5 things to watch in every state: Kansas

What’s the matter with Kansas, an academic once opined in a book read by political science undergraduates everywhere before talking about economic populism and how people in Kansas were, more or less, voting against their own interests over the course of about 300 pages.  I distinctly remember a conversation I had with a member of the U.S. House of Representatives’s staff member, in which he told me that portions of Washington, D.C. were “coon city.”  That economic anxiety, I tell you.

  1. U.S. House of Representatives, Kansas’s 3rd Congressional District: One of the strange things about the Donald Trump candidacy is that he is mainly drawing support from white non-college educated voters.  But in more affluent districts with more college-educated voters, it will likely tip for Hillary Clinton.  This is one of the districts that could potentially flip.  Sabato’s Crystal Ball has it listed as “lean Republican.”  Kevin Yoder, the current Congressman, has not faced a serious challenge during his time in Congress.  In 2014, Yoder was re-elected with 60% of the vote.  He won in 2012 defeating just a Libertarian challenger.  Recent polling has Yoder with about a 4 point lead in his re-election bid.  If he fails, it will just be another example of how Kansas is leading the change in the Republican Party.  Conservative hero Tim Huelskamp lost in his primary in the 1st Congressional District against a more moderate member of the party.  There were a number of primary upsets in the state legislature.  This followed from a closer than expected re-election campaign from Governor Sam Brownback in 2014.
  2. Kansas State Senate District 1: Republican incumbent Dennis Pyle won the election in 2012 by less than 400 votes.  There was not a third party spoiler on the ballot to help either party.  The Democrat Jerry Henry is running against incumbent Pyle in 2016.  I’m interested in seeing that Pyle could get defeated if Trump does worse than expected in Kansas.
  3. Kansas State Senate District 5: Republican Steve Fitzgerald upset Democratic incumbent Kelly Kultala by about 800 votes in 2012.  Kansas wasn’t very close in 2012, in terms of the Presidential vote and while it doesn’t seem to be a close race in 2016, Trump is not performing well in “red states” and as we know the Republican brand has been hurt by Brownback’s policies.  If it’s going to be closer in 2016 or if there is any more residual anger toward the Republican Party, Democrat Bill Hutton should be able to upset Steve Fitzgerald.
  4. Kansas State Senate District 25: There was a small coup in the Republican Party at the state legislature level earlier this year.  7 Conservative members of the State Senate lost their primary challenges to more moderate members of the party.  Turns out, Brownback’s tax cuts were economically damaging (who could ave seen that coming, except literally everybody) and you can cut taxes to the point where it’s no longer popular.  Republican Michael O’Donnell won election to the State Senate in 2012 by less than 300 votes over Democrat Tim Snow.  This was, also, with a Libertarian Party candidate on the ballot. O’Donnell did not seek re-election in 2016.  The Republican this year is Jim Price facing off Democratic opponent Lynn Rogers.  There is not a Libertarian Party candidate on the ballot this year, so the Democrats do not have that bit of good news for them. It could potentially be a very close district.
  5. Kansas State House of Representatives District 3 : Eight Republican incumbents were defeated in the primary by more moderate challengers for the State House of Representatives.  I wish I had more time to be able to write how Kansas is going to force a Republican revolution, at some point.  Democrat Monica Murnan is challenging Republican incumbent Chuck Smith.  Smith won election in 2014 by 114 votes over Democratic incumbent Julie Menghini.  Menghini had won in 2012 by 417 votes over a Republican challenger.  I would assume that 2016 will be a more Democratic election year than in 2014.  114 votes is not going to be enough of a firewall against better turnout.
  6. Kansas State House of Representatives District 56: Republican incumbent Lane Hemsley was able to upset the Democratic incumbent in 2014 by 40 votes.  Virgil Weigel, who was running for re-election in 2014, had won election in 2012 by just under 400 votes in 2012.  This is another situation where the Republican is trying to hold onto a small firewall of 40 votes from 2014 in what should be a more Democratic Presidential year.
  7. Kansas State House of Representatives District 88: It looks like this district is one of the districts that seem to change hands every 2 years.  Democrat Patricia Sloop was able to defeat the Republican incumbent Joseph Scapa in 2012 by 441 votes.  Sloop, in a rematch in 2014, was upset by Scapa by 28 votes.  That’s really close…28 out of 5,202 votes.  There will not be another rematch in 2016 between Sloop and Scapa in 2016, which is slightly disappointing.  The Democratic challenger in this district is Elizabeth Bishop.  She is trying to defeat Scapa in 2016.  Again, we have another election where the Republican incumbent is trying to hold onto a voter firewall.
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