And the winner is…Brownback; conservatives now control Kansas government

In the primary election battle of Republican conservatives versus Republican moderates Tuesday, well, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansans for Life supporters, the folks running the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and ultra-conservative Republicans throughout the state all have to be smiling this morning and drooling with anticipation for the 2013 Legislative Session to begin in January.

With the results of Tuesday’s primary election, it appears the Republican conservative goal to control state government has been realized. The push by Republican conservatives was to defeat all Republican candidates and especially incumbents they considered too moderate for their political goals. A lot of money was spent by ultra-conservative backers and as a result seven moderate incumbents and candidates were defeated.

Conservatives already control the House, they now will have control of the Senate, and they have Brownback waiting in the governor’s office to sign their conservative legislation into law.

In Johnson County, Rep. Jim Denning ran for the Senate and defeated labeled moderate Tim Owens, both are Republicans from Overland Park. Owens was chairman of the redistricting committee and was accused of creating boundary lines that kept conservative candidates from running against him. Legislators never could come up with a new redistricting map and the issue was settled in the courts.

In other county races, Rep. Greg Smith, R-Overland Park, who had announced early on he was going to challenge Owens, was placed in a newly created district and defeated Joe Beveridge, R-Lenexa; Rep. Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, ran for the Senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Vice President John Vratil. She lost to conservative Jeff Melcher, R-Leawood.

The only Johnson County Republican moderate to survive was Rep. Kay Wolf, Prairie Village, who defeated conservative challenger David Harvey for the Senate seat vacated by Terrie Huntington, R-Fairway.

All except Wolf, were endorsed and supported by the Kansas Chamber as were the following winners:

In other key races in the state, Jacob LaTurner, R-Pittsburg, defeated Sen. Bob Marshall, R-Fort Scott; Conservative Rep. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, appeared to be defeating moderate Rep. John Grange, R-El Dorado, in a battle of 4-term House members moving to the Senate; Conservative Sen. Jeff King, R-Independence, defeated moderate 3-term Sen. Dwayne Umbarger, R-Thayer; Conservative Bob Reader, R-Manhattan, defeated 2-term moderate Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan; One-term conservative Rep. Tom Arpke, R-Salina, appears to be defeating 3-term moderate Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina; Conservative Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita, defeated moderate 3-term Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita; Conservative Rep. Dan Kerschen, R-Garden Plain, defeated one-term pretty-conservative Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard; Conservative Rep. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, defeated 3-term moderate Sen. Ruth Teichman, R-Stafford; Conservative Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, appeared to be defeating moderate challenger Miranda Allen, R-Kiowa, who in early returns was leading in the primary-only election.

Incumbent Senate Republican moderates Vicki Schmidt, Topeka, and Carolyn McGinn, Sedgwick, defeated their conservative challenges.

As a result of Tuesday’s primary, in elections where winners will not face a challenger in the November general election, conservatives picked up three seats in the Senate and the moderates four.

Conservative control of not only the House but now the Senate means more support for Brownback’s initiatives such as restructuring the state’s school finance formula for K-12 and wanting to simply appoint members to the Kansas Court of Appeals via Senate confirmation. It means the Senate no longer will stop him from pushing through his tax cut plans and continuing the state one-cent sales tax that was supposed to sunset after three years. It means he can continue to revamp the state’s Medicaid, which is now called KanCare. And Kansas can expect stricter abortion legislation to be sent to Brownback, which he will immediately sign into law.

A few of the conservative winners will face Democratic challengers in November, and one or two possibly could garner enough votes from moderate Republicans to win. But that is a long shot at best and likely will not change the fact that come this January conservatives will have total control of the state government.

Is that good?

Bad?

Only time will tell.

One thing is for sure, Kansans over the next two years will see a lot of changes in the way Kansas government operates.

(For more information on Tuesday’s results, read Associated Press’ John Hanna’s article.)

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