2020 general election results and Kansas education

2020 general election results and Kansas education

At this time (Thursday, Nov. 5), the outcome of the 2020 election for President and control of the U.S. Senate have not been resolved. The results for Kansas government are clearer, although there are several close races that could change from the unofficial vote totals posted so far. 

In Kansas, state officers such as the Governor are not elected during the same year as the presidential race, but all 40 State Senators and 125 Representatives are elected. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly will spend the next two years dealing with “supermajorities” of the opposite party that can override her vetoes (and pass constitutional amendments, which then must be approved by voters). 

Kelly will also be working without Senate Minority Leader Anthony, D-Topeka, the longest currently serving member of the Legislature, who lost his reelection campaign. 

Republican supermajorities (more than two-thirds of the House and Senate) are not new, and they only work if enough members of that majority actually vote together. With Kansas Republicans traditionally split between more conservative and more moderate groups, this hasn’t always happened. But it appears conservatives increased their numbers in both the House and Senate. 

Kansas Democrats, almost always in the minority, usually vote together. There has been more diversity among Republicans over issues like school funding, tax policy and other issues. 

State Senate 

The Senate party make-up remains unchanged, 29 Republicans and 11 Democrats, giving Republicans two more votes than the 27 required for a two-thirds votes. Five incumbents who usually voted as moderates – all first elected four years ago – were defeated in the August GOP primary. One consistently conservative member also lost. 

With retirements of Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and Senate Majority Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, a potentially more conservative Republican caucus will choose new leaders, who will then determine the chairs and membership of Senate committees and control what bills are debated and when. 

Democrats lost two seats in Topeka, including Senator Hensley and Gov. Kelly’s old seat but won seats in Leavenworth County and Johnson County. They will also be choosing a new leader. 

House of Representatives 

With several VERY narrow races, Republicans appear to have gained 3 seats for 87 members, three more than two-thirds (84 votes). Republicans appear to have defeated Democrats in Pittsburg, Newton, Wichita and Johnson County, and won on open seat in Leavenworth. Democrats won two open seats in Johnson County where moderate Republicans had lost in the primary. 

At least four House seats were already seen as switching from more moderate to more conservative Republicans. These changes likely increase that number of conservatives. 

None of the major House leadership in either party were defeated, but all will have to be reelected by the party caucuses to keep those jobs. 

State Board of Education 

Half of the 10- member State Board of Education seats are up for election every two years. Former Wichita school board member (and a former KASB regional vice president) Betty Arnold, Democrat, narrowly defeated current State Board Chair Kathy Busch, Republican.  

In Johnson County, Melanie Haas, Democrat, defeated former State Representative Benjamin Hodge, Republican, for the state of retiring Steve Roberts, Republican. 

The outcome doubles the number of Democrats on the Board to four, and guarantees new chair, but is not expected to make a major change in State Board policies or directions. 

Incumbents Jim McNeice, R-WIchita, Ann Mah, D-Topeka, and Deena Horst, R-Salina, ran unopposed. 

Next steps in the Process 

Unofficial results will be certified by county election officialsthen moved up to the State Board of Canvassers. This process will resolve any challenges or possible recounts. 

Each party will caucus in Topeka in early December to elect leaders. The leadership will then name committees and committee chairs, usually by mid-December, with committee membership appointed shortly after that. 

Next steps for School Leaders: 

There will be 14 new Senators and about 25 new House members, although several new Senators have served in the House and two new House members have previously been in the Legislature. 

With the election over, school leaders must build or continue to develop relationships with both new and returning legislators as a trusted source of information and perspective. This outreach can be both informal as individuals, or more formally inviting legislators to attend school board meetings and other activities. KASB will also be working to develop contacts and relationships with these members, and our advocacy staff will assist local efforts on request. 

School boards are also encouraged to discuss and develop priorities for the upcoming Legislature, Congress and the State Board of Education, to present to elected officials from your district and share with your communityThe KASB Legislative Committee will adopt a preliminary set of state and federal local policies this Saturday, Nov. 5, which will be released early next week. School leaders are encouraged to review those recommendations both as a guide for local priorities and to provide to KASB before final action by the KSAB Delegate Assembly. 

School leaders are also encouraged to invite questions and provide information on subjects that your legislators, State Board members and members of Congress will be interested in. These include: 

  • What decisions has your district madfor safe operations and appropriate learning environments during the COVID pandemic and why? 
  • How have these changes impacted your budget in terms of additional costs, savings (if any), use of federal aid, impact on cash balances, staffing and enrollment? 
  • What is your district doing to address student needs, both the short-term impact of COVID and the long-term strategies to better prepare students for success after high school? 

KASB has previously prepared this document on the impact of COVID on school districts. 

Stay current on political developments so you can respond. And let KASB know how we can help. 

Here is a tentative list of “new” House and Senate members by area. KASB has a spreadsheet of all the House and Senate members, with contact information. 

 Kansas City area 

Republicans: Senators Beverly Gossage (Eudora), Kelli Warren (Leawood)Representatives Carl Turner (Leawood), Terry Frederick (Overland Park), Samantha Poetter (Paola) 

Democrats: Ethan Corson (Fairway), Cindy Holscher (Overland Park), Linda Featherstone, (Leawood) Jo Ella Hoye (Lenexa) Mari-Lynn Poskin (Leawood), Lindsey Vaughn (Overland Park), Aaron Coleman (Kansas City) 

Northeast Kansas 

DemocratsSenator Jeff Pittman (Leavenworth) 

Republicans: Representatives Timothy Johnson (Bonner Springs), Pat Proctor (Leavenworth), Lance Neely (Tonganoxie) 

Topeka area 

Republicans: Senators Kristen O’Shea (Topeka), Rick Kloos (Berryton), Brenda Dietrich (Topeka)Representative Jesse Borjon (Topeka) 

Democrats: Vic Miller (Topeka) 

Southeast Kansas 

Republicans: Senator Virgil Peck (HavanaMontgomery County), Representative Chuck Smith, Pittsburg 

North Central Kansas 

Republicans: Senator J.R. Claeys (Salina), Representative Mike Dodson (Manhattan), Clark Sanders (Salina), Steven Howe (Salina), Lisa Moser (Wheaton, Pottawatomie County) 

South Central Kansas 

Republicans: Alicia Straub (Ellinwood), Mark Steffen (Hutchinson), Avery Anderson (Newton), Michael Murphy (Silvia, Reno County) 

Wichita Area 

Republicans: Senators Michael Fagg (El Dorado), Renee Erikson (Wichita), Representatives Patrick Penn (Wichita), Susan Estes (Wichita), Tom Kessler (Wichita) 

Democrats: Representative Stephanie Byers (Wichita) 

Western Kansas 

RepublicansRepresentative Jim Minnix (Scott City). There will also be a new member for the seat of Rep. Leonard Mastroni, R-Lacross, who died during the election. Tatum Lee, Ness City, is filling out the current term.