Jim McLean | KCUR

Jim McLean

Reporter and Editor, Kansas News Service

Jim McLean is an editor and reporter for KCUR 89.3. He is the managing director of KCUR's Kansas News Service, a collaboration between KCUR and other public media stations across Kansas. 

Jim was previously news director and Statehouse bureau chief for Kansas Public Radio and a managing editor for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He has received awards for journalistic excellence from the Kansas Press Association, Society of Professional Journalists and Kansas Association of Broadcasters.

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If there’s been one constant in Kansas politics for the last 30 years, it’s that Republicans seeking statewide office must be unequivocally against abortion, and for overturning Roe v. Wade.

Another Republican broke ranks this week to endorse the Democrat in the Kansas governor’s race. And an attack from the 2014 governor’s race resurfaced, this time in the battle for a 2nd Congressional District seat. Jim McLean, Madeline Fox, and Stephen Koranda of the Kansas News Service catch up on the latest from the campaign trail. 


file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt acknowledges that a multi-state attack on the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, could wipe out some popular consumer protections.

But, Schmidt said, he believes Congress will step in to preserve certain parts of the law if he and 19 other Republican attorneys general succeed in striking down the individual mandate — that everybody buy coverage or face a fine on their tax return — as unconstitutional.

Thirty years after its hard turn to the right — driven largely by abortion politics and the anti-abortion Summer of Mercy protests — Kansas is on the cusp of what could be another course-changing event: the 2018 race for governor.

Democrats attempting to regain control of the U.S. House are going after a couple of Kansas congressional seats. And this week developments in the 2nd and 3rd Districts caught the eye of Jim McLean and Stephen Koranda of the Kansas News Service and KCUR's Sam Zeff. 


The campaign season is upon us in Kansas. Candidates for governor are hitting the airwaves and the debate stages. Jim McLean, Madeline Fox, and Stephen Koranda of the Kansas News Service discuss this week’s developments. 


Sgt. Alicia Brand / U.S. Army

Plenty of pundits are speculating that a Democratic takeover of the U.S. House would trigger impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

But the Democrats attempting to flip three Republican-held congressional districts in Kansas aren’t at all eager to talk about the issue.

 

From its bloody free-state beginnings to present-day, red-state conservatism, we ask: How did Kansas get here?

My Fellow Kansans explores one of the most pivotal chapters in the state’s history — its hard turn to the right over the past three decades. A turn driven by abortion and other culture-war wedge issues, and by politicians skilled in exploiting them.

Join us every week from Sept. 17 through the election. If you’re already subscribed to Statehouse Blend Kansas, stick around – we think you’ll enjoy My Fellow Kansans from the Kansas News Service.

Courtesy of Joy Koesten

Most of the focus so far this election season in Kansas has been on the competitive primaries for gubernatorial and congressional nominations. But races for the state House could prove just as consequential.

Across the state, conservatives are challenging moderate Republicans and Democrats in a coordinated effort to reclaim legislative seats they lost in 2016.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Truth, it’s said, is the first casualty of war. That helps explain why combat metaphors so often get applied to political campaigns.

The battlefield of the Kansas governor’s race bears out the maxim. Even when candidates get their facts right — a surprisingly difficult task for the field — their words tend to twist a broader truth.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A Republican state senator who endorsed a Democrat for Congress and criticized Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer’s health policies is paying a hefty political price for speaking her mind.

Senate President Susan Wagle announced last week that she had stripped Sen. Barbara Bollier, a moderate from Mission Hills, of her leadership position on the Senate health committee.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Several members of a task force formed by Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer to address the opioid crisis claim his refusal to consider Medicaid expansion undermines their work.

A contract dispute that could disrupt the health care of more than 400,000 Kansans enrolled in the state’s privatized Medicaid program has landed in court.

Amerigroup, one of three companies that since 2013 has managed the delivery of care to low-income, elderly and disabled through KanCare, is contesting a recent decision by state officials to replace it with Aetna when new contracts take effect in January.

FILE PHOTO / Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach — rivals for the Republican gubernatorial nomination — are both diehard conservatives. On the campaign trail, they squabble over who’s more conservative on core issues like immigration, abortion, guns and taxes.

It’s clear, if elected, either would keep the state on a conservative path. The question for primary voters is whose approach would be best for tackling that agenda. 

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Update: Thursday afternoon, Secretary of State Kris Kobach called for the controversial flag artwork be removed from public display at the Spencer Museum of Art altogether. Gov. Jeff Colyer was the first to raise the issue in opening remarks during a gubernatorial debate Thursday evening, saying the artwork should be "sent back to sender" and that taxpayer-funded institutions, such as KU, should not be used as a venue to "desecrate our flag." 

Responding to criticism from elected officials and political candidates, University of Kansas officials have taken down an altered American flag displayed on campus as part of a nationwide art project.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod issued the order late Wednesday after Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer learned of the flag exhibit and demanded its removal.

“The disrespectful display of a desecrated American flag on the KU campus is absolutely unacceptable,” Colyer said in a news release earlier in the day. “I demand that it be taken down immediately.”

file photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer says he will continue to push for a Medicaid work requirement despite a recent court order blocking a similar policy in Kentucky.

Last week, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg, an Obama appointee in the District of Columbia, questioned whether the Trump administration had adequately considered the consequences of Kentucky’s work requirement before reversing longstanding federal policy to approve it.

Susie Fagan / File photo/Kansas News Service

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer’s proposed Medicaid work requirement would create a “catch-22” for some low-income Kansans, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report, from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities — a nonpartisan research organization that supports Medicaid expansion — said work requirements could jeopardize their coverage.

Crysta Henthorne / Kansas News Service

The field of Republicans running in Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District is large, but some party leaders worry, not strong enough to keep the seat from falling into Democratic hands for the first time since 2006.

Seven Republicans are competing for the opportunity to face the lone Democrat in the race, Paul Davis, in the November general election. None has the name recognition of Davis, a former minority leader in the Kansas House who in 2014 nearly unseated former Gov. Sam Brownback.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A group of Kansans hoping to establish a new centrist political party in time to field candidates for the upcoming general election failed to get enough signatures to make that happen.

Even so, they say, they got enough support to convince them that they could be on the 2020 ballot.

“We’re in it for the long game,” said Scott Morgan of Lawrence.

file photo / Kansas News Service

The company that processes applications for Kansas’ privatized KanCare Medicaid program faces potentially steep fines if it doesn’t fix problems, responsible for massive backlogs, by the end of this week.

Maximus, a Maryland-based company that specializes in managing “human service programs” for states and the federal government, has operated the “KanCare Clearinghouse” since 2016.

There have been problems from the start.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

Democrat Laura Kelly all but set the field in the Kansas governor’s race Thursday by picking fellow state Sen. Lynn Rogers as her running mate.

Among the leading contenders, only Republican former state Sen. Jim Barnett has yet to complete his ticket. He’s expected to do that a day ahead of next week’s June 1 filing deadline.

file photo / Kansas News Service

Josh Svaty picked a political no-name to team with in his run for governor.

But the pick is someone who checks off boxes that Svaty can’t with voters in the Democratic primary and, if things play out right for him, in the general election.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers have struck a deal to end their session-long battle over Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer's plan to tighten eligibility for KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

The compromise, detailed in the final budget bill of the 2018 session, blocks Colyer from implementing a work requirement and lifetime benefit cap as part of his planned “KanCare 2.0” makeover of the program. 

Down To The Wire

May 2, 2018

It's the end of the line for Kansas lawmakers. The curtain comes down on the 2018 legislative session Friday — maybe before. We'll talk about the fate of the big tax-cut bill we discussed last week and the school funding plan. Plus, what is the "Truth Caucus" and what are their plans for 2018?

file photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas lawmakers gave the go-ahead Monday to expand telemedicine services after reaching agreement on abortion language that had threatened to scuttle the move.

The bill cleared the state Senate and House by large margins, but only after eleventh-hour brinksmanship that gave anti-abortion forces the assurances they demanded.

Kansans for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion organization, fought for weeks to maintain a clause in the legislation designed to discourage a court challenge over its ban on drug-induced abortions.

file photo / Kansas Public Radio

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach got a Statehouse rebuke Friday from lawmakers even as they avoided mentioning the combative candidate for governor by name.

During a lengthy debate on a budget bill, state Rep. Russ Jennings offered what at first appeared to be just another in a series of amendments.

file photo / Kansas News Service

(This story has been updated.)

A high-stakes gambit initiated by Kansas lawmakers Thursday could prove to be the checkmate move that blocks Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer from imposing new Medicaid eligibility restrictions.

All the commotion around a school funding plan may have overshadowed the fact that Kansas lawmakers are also working on a controversial tax cut bill. Some say it simply returns a federal windfall to Kansas taxpayers. Others argue it’s unaffordable at a time when the state is still recovering from former Governor Sam Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A behind-the-scenes struggle over proposed changes to Kansas’ Medicaid program is coming down to the wire.

Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer has offered concessions. But he appears determined to stick with his proposal to make some non-disabled recipients work, or undergo job training, for their health care coverage.

Jon Hamdorf, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment official who oversees the state’s privatized Medicaid program known as KanCare, said the governor believes “very strongly that work is a pathway to independence.”

Lawmakers and Governor Jeff Colyer have written another chapter in the story of this ongoing debate by authorizing a $500 million increase in school funding over the next five years. But will that be enough to end the litigation? If not, are we headed for another showdown like the one that rocked the Statehouse in 2005?  

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