In the primary elections held last week, on August 2nd, there was a wave of moderate candidates elected, both reasonable incumbents holding their seats, and moderates unseating Brownback allies. It was... a start. To be sure, it was also glorious, and a repudiation of Brownback's policies, and an awakening of the electorate to the state of Kansas education, infrastructure, finance, health care, etc., etc.
But it is just a start. Over the next few updates we will be figuring out just what happened, and why, and laying plans for the general election on November 8, 2016.
This week, we will focus on the results of the primary election, and what it means for Kansas politics.
The Kansas Senate
By far the most striking result was in the Senate. By our calculations, the Kansas Senate went from a place where moderate ideas go to die, to the chamber most likely to pass moderate legislation. With the general election yet to come, there are no less than fifteen Senate seats guaranteed to be held by moderate legislators.
Another four Senate seats are very likely to remain moderate, with incumbent Democrats who should win their races: Sen. Marci Francisco, Sen. Tom Holland, Sen. Laura Kelly, and Sen. Anthony Hensley.
There are forty total seats in the Kansas Senate. To pass legislation, 21 votes are needed. Of the 21 seats that remain, every one has a contested election in November. There are no sure seats in the Senate for Brownback's allies. Only two of those contested races need to be won by Democrats to turn the tide in the Senate. Two races.
The Kansas House of Representatives
There are 125 seats in the House, and many that are already locked down for Brownback and his allies. By our calculations, there are 21 unchallenged seats for them in November. On the other hand, there are 46 seats that will be held by moderates (be they Republican or Democrat) come January, without another vote needing to be cast. In addition, there are four where the moderate incumbents should hold serve, as it were, and keep their seats: Rep. Melissa Rooker, Re. Jarrod Ousley, Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, and Rep. Barbara Ballard. The balance, 54 seats, are still in play in November.
Of those 54, only two are in danger of being ceded to the ultra conservatives: House 53, where moderate Annie Tietze retired, and House 63, where moderate Jerry Henry has retired to run for Kansas Senate.
The tipping point in the House is 63 votes. Depending on the issue (guns and women's reproductive rights may continue to be too polarizing to generate a large majority) the House may be on the verge of being reasonable, too.
Republicans versus Democrats
Finally, the elephant in the room (no pun intended). As always, we encourage our members and supporters to examine the races in their districts, to learn about the candidates, and to work for the ones that meet their values best, regardless of party.
In the primaries, almost every race that was in contention was between a moderate Republican and a hardline Brownback supporter. As a result, the races we really worked were Republican races. And as you know, moderate Republicans won a huge number of those.
Now, in the general election, many of those moderate Republicans will be facing Democrats. We don't want to dismiss the importance of these races, and the likelihood of policy differences between these candidates. But in the end, their policy stances will be in direct opposition to the policies of Sam Brownback and his allies. We encourage you to learn about these candidates, to work for those you support, and to vote in November. But as we have outlined, to right this ship, we still need to take more seats from hardliners, meaning, races between Democrats and Brownback Republicans.
It may have appeared to casual or strongly partisan observers that MainStream was all in for Republicans during the primary. In the same way, it may appear to some that MainStream will be all in for Democrats in the general.
The truth is, we are fighting for moderate values and positions. The best way to get those into law, the best way to retire the damaging policies of Brownback, is to fill every seat with a vote in that direction, regardless of party.
Not there yet
While moderate voices have definitely won in the primary elections, there is still a lot of work to do. Neither chamber can count on majorities for all of our policy issues. And neither chamber will have the votes to override a veto from the Governor on any but the most bipartisan issue.
In addition, there are some hard choices ahead for legislators. Reckless tax cuts have put Kansas in a hole, and it will take rescinding them to begin to pull us out of it.
What we can do, and what we ask you to do, is be prepared to work hard to oust more of Brownback's friends.
Do more than vote. It cannot be overstated how important this is. MainPAC, our political action committee, will be evaluating these races, making our endorsements public and finalizing our strategy to assist in the work of getting more moderates elected. Your involvement and support at this time cannot be understated.