In Kansas, local politics is often made confusing by the powerful presence of very liberal RINOs. They constitute a third party, and their half-century of influence has done some nasty work, most recently insuring the victory, twice, of Kathleen Sebelius. So-called “moderate” Republicans of the Kassebaum variety have made sure that the state’s governorship for the last 50 years has been in the hands of Democrats. No conservative Republican has ever been elected governor of Kansas, as nobody who has read Thomas Frank’s book knows. The state’s executive branch is now dominated by appointed Democrats.
That may all be coming to an end after last night’s primaries. After 14 years in D.C., Sam Brownback term-limited himself out of the Senate and, according to a local newspaper, onto the porch of the governor’s mansion. After the general election, he’ll almost certainly move inside — and one hopes spend some time undoing the damage Sebelius did to the state’s inept and ideological judiciary. His place will be taken by First District congressman Jerry Moran, who narrowly defeated his ideological doppelganger, Rep. Todd Tiahrt.
But for people who like their conservatism straight up — no glass, no ice — the best news may be the victory of state Sen. Tim Huelskamp, who beat five other candidates (including state Sen. Jim Barnett, Sebelius’s 2006 opponent) to take the GOP nomination for Moran’s seat. I profiled Huelskamp in my book Superior, Nebraska. It’s hard to find a better leader in that sprawling congressional district than the state senator from tiny Fowler. He has to defeat a liberal Democrat to do it, but if he gets to Washington, he’ll be a pretty inspiring guy to watch.
Robert Costa already posted the news about Kris Kobach’s primary win to become Kansas secretary of state. Kobach needed an elective office to gain traction, and now he has one (as a rule, the Kansas Republican primary safely indicates the November outcome). In Tiahrt’s district, a very liberal Democrat named Raj Goyle will spend a lot of his own money to try to defeat the GOP’s Mike Pompeo, a local businessman with a military career (he graduated first in his class at West Point) behind him. The Wichita newspaper, a McClatchy thing, has always been loyal to Goyle. Fortunately, fewer and fewer readers will notice.
The only off-note of the evening was the defeat of Patricia Lightner in the Third District (now occupied by Rep. Dennis Moore, a Democrat) by Kevin Yoder, a “moderate” Republican state legislator. Moore, who has been a frequent target of tea partiers, has had enough. He’s asked his wife to run in his place.
UPDATE: Just as I was feeling so pleased, I received this note from a Kansas state legislator about the primary results:
Overall though, I am very disappointed. You would think with what is happening on the national level people would be more engaged. However, we did not change the left-wing Republican margin in the House. Very depressing. Maybe in the general we will be able to remove some Democrats, but Kansans are still clueless when it comes to primaries.
If we have the same split as the last two years, Brownback will have a very difficult time governing.
It’s true that the state senate and the house are both at the mercy of liberal Republicans. RINOs really do tear up the landscape.