Blue wave laps at KS shores

The election is over. First off, thank you for voting. Turnout was incredible, and your hard work was part of that. Second, we've avoided the specter of a Kris Kobach-led Kansas, and the margin was not even close. Governor-Elect Laura Kelly won handily, cementing Kansas' place as a rational, bipartisan state capable of seeing beyond party when necessary. And yes, Kansas was responsible for part of the wave that turned the U.S. House of Representatives away from President Trump's agenda. All of this is amazing, awesome, and worth all the laughing and crying and shouting we did on Tuesday night. The values we share, the priorities we work towards, will be easier to reach because of this election.

That said, the Kansas Legislature may have shifted to a more conservative stance. The numbers say so, though it remains to be seen how bipartisan the mood will be, and just what Laura Kelly will be able to accomplish these next two years.

Let's dive in.

Fantastic news at Governor

Laura Kelly will be the next Governor of Kansas. She is a model candidate for Kansas, a hard working, experienced politician who appealed to the best of Kansans. Her election by a wide margin, called early on Election Night, is emblematic of the direction Kansans want: reasonable, seasoned, effective government. Her election also continues the trend in our state, since 1965, of alternating the political party in the Governor's mansion with each new Governor. Not only that, she is the third female Governor of Kansas, the only state in the Union to have achieved that. We are excited to have Laura Kelly at the helm the next four years. 

Congress turns

Sharice Davids has been elected as the Congressional Representative from Kansas' 3rd District. She is one of the first two Native American women to be elected to the House (both elected this year!) and the first lesbian Native American. We are excited for what this means for our national direction, as Kansas was part of flipping the House. Unfortunately, Trump loyalists were elected or re-elected in the other three House races.

Statewide saw a little movement

Statewide, it was a sweep for conservatives, except in the race for Insurance Commissioner, where moderate Vicki Schmidt won. Sen. Schmidt has long been a champion of health care expansion, and will have a Governor on her side. Of the other races, we were disappointed to lose out on the chance for a forward-thinking, technologically-savvy office holder as Secretary of State. The winner, Scott Schwab, has said he will stay the course, but in the primary he did beat out opponents more radically aligned with Kris Kobach's efforts at voter suppression. We will keep an eye on him and any attempts to make voting harder in Kansas.

The Kansas Legislature gets trickier

To be clear, Kansas is still a red state, and the results of the "blue wave" didn't change that. In 2016, Democrats saw a huge increase in their numbers in the legislature. But in 2018, it looks like their numbers will stand steady at 40 in the House (pending official results). Five incumbent Democrats lost their seats, but the party picked up two from ultra conservatives, and three from moderate Republicans. When added to the number of moderates who lost to ultra conservatives in the August Primary election, it looks like the moderate and progressive coalition that ended Brownback's tax experiment in 2016 has been winnowed back.

As a result, Governor Elect Kelly will have her hands full when it comes to achieving much movement on education finance, health care expansion, further tax reform, and other issues. Thankfully, there is much she can do on her own, and she is striking the right tone in these early days about working across the aisle on shared priorities. The blue wave has helped the country, but may have made things more difficult in Kansas.

The Kansas Legislature is where MainStream works most closely, and we will continue to work with moderates and progressives to improve educational opportunities, healthcare access, and tax reform. We are sad about the loss of moderates, among them Rep. Rooker and her deep experience on public education finance, and Rep. Gallagher and her tireless work on behalf of children and families. But we look forward to working with the new and returning legislators, and developing strong relationships with them around the issues we all champion.


All of the above is the result. But the real story may be the turnout. Statewide, turnout was just above 56%, a slight tick up from the 50% in the contentious 2014 race that re-elected Sam Brownback. But in many of the most populous counties, turnout was much higher than in 2014. If that result can be sustained in 2020, or even increased, it would go a long way to making sure ALL Kansans are well represented by their government.

  2014 2018
Douglas 51% 61%
Johnson 51% 63%
Sedgwick 53% 55%
Shawnee 61% 64%
Wyandotte 36% 49%

So what does it mean?

In the end, this election was a tremendous victory for people who believe in the importance of public education, the promise of healthy communities, common sense in government, and responsible, sustainable fiscal policy. The Governor is not just a failsafe to prevent ultra cons from doing more harm. She will also be able to influence public policy, and perhaps work with Republican members of the Legislature to make positive changes. But it will be more difficult than it might have been.

MainStream will continue working to see our shared priorities advanced. We will support our Governor in her efforts to reach across the aisle to make a difference, and keep you in the loop as to what is happening in Kansas politics.

Remember, it starts here. With you. Do more than vote.

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