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Noonletter, Nov. 8, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Goodbye, Jeff. Hello, Kris?

I hated that he ran, because I would have loved to have brought him into my administration. In fact, if he loses, I’ll bring him into my administration in two seconds. — President Donald Trump stumping for Kris Kobach last month.

Trump has written (or his ghostwriters have written) that he likes to use “truthful hyperbole.” So when he jokes about wanting the guy he’s campaigning for to lose so he can install another loyalist in his administration, don’t get carried away.

Still, when Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions after the midterm elections, Kobach’s name came up in Kansas political circles. So far, Kobach has said “no comment.”

Trump and Kobach share some key passions — notably, their belief that out-of-control immigration is an existential threat to the America they want, and the discredited claim that millions of illegal votes are being cast in elections for Democrats.

So the idea that Trump might turn to Kobach to be his next attorney general — and to oversee Robert Mueller’s investigation of ties between the Trump presidential campaign and Russians — isn’t totally bananas.

Sure, Kobach’s been found in contempt of court by a federal judge (who also ordered him to take lawyer refresher classes). So that recent history is a tad awkward for the country’s top law enforcement official.

But the U.S. Senate has granted Trump just about everything he’s asked. It only got more Republican on Tuesday.

Likes Kobach. Immigrants? Not so much.

Conservative provocateur and seller of many books about the evils of liberals and immigrants Ann Coulter was on Team Kobach. She was not happy that Kansans elected Democrat Laura Kelly as governor over Kobach.

She tweeted concisely (if not so nicely).

Slightly less straight

For the first time, two openly gay candidates have been elected to the Kansas Legislature. They’re both Democrats: Brandon Woodard from Lenexa and Susan Ruiz from Shawnee. (For the first time, Kansas is also sending a gay person to Congress. Democrat Sharice Davids beat four-term incumbent Republican Kevin Yoder.)

Thomas Witt, who lobbies the Legislature on LGBT issues for Equality Kansas, said the mere presence of gay lawmakers could influence debates in Topeka.

“Their colleagues are going to have to look their committeemates in the face before they vote to legalize any more discrimination in this state,” he told Celia Llopis-Jepsen. “And it’s going to be a lot harder.”

In past years, the Legislature banned same-sex marriage and put the matter to a public vote that changed the Kansas Constitution. (A subsequent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court wiped out those bans.)

Tilting left and right

Conservative Republicans seized some control in this week’s elections. But Democrats took over some new seats as well. A couple races are still hanging on provisional and mail-in ballots.

It’s unclear how a somewhat-more-polarized Kansas House will act on key issues such as funding for local school districts.

Llopis-Jepsen notes that conservative Republicans have long wanted to amend the state constitution and its requirement for suitable education funding. They’d like to strip that from the constitution, effectively putting an end to long-running lawsuits that have forced lawmakers to spend more.

Abortion fight

With Brett Kavanaugh solidifying the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, there’s wide speculation that the Roe v. Wade case protecting a woman’s right to abortion is in danger.

If that landmark ruling is overturned, states might regain the power to outlaw the procedure, just like they could before the 1973 decision. The election of Kelly as governor makes that prospect less likely in Kansas than if Kobach had won.

That’s made anti-abortion forces anxious.

“It’s kind of like we’re in the desert for 40 years ... hopefully, 4 years,” Kansans for Life Executive Director Mary Kay Culp told KCUR’s Frank Morris. “And we’re going to have to deal with it.”

Poop gas

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is sending props to Dodge City and the way it captures methane gas from its wastewater treatment plant and sells it as high-quality natural gas.

Previously, it burned the excess methane. Pound-for-pound, methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.

Brian Grimmett explains that the Dodge City project lauded by the EPA aims to turn the methane gas released by the water treatment process into high-quality natural gas that can be used to fuel cars. The project is expected to cost less than $10 million dollars, but it will bring in an estimated $2.5 million a year from gas sales.

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.

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