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Politics, Elections and Government

Noonletter, Nov. 7, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Kansas is America

Laura Kelly is the latest Democratic governor-elect of Kansas. She portrayed her win Tuesday as a victory for bipartisanship and an eagerness for civility in the state. After all, Kris Kobach represented, in his words, “full-throttled” conservatism engaged in “intellectual combat.”

Sure enough, she had a sizable roster of Republican politicians of yesteryear endorsing her campaign and at least implicitly saying that the Kobach dude is just too much.

But geography seems ever more to be destiny.

In the reddest parts of Kansas, he slaughtered her by two-to-one margins. All across the spread out western expanses of the state. And even in big counties outside their cities. Kelly won because people in the cities, suburbs and college towns backed her — and drifted farther from their country cousins.

Federal ain’t state

It was the thing that scared any other Democrats from running against Paul Davis in the 2nd Congressional District primary: When he ran for governor four years ago, he at least won in that district.

If ever a Republican seemed vulnerable in that district — the eastern third of the state minus Johnson and Wyandotte counties — Steve Watkins was it. His gaudy resume of West Point, combat service, humanitarian and business wiz, quickly fell apart when reporters began to look into the particulars.

But in 2014, Davis was running for a place in state government. Partisanship matters there, to be sure. But issues of how to keep roads patched, prisons from boiling over in riots and, chiefly, schools running properly, don’t split so much on red and blue lines.

Federal races, on the other hand, turn more obviously on cultural issues. Congress also sticks us with a bigger tax bill than the Kansas Legislature.

That’s why nobody’s holding their breath for the election of the next Democratic U.S. senator from Kansas. It's also part of the reason why the Republican Watkins is among the Kansas newcomers headed for Capitol Hill.

… And in this corner ...

Sharice Davids is the first openly lesbian woman from Kansas elected to Congress.

Campaign ads directed against her seemed gear to drum up fears about her background. Calling her a socialist and using footage of one of her fights. MMA is brutal stuff to a lot of people, and focusing on woman fighting could be seen to reinforce some stereotypes of lesbians. 

At the same time, the victory of someone with her particular identity — over a four-term incumbent, no less — represents validation to other folks. Her win, Sam Zeff learned at the Davids victory party, brought a new level of excitement.

One polling place, no reporters allowed

Dodge City drew national attention before the election for moving its lone polling place to the edge of town. The American Civil Liberties Union went to court to force the opening of a second, more convenient spot for the city’s majority-Latino population. A federal judge ultimately ruled it was too late to make a fix.

So, predictably, reporters were curious to see how things went.

Election officials in Dodge City wanted to keep them away, saying they didn’t want anything to disrupt voting.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reported journalists weren’t allowed to take photos or video in the Western State Bank Expo Center.

Press groups objected. More here.

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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