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Noonletter, Oct. 16, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service


Few things stand as clearly at stake in this year’s governor’s race as the expansion of Medicaid.

If Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach wins, it’s just not gonna happen.

If Democrat Laura Kelly or independent Greg Orman win, it almost certainly will.

Kansas would join 33 other states and include a large swath of people currently without Medicaid coverage or ineligible for the health insurance subsidies created under Obamacare.

Nomin Ujiyediin looks at how the candidates view KanCare, the Medicaid program that pays for the healthcare of 400,000 low-income Kansans — mostly children, pregnant women, and elderly or disabled citizens — and whether to add 150,000 people who fall in the state’s coverage gap.

Controversy over birth certificates that don’t say Obama

It’s a lawsuit of our times. Should a person who identifies as a sex that’s not reflected on their birth certificate be able to change the gender listed on that document?

Four transgender Kansans sued the state on Monday over its refusal to change the sex listed on their birth certificates.

The plaintiffs contend state policy violates their due process, equal protection and free speech rights.

Only Kansas, Ohio and Tennessee prohibit people from switching the genders on their birth certificates to reflect differences from what they were assigned at birth. Dan Margolies reports.

Sermon on the count

Johnson County seems to have all the money and much of the power in Kansas. And a documented inability to quickly count ballots.

The slow-mo ballot tallying happened again in the Aug. 7 primary, keeping all the state waiting until after dawn the next day for its preliminary results.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports that the glacial returns of Johnson County voting have become a friction point in the race for secretary of state between Republican Scott Schwab and Democrat Brian McClendon.

McClendon, a Silicon Valley millionaire, said in a Monday debate that timely tallies are the responsibility of the secretary of state’s office — which appoints the chief election official in Johnson County. It’s the state’s job, he said, to certify and test the machines (a contractor said software problems gummed up the JoCo counting this summer).

“But right now (officials at the secretary of state’s office) just rubber stamp or just give a temporary certification,” the Democrat said.

Schwab, a conservative Republican state lawmaker, has said he’d continue many of the policies of current Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

McClendon also said the state should give up its appeal in defending a state law — struck down by a federal judge — requiring voters to produce proof-of-citizenship papers when they register. Schwab defended the law.

Democrats gain an electoral edge when the entry to voting is low. They traditionally fight photo ID laws that tend to screen out more Democrats than Republicans and contend those rules shut out legitimate voters from elections. Republicans, whose candidates benefit from those tighter laws, contend they protect against fraud.

The best podcast you may not be listening to … yet

Moderates were once the deciding voting bloc in Kansas. (They may prove pivotal again in the 2018 election.)

The “My Fellow Kansans” podcast produced by the Kansas News Service explains, in ways that have never been gathered together quite so clearly or so compellingly, how conservatives took over the Republican Party and the state in the last quarter century.

Credit Jim McLean / Kansas News Service
Kansas News Service
On the last day of July, Jim Barnett and Rosie Hansen hit the road for one last campaign swing.

In its latest episode, the podcast returns to those moderates — represented by Jim Barnett and his wife and running mate, Rosie Hansen.

Cruise along with them in their red pickup truck and a quixotic run for governor and lieutenant governor as moderates.

They lost, of course, falling far behind conservative incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach. But their story tells of a frustration by centrists in the Republican Party and why this year’s general election contest between Democrat Laura Kelly and Kobach is looking so tight.

Hall pass for teachers

Kansas has increasingly granted waivers to allow people to teach subjects where they lack specific training, especially to fill shortages in areas such as special education.

The state’s largest teacher’s union, the Kansas National Education Association, contends that cheats students of the qualified instruction they deserve. Stephan Bisaha reports that Kansas started the school year with more than 600 teaching positions left unfilled.

Toggle Man

Former Gov. Bill Graves endorsed Kelly in the governor’s race. Now he’s backed incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder in his race against Democrat Sharice Davids.

In some ways, that endorsement of a Republican in a congressional race gives extra weight to his backing of the Democrat for governor — suggesting he’s not so much a Republican turncoat as someone who thinks Kobach is a bad choice.

Surrogate Sebelius

The Washington Post’s politics newsletter informs that Kathleen Sebelius, the one-time Kansas governor and midwife to Obamacare, is a star on the campaign trail this year.

“A law that cost scores of Democratic lawmakers their seats over four election cycles is now widely seen as an asset,” the Post’s Daily 202 writes. “And the former secretary of health and human services” is stumping for Democrats across the country.

“Sebelius reminded a group of Democratic volunteers at a field office of what Sarah Palin used to say about her. ‘I was going to run the death panels – choosing who got to live or die. That was me,’ she quipped. ‘There were lots of accusations. … Yada, Yada, Yada. None of which turned out to be true.’”

So now she’s on the trail for candidates for Congress and governor is multiple states, trying to cash in on Obamacare’s newfound popularity.

The only deadline that matters today

Today is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 6 election. Here’s everything you need to know.

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

 Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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