the win this time. Western Shawnee is more conservative than eastern Shawnee, but east Shawnee still retains a large, blue-collar worker population that is culturally conservative, which gives the district a slight conservative lean overall. Education is also a powerful issue here, with the location of Shawnee Mission Northwest, Hocker Grove Middle School, and several elementary schools (Neighbor's position on the SM school board has always been an asset), but that issue is blunted this year with the focus on the economy in a district where unemployment and home foreclosures have hit especially hard. This year, the district formerly represented by Phil Kline and Mary Pilcher Cook returns to its conservative roots.

Prediction: Likely GOP pickup, Rubin 51-48 percent

4. 22nd District - Greg Smith (R) vs. Lisa Benlon (D-inc).
This far-north Overland Park district takes in a small portion of northwestern Prairie Village and is bounded by 75th Street to the north, Switzer to the west, 91st St. to the south, and Nall to the east. For many years, this was the sole Democratic seat in Johnson County, held for many terms by educator Sue Storm who vacated the seat to run for State School Board. The district has only been represented by a Republican once - in 1994 - for just 2 years, but this could be the upset of the year. Lisa Benlon made a deal with storm to run as a Dem for this seat in '08 (having formerly served as state rep in the 17th District prior to Stephanie Sharp), but Benlon was only able to garner 53 percent of the vote in 2008, a wave year, in a Democratic-leaning district. Benlon's opponent, Joy Bourdress, lost some votes to a Libertarian candidate but garnered a respectable 42 percent of the vote. It can safely be assumed that a 2 person race would have resulted in just a 5 point margin for Benlon: 53-47 percent.

This year, there is no libertarian on the ballot and current teacher, former police officer, and well-known father to slain high school student Kelsey Smith, Mr. Greg Smith, is on the ballot. Greg has extensive name ID due to the national coverage of the tragic murder of his daughter that sent shockwaves throughout the usually safe and secure suburbs in this county. Smith is respected for the work his foundation does (in memory and honor of his daughter) in educating young women in self-defense and changing the laws state-by-state to require cellular phone providers to hand over traceable data during emergency situations. Smith's current job as an American History teacher gives him credibility on education issues and he's running on a solidly fiscally-conservative and socially conservative platform. For the first time in 16 years, this district may switch parties. Whether Smith can hold it longer than 2 years (the record) remains to be seen.

Prediction: Toss-Up/Slight GOP lean. Smith 51-49 percent

5. 23rd District - Brett Hildabrand (R) vs. Milack Talia (D-inc.)
This politically challenging district for Republicans encompasses portions of eastern Shawnee (east of Quivira and Shawnee Mission Parkway) and all of Merriam in an area that borders the Wyandotte County line and has witnessed an influx of minority voters and changing demographics the last few years. Judy Morrison retired after holding the district for the GOP for several terms by razor-thin margins that only seemed to narrow with each passing election. Prior to Morrison, the district was held by Republican Cliff Franklin, but it had also been held by Democrats throughout the '80s and into the early '90s. The district was swept up in the Obama wave of '08, sending perennial Democrat Milack Talia to victory with a lopsided 56-43 percent margin over Shawnee Planning Commissioner August Bogina, who didn't care enough about his own campaign to bother with a campaign website.

Political newcomer Brett Hildabrand has been walking the district - an essential priority for a Republican in this district - even engaging voters in the numerous apartment complexes that proliferate the area. Hildabrand has also received help from Judy Morrison, whose similar grassroots activity and fine line between active conservative and advocate for local schools and businesses enabled her to hold the district much longer than any other Republican would have in a similar environment. The district has a high concentration of Democrats that slightly exceed Republicans, so the challenge is getting all Republicans out to vote and winning a vast majority of independents. The typical moderate-conservative divide that plagues other areas of the county is not a factor here, as the Republican voter base tends to be very conservative and the district overall has a slightly culturally-conservative tilt due to the large number of blue collar workers (which may explain Talia's shift to the right this last cycle and his vote against the sales tax increase in Topeka). Hildabrand has a chance to win this, but it won't be easy. Yet the candidate's dedication and personal likeability, combined with the local and naitonal winds that favor the GOP, make this district in play, which is why this "likely Dem" seat of 2008 is only "lean Dem" now and definitely provide some surprises on Election Day depending on turnout.

Prediction: Lean Dem. If Hildabrand wins: 50.6 - 49.4 percent. Talia won't top 52 percent if he retains the seat.

6. 24th District - Michael Foltz (R) vs. Michael Slattery (D-inc.)
Ronnie Metsker (current GOP chair) was appointed by precinct people to finish out Ed O'Malley's term, but was carried out by the Obama tide, garnering only 40 percent of the vote in 2008. This liberal-leaning district includes the inner-ring KC suburbs of Mission and Roeland Park, and was the only JoCo house district to vote for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential race. Mike Slattery, the son of former Congressman Jim Slattery, is affable, well-liked, and does not wade into controversy. It could also be said that his voting record is somewhat centrist, although undoubtedly left-of-center still on major issues.

Roeland Park Planning Commissioner Michael Foltz is mounting a challenge, and with community roots and a disarming persona, he could make some headway, but that same mild-mannered and low-key approach seems to have infected his campaign: he has failed to raise any money and has not established a campaign presence. He does have the endorsment of the left-leaning Mainstream Coalition, which helps in this liberal-leaning district, but Slattery should hold on, albeit with a reduced margin.

Prediction: Likely Dem, Slattery 54-46 percent

To recap, Republicans will most likely gain 3 seats, with the possibility of a 4th that is currently a tossup and a 5th that has an outside change of changing hands. Johnson County Democrats will be left with just 3 seats and maybe left after the Republican comeback in just 12 days.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Democrats give up on Stephene Moore - or is it "Stephen" Moore?

Stephene Moore just can't catch a break in her quixotic quest to keep the Kansas 3rd district seat in her family.

It started last week with her
disasterous interview with Mike Mahoney on her source for the claim that repealing Obamacare would add $1.3 trillion to the deficit. She froze, fumbled in her response, and ultimately contradicted herself by acknowleding cost savings if the law were repealed. Moore's inability to articulately and clearly justify a key claim she has made numerous times on a signature issue on the campaign stump may be the turning point in the campaign. As if on cue, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) announced that it would be scaling back its $900,000 TV ad buy in the KC market for Moore, ending it's financial committement on Oct.18th, two weeks before Election Day.

And now this: this past Saturday evening at 5:00 pm, I received an automated phone survey from the DNC on the 3rd District race. Either the DNC doesn't know how to conduct a phone survey or they just care so little for this race, that they would attempt to survey voters at 7 pm on a Saturday night WHEN NOBODY IS HOME! But the highlight of the survey: the announcer mistakenly referring to Stephene as "Stephen" Moore. I'm sure many of the voters of the 3rd District found it as humorous as I did that the Democrats have so little confidence in Stephene Moore's candidacy that they clearly chose to poll her district at the worst possible time and can't even get her name right. But it did serve as an apt metaphor for the current direction of her campaign - the symbolism could not be richer.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

To Vote for Pelosi or Not to Vote for Pelosi: That is the Question Moore Won't Answer

Tonight was debate #4, the last and final debate between Kevin Yoder and Stephene Moore, hosted by Sun Publications, moderated by Sun Publisher Steve Rose, and televised live on local access channels.

At the fourth and final debate, Stephene still failed to directly answer whether she would vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House. Pelosi's name is so toxic, especially in KS-3, that Moore could not even bring herself to say Pelosi's name when addressing--and then avoiding--the question!

Why is Moore deceptively claiming to be a fiscal conservative and a moderate while refusing to answer whom she would support for Speaker of the House over and over again? What does she have to hide? We know she supports stimulus, Obamacare, and Cap-and-Tax (which she falsely called "just an idea" despite the fact the legislation has already passed the House).

Perhaps Stephene was still reeling from her embarrassing encounter with a local KMBC 9 News reporter, who asked her about her comment that repealing the healthcare bill would add $1.3 trillion to the deficit. When pressed, the amount changed from $1.3 trillion to $1.3 billion and she couldn't answer where she obtained that number, and then contradicted herself by saying the money would come back into the budget.

As to whether she would vote for Speaker Pelosi? You can still hear the crickets chirping.

Yoder Sets New Fundraising Record

The Yoder for Congress campaign announced that it had taken in 730K in the 3rd quarter - a new record that includes over 2,000 individual donors with over 1/3 of contributions less than $100, demonstrating Yoder's appeal and the energy among grassroots Kansans for his campaign.

The previous record was most likely held by Dennis Moore, who raised 437K in the 3rd quarter of 2004. Yoder's campaign has already raised $1.5 million in the last 9 months.

As chairman of the Johnson County Young Republicans, I was happy to organize and lead a YR fundraiser for Yoder at the 810 Zone last Thursday that generated $1,000 for Yoder on the very last day of the fundraising quarter.

Energy and enthusiasm is high...just 27 days left to go.

Friday, October 01, 2010

More Headaches for Moore as Yoder campaign launches

In the most brilliant political move of the week, Kevin Yoder's campaign rolled-out, a satirical and critical website that places Stephene Moore and Nancy Pelosi side-by-side, marked with a "stamp of approval" from Nancy Pelosi herself. The site features a creative video that showcases Moore's DC townhouse (just mere blocks from the Capitol building) and paints her as a Washington insider. The site also chronicles Moore's exotic travel with her congressman husband on the taxpayer's dime--a total of $50,000--while turning each itemized expense as an opportunity to give a similar amount to Yoder's campaign for congress.

Perhaps most hilarious is the video of a Yoder staffer following Moore to numerous events over the course of the campaign and questioning her over whether she'd vote for Pelosi as speaker and receiving no answer again and again.

Yoder's campaign displayed savvy campaign skill in buying the domain early. Moore's campaign proved to be inept and just politically ignorant in failing to purchase the domain name of THEIR OWN CANDIDATE and prevent this type of scenario from occuring.

The Moore campaign only compounded their problems by attempting to shut down the site on a legal technicality involving the seller's right to sell the domain. Message to the Moore campaign: freedom of speech is non-negotiable. You failed to act early, now deal with the consequences.

The bright spot for Yoder in all of this: his campaign has raised 23K in online donations in the few days since the rollout and release of the mock-website was publicized, which will only help him in a race already leaning his way and that shows him with a 9-point polling lead.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Myth of Obamacare: Healthcare Reform vs. Insurance Reform and Lessons Learned from Our Neighbors across the Atlantic and Pacific

To hear Obamacare supporters and some folks who are just ignorant of the law itself tout the new healthcare law as healthcare reform only infuriates those of us who know what it truly is: it may be referred to as health insurance reform (although, reform in a positive sense is not what the law does at all) but the law is certainly not reform of the healthcare industry.

The law's provisions deal exclusively with health insurance: the mandate to purchase insurance, the requirement that insurance providers cover pre-existing conditions, new regulations mandating that employers provide health insurance or pay a fine--the list continues. The law, however, does not address the immediate and worsening crises within the healthcare industry itself: exponentially-increasing costs for healthcare goods and services; the shortage of qualified doctors and nurses to meet the growing demand of the American population, especially as baby boomers retire; the lack of portability of insurance coverage across state lines; barriers to entry and stifled competition for the emergence of new insurance carriers willing to compete for consumers; the lack of standardization and centralization of medical records; and the roadblocks to implementing new technologies for patient records and streamlining treatments.

Most believe this watered-down takeover of the health insurance industry is only a first step towards a government-run, single-payer system. If so, we could learn much from other countries dealing with the consequences of government-run, single-payer care.

I recently visited Sydney, Australia earlier this year and had the opportunity to witness a session of the New South Wales Parliament, the state legislative body governing Australia's largest state and most populous city. The main issue being debated: access to healthcare. Australia has a hybrid public-private healthcare system. Free healthcare is guaranteed for all 20 million Australians through a government-run scheme, but private healthcare facilities are also allowed to operate, and Australians can patronize these physicians and facilities at their own expense.

The parliamentary session was led by Premier (similar to the governor of a U.S. state) Kristina Keneally of Australia's leftist Labor Party, who acknowledged the federal government had not followed through on its promises to the states regarding healthcare funding, and as a result, New South Wales was experiencing critical shortages of hospital beds, vaccines, and medical equipment, along with complaints from citizens about long wait times for procedures and appointments. Leaders of Australia's right-leaning Liberal Party in the Parliament argued for decentralization of healthcare decision-making and allowing individual states and cities to allocate budget dollars for healthcare, shifting decision-making to doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators rather than bureaucrats in Canberra, Australia's capital city.

Keneally, alarmed that New South Wales residents may be inclined to support some of these common-sense policies in light of the failure of the leftist, federal leadership on the issue, immediately accused her political opponents of favoring--wait for it--privatization. She also said that New South Wales "would not return to the big business, privatization schemes of the Howard government." John Howard was the former prime minister, a conservative member of the Liberal Party and the favorite boogeyman of Australia's left since he lost his last election. Sound familiar?

The session quickly turned cantankerous as members of parliament shouted each other down and personally attacked one another over this extremely intense and volatile issue. The barrister had to quiet down the legislators several times for being out of line.

I find it ironic and revealing that the disastrous realities of centralized, government-run healthcare in Australia , Canada, and the United Kingdom are largely ignored by the U.S. media, but incite fierce debate in those countries over whether policy should move towards privatization and local control. The United Kingdom has already taken the first step: under Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, Britain's National Health Service will be downsized with most authority and decision-making devolved to the level of town councils and similar bodies.

Even in Australia, healthcare was a major issue in their most recent elections a few weeks ago. Labor lost their majority in the federal parliament and suffered major losses in New South Wales, home to Sydney and Australia's most populous state, a left-leaning bellweather for the entire country. Pundits down-under are now predicting that Keneally will lose her premiership in the upcoming state spring elections and that the conservative Liberal Party may gain control of the New South Wales Parliament for the first time in decades.

The irony of all ironies is that as Europeans move away from their socialized healthcare schemes to patient-centered healthcare with an emphasis on choice and access, the United States, long the world's leading bastion of individual freedom and liberty, will be moving further away from its own ideals and towards the failed trends of European social democracies.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Political Shocker: Yoder wins Olathe Straw Poll

Calling it a political upset would be an understatement. A political earthquake or watershed moment in the Kansas 3rd District congressional race is a more accurate description of what unfolded this past Saturday.

The annual straw poll, conducted during the last weekend of June at the Olathe Republican picnic, doesn't tend to be a very accurate barometer of campaign strength or electoral outcomes, only because it skews heavily conservative. In fact, the event is usually only attended by a handful of political insiders and candidates.

The Yoder campaign knew they had an uphill battle and privately conceded that the best outcome would be a very narrow margin between Kevin Yoder and Patricia Lightner in the results. Yet the eventual outcome, a 39 vote margin (156 votes to 117 for Lightner) is a testament to the strength and energy behind the Yoder campaign and their grassroots strategy. For the last week prior to the picnic, Yoder staffers canvassed neighborhoods in Olathe, notifying supporters of the straw poll and giving them coupons allowing them to vote in the poll and enter the picnic free of charge courtesy of the campaign. Yoder staffers also peppered the entrance to the picnic and the surrounding area with yard signs and Kevin Yoder himself greeted attendees as they entered the event, providing them with information and that personal connection that voters--especially undecided voters--crave.

This aggressive and intense strategy netted the campaign a plurality of votes in the poll and a win no one saw coming. And the message is that if Kevin can win an extremely conservative straw poll in the heart of Johnson County's bastion of conservatism, Olathe, then Yoder's campaign is in position for a resounding victory at the polls on August 3rd.

Some opponents have already countered with accusations of vote-buying and the lack of representation of the poll results due to the tactics used. Apparently, they have been MIA the last several years, as buying supporters' way into the picnic and steering them to the poll is a longstanding practice that has been done by many campaigns--maybe not as overtly as Yoder's campaign and others did this year, but nonetheless, it's common practice and no one has ever claimed that this straw poll is representative. On the contrary, past election results indicate that the poll is nothing more than a barometer of which campaign has grassroots support and a good organization in place to round up supporters for the vote. Tiahrt's campaign bused in supporters from Wichita, just as they did last year, so whether a campaign buys tickets for their supporters to vote in the poll or pays for supporters from out of town to vote in a poll that is supposed to be test of local support, it is to be expected and is par for the course when it comes to straw polls. Yet I don't hear these same opponents complaining that Tiahrt's people circumvented the process by buying votes.

At any rate, this poll does indicate momentum, the intensity of Yoder's support, and the efficacy of the Yoder campaign's grassroots mobilization--all necessary components to ensure a victory on August 3rd and ultimate victory on November 2nd.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

There's Something Rotten in Johnson County...

Johnson County Community College rightfully boasts of its well-deserved reputation as one of the nation's leading community colleges and most affordable choice for students seeking a variety of career and degree-focused programs, but a recent controversy over free speech threatens to tarnish that legacy.

Kathy Brown, a professional attorney, nurse, and student at JCCC in early 2009 alleges that the college violated her First Amendment rights and has stonewalled an internal investigation into the matter.

Brown says she was told by one professor she could not criticize Islam, and she was reprimanded by another professor for arguing her opposition to gay marriage in a private conversation with another student.

The response from college administration officials? The "Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion" (which aptly reeks of political correctness run amok) informed Brown of the unwritten and informal (but apparently, enforced) "Discomfort Policy" at JCCC, which bars any speech that could be construed as offensive or cause someone to feel uncomfortable.

After met with such ridiculous free speech restrictions and justification, Brown took her case to the JCCC Board of Trustees, but in the 15 months since she launched her complaint, but strangely, the Board has offered no details for the delay and stonewalling, and no hints that a resolution is even near.

Brown gave a detailed and impassioned account of her story and determination to achieve a just resolution and acknowledgment of wrongdoing at last month's Board of Trustees meeting, but the Board was strangely tight-lipped on the matter.

It's difficult to prove discrimination, bias, and violation of one's rights if you are not of a protected or favored class in today's society, and that challenge is compounded by
a policy that is unwritten but very much enforced.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. I have information from a current student who was belittled and asked by JCCC officials to change her shirt on two different occasions: once, when she was wearing a College Republicans shirt and on another occasion where she wore a shirt commemorating our troops' sacrifice in Iraq.

Kansas Watchdog, Kansas Reform, and Ben Hodge have reported on this local controversy. Now we at the Kenig Konnection call on JCCC and the Board of Trustees to respond to Brown's complaints, provide a resolution, hold the offending parties responsible, and end this "Discomfort Policy" once and for all.

Video courtesty of

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

2nd District: Sen. Pyle faces state investigation over improper use of campaign funds

Dennis Pyle has some explaining to do. Pyle, the Hiawatha state senator mounting a challenge against incumbent Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (the only house incumbent in KS facing a primary challenge--an unusual move) is being investigated by the state Ethics Commission for allegedly using funds from his state senate campaign to finance a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with campaign consultants for his congressional bid. Using funds raised for a state race for federal campaign activities is a violation of campaign finance law and could carry a heavy fine, and possibly cripple Pyle's campaign before it has the chance to gain any traction.

Pyle's response? According to KC PrimeBuzz:

“I expect the left to resort to these tactics,” Pyle said. “The people of
the 2nd District deserve a true conservative.”

News to Sen. Pyle: if you made a mistake, man up to it. This has nothing to do with being a conservative and your "conservatism" should not provide cover for breaking the law. A lapse in judgment or oversight can happen without any malicious intent--especially with the myriad of rules and regulations in Kansas campaign finance law. However, it is better to admit the mistake and move on then to feign innocence and presume that your ideology trumps violating the law.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Major GOP win in Hawaii

The GOP is on a roll. After winning the governorship of New Jersey, Republicans rocked the political establishment by winning Ted Kennedy's seat in the bluest of blue states, Massachusetts.

Now, Republican can add Hawaii's 1st congressional district to their list. Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou won the special election this past Saturday to succeed Neil Abercrombie, who resigned to run for Governor. Due to the special circumstances of this race (two Democrats--Colleen Hanabusa and Ed Case--ran in this open, free-for-all, winner-take-all election), Djou did the impossible and won with 40 percent of the vote, compared to 31 percent for Hanabusa and 28 percent for Ed Case. Djou won't have much time to rest though, as he will be defending his newly-won seat in congress this November.

Hawaii's first congressional district is its most urban, and includes all of Honolulu. The win is a major victory for Republicans--not only did Djou run as a fiscal conservative opposing Obama on healthcare, Cap-and-Trade and other initiatives, his win represents the first time Hawaii will be represented by a Republican in more than 2 decades and only the second Republican to represent the islands on Capitol Hill since statewood.

And let's not forget that this district is Obama's childhood home and gave him 70 percent of the vote in 2008. Will it be difficult for Djou to retain this seat? Yes, but not impossible: George Bush garnered 47 percent of the vote here in 2008.

Here's a visual breakdown of the district's vote. Notice the sea of red!

Which state will be the next to turn from blue to red? Republicans can't take anything for granted--as the Democratic retention of Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district proved last week. But with the right candidates, the right message, and the right ground game, Republicans can continue to pile up wins in blue states.

Friday, May 07, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Yesterday, UK voters came out in droves to vote in their first national elections since 2005 and the winner is...

Well, let's just say that the British Elections are like our 2000 U.S. Presidential Election Redux. It's like deja vu all over again. The Conservative Party needs to gain an absolute majority in Parliament (326 seats) to form a government on their own. The vote counting lasted long into the night, along with reports and complaints of long lines at polling places and masses of people being turned away (again, similar to our 2000 election).

Check out the BBC's live feed for the latest results, vote count, and news:

Most recent estimates have the Conservatives at 305 seats, Labour at 258, and the Liberal Democrats (a third, center-left party) at 57 seats. The Conservatives are just shy of a majority, and will need the support of the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government, a phenomenon that Britain (a country that prides itself on stable governance unlike its neighbors in Europe that often see coalitions form and governments fail routinely) has not witnessed in several decades.

It is disappointing that the Conservatives under-performed considering the weakness of the British economy, the unpopularity of Gordon Brown, and a wave of scandals that have plagued the Labour party, but it is worth noting that Labour suffered it's worse showing since 1931. Based on current estimates, Labour ranks in the House of Commons will be reduced from 341 to 258, a net loss of 83 seats, while the Conservatives will increase their share from 193 to 305-307 seats, a net gain of 112-114 seats. And despite the buzz over Liberal Democrat candidate for Prime Minister Nick Clegg's performance at the debates and the possibility that his party would make its strongest showing ever, the final results demonstrated that the opinion polls were not to be trusted: the Liberal Democrats will actually lose 6 seats in Parliament, falling from 63 seats to 57.

Despite the outcome of a hung Parliament, the shift to the right in the UK in in line with recent shifts to the right throughout Europe. Add Great Britain to the list of western nations with center-right governments amidst discontent with the European social democracy-style welfare states and the high taxes, massive deficits, high unemployment, and stagnant GDP growth. France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Canada, and now Great Britain, among many others, are trending rightward.

Barring any major surprises, it is safe to say that David Cameron will be the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the first Conservative to hold the nation's highest office in more than 13 years.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tax Freedom Day

Americans worked from Jan. 1st to April 9th of this year just to pay federal, state, and local taxes. That's 27 percent of the year! If we were required to pay for the government spending that has added to the deficit, we'd be working until May 17th.

Check out this analysis from the Tax Foundation:

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

GOP frontrunner Yoder continues momentum, raises over 500K in congressional bid

Last quarter, Rep. Kevin Yoder sent shockwaves through the political establishment in Kansas by raising 233K in less than a month. Now, Yoder has surpassed that incredible fundraising benchmark by raising nearly $267,000 during this 1st quarter--bringing his total fundraising to over $500,000. And this was all done without personal loans to his campaign.

To put that in perspective: Kevin's fundraising prowess surpasses that of leading candidates for statewide office, clearly demonstrating the excitement and energy here in the 3rd District to replace Dennis Moore with a real fiscal conservative.

Kevin Yoder has decisively maintained momentum as the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination and the overall favorite to win the GOP primary and beat Stephene Moore in November.

The 3rd District is clearly responding to Kevin Yoder's message of fiscal restraint, accountability, and reigning in Washington spending and regulation. Yoder will cast his first vote against Nancy Pelosi for speaker, unlike Congressman Moore's wife, who has already pledged to be a party-line vote for government healthcare, cap-and-tax, expensive and economically counter-productive stimulus bills, and abortion-on-demand.

Interested in becoming a Yoder Voter?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Call these House Members Now!

Konnection Readers:
I apologize for the long lapse in any updates to this blog. Work (a.k.a., real life for most of us in the private sector) has consumed my time and I recently took a brief week haitus to travel to Sydney, Australiato visit a friend. I will be updating the blog with my travel experiences in Sydney later, including some interviews and insight gleaned from their current local debate on healthcare reform and the local mood ahead of President Obama's visit later this weekend, which has (ironically) been scaled back due to the healthcare takeover his party is attempting to ram through this week. More on that soon.

For now, this is a crucial week as the Democrats still do not have all the votes they need to pass healthcare even on a simple majority vote using the "nuclear" option, especially in the house. If you oppose this heinous bill and want the congress to completely start over from scratch and work out a fiscally-conservative healthcare reform bill that empowers individuals and doctors rather than the federal government while expanding opportunity for medical innovation and promoting competition to bring down prices, contact the House Democrats listed below. The list below is provided courtesty of as all of these members have been identified as swing votes whose support or opposition will make or break the bill, possibly ensuring its defeat once and for all.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Yoder raises 233K in less than a month; now considered frontrunner to replace Dennis Moore

Wow. Nick Jordan, Patricia Lightner and others have yet to release their 4th quarter fundraising numbers, but it's safe to say that Rep. Kevin Yoder is the frontrunner in the Republican race to replace Congressman Dennis Moore.

Yoder raised $233,000 in less than a month, having filed for office Dec. 16th and meeting the 4th quarter deadline for reporting contributions at the end of that month. This fundraising total is enormous and does not include any personal loans by Yoder himself.

Watch as other candidates in the race drop out. Yoder has generated significant momentum in the primary race and dollars to spend which will allow him to rise above the myriad other candidates and differentiate himself and his message to the Republican primary electorate. Additionally, this pace of fundraising will deter prospective Democrats from entering the fall general election and confirms that Yoder will remain an extremely formidable opponent heading into the general election, as well as the frontrunner and favored candidate.

From Yoder's Press Release:

Representative Yoder is in his fourth term in the Kansas House and represents parts of Overland Park and Leawood (20th District). As Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, he has led the charge to reduce state spending and balance the state’s budget of over $13 billion without increasing taxes.

“Kansans are tired of the onslaught of taxes, regulation and overspending in Washington” said Yoder, “As Congressman, I’ll fight every day for the taxpayers of our district. We must send a strong message to Nancy Pelosi and politicians in Congress that we will not sit idly by while they bankrupt our country.”

Representative Yoder’s campaign will be focused on bringing fiscal responsibility back to Washington, common-sense solutions to create jobs for Kansans, rebuilding our economy, and stopping job-killing policies such as ‘cap-and-trade’, ‘card check’, and the government takeover of health care.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It's Official: Eilert files for County Chair

Longtime Overland Park Mayor and current 4th District County Commissioner Ed Eilert filed today to challenge incumbent Anabeth Surbaugh.

Here's a link to his campaign's press release on today's announcement.

This race will be one of the most-watched and most expensive races locally, as it pits two high-profile county figures against each other. Surbaugh cannot be underestimated (she's won several races since her first election to the county water board), but if an anti-incumbent mood is indeed sweeping the country, look for Eilert to benefit. Credited for Overland Park's robust economic boom and growth over the past two decades, Eilert has extensive business and civic coonnections--and being a popular officeholder in Overland Park (pop. 171,000) is a major benefit, and means that Surbaugh will have to offset that expected voter advantage by racking up large margins in the northeast of the county and out west.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Massachusetts Miracle and its Impact on the 2010 Elections and Obama's Agenda

A week ago, a special election shocked the political establishment and produced one of the most stunning political upsets in history.

Democrats understand that attempts to write off their major defeat in the deepest of blue states to a bad candidate (which Martha Coakley was) misses the mark completely. Scott Brown was a little-known state senator, initially disparaged and written off after winning his party's primary for the special election as too conservative to even be competitive in Massachusetts. Voter anger and frustration over the Cornhusker Kickback, the Lousiana Purchase, backroom deals on healthcare, the lack of transparency, legal rights for terrorists--all of these cannot be understated. Brown did not run away from these issues--he emphatically embraced his role and promised to be the 41st vote against overtaxation, the president's healthcare plan, and campaigned against legal rights for terrorists, going as far as to argue that waterboarding is not torture. Martha Coakley, meanwhile, embraced Obama's policies, a last minute visit by Obama to prop up her failing candidacy was not enough to overcome the voter's desire for change, even in the bluest of blue states where Obama is still relatively popular.

Within a few weeks, Scott Brown transformed a 30 point deficit in the polls into a lead of anywhere from 2-9 points. Coakley out-fundraised him significantly, but in the final weeks, Brown capitalized on his chances and the excitement nationally that a Republican could be elected statewide in Massachusetts to raise millions from grassroots and small donors online.

The ultimate result? Many anticipated an extremely close election that might result in court battles and multiple recounts. The final result was anything but that--A 52-47 win, and a margin of over 100,000 votes--a 5 point margin, which, by Massachusetts standards, is landslide territory (the last Republican to win an election statewide in MA, Mitt Romney, won with only 50 percent of the vote in 2002).

Up until the results were being counted, I still had doubt Brown would pull it off. This is Massachusetts--they haven't elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate in almost 40 years and this was the seat that Ted Kennedy--the Senate's liberal lion--held for 47 years. The state's liberal reputation and voting demographics contradicted Brown's momentum and rise in the polls.

The map below from the New York Times shows the unbelieable--how Massachusetts was transformed from a deep-blue state to a sea of red. Brown managed to improve Republican margins over McCain's performance in 2008 in every county and every locality--even in the Democratic stronghold of Boston, where Brown increased the GOP share of the vote by 11 percent over McCain's '08 vote percentage against Obama.

Some key points from last Tuesday's elections:
  • Brown won 75 percent of Independents in Massachusetts, 22 percent of Democrats, and nearly all Republicans, dealing a death-blow to Coakley's candidacy. Brown's strong win among independents mirrors Obama's dramatic loss of independent support in 2009 and the movement of independents overall to Republicans in generic congressional ballot polls, something that began last November as independents swept Republicans to power in Virginia and New Jersey by significant margins.
  • Brown won by winning the suburbs--the middle-class enclaves surrounding Boston, Cambridge, and Springfield. Large wins in Worcester County, Plymouth County, Essex County coupled with smaller, but significant wins nonetheless in Revere, Waltham, and Quincy enabled Brown to put together the margins needed to win statewide. For what its worth, I stayed in Revere, an inner-ring suburb with 50,000 residents just outside the Boston city limits when I traveled to Boston this past summer, and the usually Democratic-voting suburb suprisingly swung towards Brown, demonstrating his appeal and the shift in the electorate in the Boston 'burbs and throughout the state. In a stinging bit of irony not lost on MA Democrats, Cape Cod, including the community where Ted Kennedy lived, swung towards Brown in this special election.
  • Brown's win in the Massachusetts suburbs is emblematic of the trends that began in last November's off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey. In Virginia, the northern Virginia suburbs swung back to the Republicans enabling their 3 standard bearers for the state's top offices to win in a stunning trifecta, and resulting in a net gain of 6 seats for the GOP in the statehouse. Voter-rich Fairfax County just outside of Washington, D.C., turned bright red by casting it's votes for Republican Bob McDonnell, backing a Republican for statewide office for the first time in several years, and sending two Republicans to the statehouse from previously-held Democratic seats. New Jersey's suburbs followed a similar course, as Chris Christie won a majority of New Jersey's counties, including Monmouth, Essex, and the NYC suburbs.

  • Conventional wisdom dictates that low-turnout elections favor Republicans while higher turnout favors Democrats. Again, that has proven to be false, as the 54 percent turnout in last Tuesday's special election rivaled statewide, midterm elections and was only surpassed by presidential elections in the state.

  • Obama made a last-minute appearance in Boston to stump for Coakley, but even that was not enough to pull Coakley over the finish line. Obama is now 0 for 3 in using his supposed personal popularity to push his party's candidates to victory. As his approval continues to tumble, watch as more Democratic incumbents decline Obama's help and campaign appearances. If Obama can't deliver in Massachusetts, his personal pitches will be futile across the country.

  • Youth are moving towards the GOP. Brown won voters aged 18-29 by 9 points last Tuesday. This follows the election last November where Republican Bob McDonnell captured 55 percent of young voters.

  • the Mass GOP is energized by the results and have already noted three congressional districts where Brown performed extremely well and where the party may have a good chance at knocking off some longtime Democratic incumbents. These districts in particular look competitive for the GOP next November, and some high-profile Republican recruits have already indicated they will run. For a state with monolithic, one-party representation of its 8 congressional seats for decades, this is a welcome development, and may mean that we will have to dial-down our anti-Massachusetts rhetoric. Clearly, appeals that invoke "Taxachusetts" and Massachusetts vs. the rest of the United States are no longer applicable. San Fransciso is still an appropriate symbol of loony, far-left liberalism run amok however.

  • Expect the Massachusetts election to result in a renewed flurry of Democratic retirements from the House and second-thinking by prominent Democrats considering an entry to hotly contested races. Case-in-point: Beau Biden, considered by Democrats to be their only hope of retaining the open Senate seat in Delaware, has indicated to his dad now that he does not want to run. Does the political tsunami last Tuesday have any bearing on his decision not to run? We think so. Consider the Delaware Senate seat now a very likely pickup for Republican Mike Castle.

  • Locally, the MA results may affect whether Dems recruit a top-tier challenger (if there even is one) for Dennis Moore's seat here in the Third District of Kansas, and whether Ike Skelton decides to retire rather than run in what is shaping to be the most difficult race of his career in Missouri's 4th District

  • Remember when pundits were lamenting the loss of Republicans in the northeast and the death of Republicans in New England, claiming the party would never be viable or competitive again? A newly-elected Republican senator from Massachusetts shattered those predictions, and the party is likely to build on their success in the northeast by electing a Republican Senator from Delaware in Rep. Michael Castle, a good chance to be competitive in the Connecticut Senate Race, a chance at taking out Gillibrand in New York and electing a Senator Pataki or King, and Pat Toomey is now the favorite to beat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. Additionally, Republicans are well on their way to winning a Senate seat in New Hampshire with Attorney General Kelly Ayote. So Massachusetts, Delaware, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut may all be represented by Republican senators and the addition of several representatives in the House delegations. Not bad for a party that's "dead" in the northeast!

Massachusetts voters have finally revolted against that state's one-party rule, oppressive taxation, and most of all--the Obama-Pelosi agenda. Now the revolt continues in the 49 other states leading up to 2010.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Top of the Week Headlines and Happenings

  • A local Johnson Countian with an interest in politics has created a new blog where he provides thoughtful commentary and analysis on national issues from a center-right perspective. Kansas has a dearth of thoughtful political blogs, and Kevin Edwards new addition is much welcome. Check it out at -- I've added the blog to my favorites blog listings on the right.
  • Are you an 18-40 year old Republican in Johnson County? The Johnson County Young Republican Transition meeting has been rescheduled for this Wednesday, January 13th at 6:30 pm at Old Chicago (119th and Metcalf). Anyone interested in becoming more involved in the 2010 elections is welcome to attend--we also have several Executive Board positions still open, including Secretary, PR Chair, Membership Chair, and Vice - Chair of Membership. If you know any interested parties, please spread the word! Hope to see you there, and contact if you're interested in a board position or would like to join the organization.
  • Are Republicans finally embracing online technology and social media? The Brownback campaign is not only embracing the technology--they're creating the latest wave of 21st century social media communications. The Brownback campaign recently launched a revolutionary "SamForGov" iPhone application, the first-ever iPhone application used by a gubernatorial campaign in America. Check out more at:
  • Speaking of the Brownback campaign, the buzz in Topeka is that Brownback will soon name his running mate for lt. governor. Word is that strategically, the nominee will be a Johnson County pol and a woman. Some of the names mentioned: Karin Brownlee, Julia Lynn, Charlotte O'Hara, and Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn. Any word on who his running mate might be or anything to add to the buzz? Leave a comment and start the conversation.
  • There are 6 candidates for the 3rd District Congressional seat at this point (a possible seventh, who hasn't decided yet). Three of those candidates have the potential to make it a race and actually raise money: Nick Jordan, Kevin Yoder, and Patricia Lightner. Jordan and Yoder are taking the fundraising lead. It's anyone's guess as to how this primary race will wrap up, but Steve Rose at the Johnson County Sun has already predicted a Yoder win in the primary and in the general--returning the 3rd District to Republican control after more than 10 years. Watch for Yoder to go head-to-head with Jordan. In the end, Jordan's greatest liability remains his lackluster and disappointing '08 campaign. As the new kid on the blog, Yoder's age, freshness, and experience managing the state's budget will all prove to be assets as well as the deep reservoir of goodwill he has built up among moderates and conservatives alike.
  • Republican precinct committee members in northeast Johnson County have convened to appoint replacements for two state legislative seats in the past four weeks. State Sen. David Wysong's announced retirement created a vacancy in his district, which was filled by Rep. Terrie Huntington (she ran unopposed). Due to the unusual circumstances of this election, Huntington will face election in the fall, the only state senator to do so. The 7th Senate District is the most liberal-leaning district held by Republicans in Johnson County and encompasses the most inner-KC suburbs of Merriam, Fairway, Prairie Village, Mission Hills, Mission Woods, Westwood, Westwood Hills, and Roeland Park. Wysong won with a less-than-impressive 54 percent in '08, and Huntington will have to work hard to keep this seat under Republican control in 2010. Likewise, Huntington vindicated her state rep seat to run for the open state senate seat, and precinct people from the 24th house district chose Dr. Barbara Bollier over former Roeland Park Mayor Steve Petrehn to take Huntington's place. Bollier touted herself as a pro-choice, fiscal conservative who would resist cuts to public education. Petrehn's speech and positions placed him slightly to the left of Bollier, but it seems that Bollier will fit the mold of the district well and is not represent a significant change from Huntington. As state house districts go, this is also one of the most competitive and difficult to hold for a Republican, so Bollier has her work cut out for her.
  • Can a Republican win in Massachusetts? Ted Kennedy's untimely death has created a vacancy for his seat, setting up a special election on Jan. 19th. State Senator Scott Brown (R) is within single digits (9 points) in one poll of Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley. Now, a new Democratic poll actually shows Brown leading Coakly by one point. If Republicans win this seat, Democrats will be stripped of their 60th vote needed to pass Obama's healthcare takeover. These numbers are a wakeup call for Democrats--Republicans in ordinary times should never have a chance at winning a U.S. Senate seat in the bluest of blue states. If Republicans win this seat, this will be the equivalent of a political earthquake heard around the country. Even a single digit loss is extremely significant in this state and signals a growing unrest with the direction taken by the Democratic majority in Washington. Watch these results closely.