Moderates suffered losses in House GOP races

While Kansans await the outcome of the too-close-to-call Republican race for governor, several key GOP legislative races have resulted in the defeat of moderate incumbents who supported public education. 

Mary Martha Good of El Dorado, Anita Judd-Jenkins of Arkansas City, Joy Koesten of Leawood, Patty Markley of Overland Park and Don Schroeder of Hesston, all lost to conservative opponents. In addition, Steven Becker of Buhler was one vote behind Paul Waggoner. 

All those legislators — several of them elected in a moderate wave in 2016 — voted in 2017 to repeal Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts that resulted in drastic revenue drops, limiting funding to schools and other state services. Since the repeal of those tax cuts, legislators have increased school funding and other areas of government. 

But conservatives have argued state taxes are too high. In the GOP primary, moderates were targeted by several groups, including the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. 

Conservatives also made gains by winning several open seats that had been held by moderates. A couple of conservatives lost in the GOP primary, most notably John Whitmer of Wichita, but conservatives took out probably a half a dozen moderate Republicans in the primary. Some of the conservatives will face challenges from Democrats in the Nov. 6 general election, so the final tally on whether conservatives made gains won’t be known until then. It should be noted that sometimes the lines between conservatives and moderates can be blurred depending on the issue. 

Conservative gains in the House could make it more difficult to appropriate the funds needed to meet a Kansas Supreme Court order on school finance. The court upheld the current finance system but said already approved increases over the next five years must be adjusted for inflation, which could cost an additional $100 million per year. 

And conservative gains would also give more traction to a proposed constitutional amendment to remove the ability to sue the state for inadequate school funding. Such a proposal would require two thirds majorities in the state House and Senate before being put before voters for a final decision. 

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly opposes the proposal, as does independent candidate, Greg Orman. Both Republican hopefuls, Gov. Jeff Colyer and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach support such an amendment. 

Colyer and Kobach remain in limbo as their contest ended with Kobach leading by 191 votes, a margin of 0.06 percent out of 311,000 votes cast. Several thousand provisional and mail-in ballots must be counted by county canvass boards, a process which could take several weeks. And there is the possibility one of the candidates could request a recount. 

State law requires the State Board of Canvassers to meet no later than Sept. 1 to certify the primary results. That board is composed of Colyer, Kobach and Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt. 

In State Board of Education races, Michelle Dombrosky of Olathe defeated Jason Winbolt for the District 3 seat being vacated by longtime State Board member John Bacon. Dombrosky will face Democrat Ruth Goff in the general election. Republican Ben Jones will face Democrat James Hannon in District 7, which is being vacated by Ken Willard. District 1 incumbent Janet Waugh, a Democrat, will face Republican Michael Powell. Republican Jean Clifford is unopposed for the District 5 seat being vacated by Sally Cauble and District 9 incumbent Jim Porter, a Republican, was also unopposed. 

School leaders are encouraged to get to know candidates who are in general election races and share with your communities information about what your schools are doing, especially with the increased funding approved by the Legislature. Also follow KASB on social media and News Briefs. KASB has set up an Elections 2018 page with resources and links to political coverage. 

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