In Kansas Primary, Results Could Advance Governor's Agenda

  • August 07, 2012
  • By Jim Malewitz

Kansans voting Tuesday (August 7) won't be influencing a governors' race or choosing a U.S. Senate candidate, but that doesn't make state politicos any less interested in today's primary, whose results could reshape relations between Governor Sam Brownback and the state legislature.

Though Brownback's fellow Republicans dominate both the House and Senate, his sweeping agenda — perhaps the most ambitious in the nation — that included slashing income taxes, overhauling Medicaid and school financing and eroding union power has met opposition from moderates within GOP ranks.

In Tuesday's primary, conservatives are looking to squeeze out that resistance, freeing up room for the Brownback to push his agenda. Most of Kansas' 40 senate districts and 125 House districts have contested races, the Associated Press reports. That includes a dozen showdowns between moderate incumbents and more conservative challengers. 

Wins by conservatives in those districts could also pave the way to another major change in Kansas government: an overhaul of the judicial system. As the Kansas City Star reported last week, conservative challengers for senate seats largely support Brownback's ambitions to change the way appellate judges are selected, giving authority to himself with confirmation from the legislature. Under the current system, trial attorneys select the judges.

“If the conservatives take the Kansas Senate, it makes sense they would want to as soon as possible be able to play a role in the selection of judges,” Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University told The Star. “That is a very important thing to many conservatives, to be able to rein in what they view to be activist judges.”

Michigan, Missouri and Washington also are holding primaries today. Michigan's primary will be the first test of GOP-led redistricting plan that critics say was drawn to dilute minority representation.

In a lawsuit filed late last year, several groups challenged the new map, complaining that it forced eight incumbents in Detroit House districts to run against each other, while splitting the heavily Latino southwest side of the city into two districts. In March, a federal panel dismissed the suit. The U.S. Department of Justice ultimately approved the plan.

Missouri voters will choose from a list of three Republican challengers to U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill in a race that, according to The Hill, could tilt control of the Senate. Missourians will also vote on ballot measure dealing with public prayer.

In Washington's primary, voters will select a Democrat to replace Governor Chris Gregoire as the party's nominee. Gregoire, currently in her second term, is not seeking reelection.