If there was ever a predictable pattern in Kansas—and possibly even national politics—it is that Republican candidates for nearly every slot on the ballot tend to spend the primary election cycle pandering to the most diehard conservative members of their party to win the general election nomination.
Now, Democrats tend to do the same thing (with the move toward the more liberal Democrats), but in Kansas, it’s to smaller numbers of primary election voters. But it works with Democrats, too.
But after that primary in both parties, it’s been traditional that the party’s standard bearers move their campaign to the middle of their party, and in some measure to the middle of the general voting age population.
Well, this will be a year that will make it worth watching whether that generally Republican move to the middle of the party after the primary election occurs.
Chances are good that Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, the Democratic nominee for governor, will not have to move very far. She’s a practical Democrat who probably dreams about budgets and line-item vetoes and cutting a deal with moderates in the Kansas Legislature to keep government moving.
And chances are good that Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is the Republican nominee for governor, won’t move back to the middle. We’re figuring he dreams about a border wall with Mexico—or possibly Oklahoma—or that new Trump necktie that he wants…
Oh, and best-known independent candidate Greg Orman is probably dreaming about how to snag votes from both.
This year things are going to be different. Don’t expect Kobach to move toward the political middle in his campaign. Now, short-term Gov. Jeff Colyer might have, but he conceded, remember.
So, we come to a campaign where the narrow conservative side of the GOP—which includes Kobach, of course, and unsuccessful gubernatorial nomination candidate Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer—isn’t looking for any move to the center. Nope, and had Kobach lost the GOP nomination, we’re betting he wouldn’t have let Colyer move to the center, either.
So…where does this gubernatorial race go? Who gets elected governor and has the authority to take that preposterous stuffed buffalo head off the wall of the governor’s office and, of course, run the rest of the state?
Does Kobach come up with something new that will appeal to moderate Republicans, most of whom voted for someone else in the primary? Does Kelly come up with something that will see the moderate Republicans, who are probably most of the GOP voters, furrow their brows and vote for her as long as nobody’s watching?
Or, does Independent Orman turn out to be the safety valve for Republicans who are to the left of Kobach but just can’t bring themselves to vote for a Democrat, under the suspicion that their Republican friends will find out?
And you gotta figure that moderate Republican former Sen. Jim Barnett, of Emporia when in office and Topeka now, who drew the more liberal Republican primary voters, though not enough of them, isn’t going to be touting Kobach or even letting him put a sign in his yard.
Surprising that this election might come down to the conservative Republicans of the state and the Democrats, with Orman as a possible off-ramp for those who at least talk about the general conservative values and have never read the Kansas Republican Party platform.
Oh, and whoever wins the governor’s office must remember that in just two short years, whatever the governor pushes for or against splashes back on members of both parties in the Kansas House and Senate.
We’ll see, won’t we…
by Martin Hawver
Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com