My Fellow Kansans | KCUR

My Fellow Kansans

In the first season of My Fellow Kansans, we examined the forces and consequences of Kansas politics, the history behind it, and the likelihood of another course-changing election last November.

This season we’re turning to rural Kansas, because it too has a storied past. But as once-thriving towns continue to shrink, does it have a future?

That, fellow Kansans, depends on whom you ask.

The future of rural Kansas is our topic in season two of My Fellow Kansans — a podcast from the Kansas News Service. Our conversation begins October 18.

 Discover new episodes or subscribe here.

In this episode of KCUR's new podcast, A People's History of Kansas City, host Suzanne Hogan and Matthew Long-Middleton tell the story of the pugnacious Kansas sheriff and attorney general Vern Miller, whose antics seemed to be a throwback to the Wild West era but left a surprising legacy.

Daniel Caudill / Kansas News Service

In this episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas, host Jim McLean looks at the legislative session. Lawmakers are already at odds on the hot-button issues of abortion and Medicaid expansion. Republican leaders are pushing for quick passage of an anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution. Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning are joining forces to break a nearly decade-long stalemate on expansion.

A town loses population one decade after the next. Then a wealthy native son makes a generous offer: I'll pay the college tuition of every kid who graduates from high school here. Beyond putting college in reach for more families, the donation hopes to draw people to Neodesha, Kansas. Except ... it might just encourage people already in the region to change addresses. And the town is short on housing.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

While population numbers decay across so much of the Great Plains in Kansas, Dodge City, Liberal and Garden City stand out as growth stories. Their cattle trade draws immigrants, and those newcomers drive change. Dodge City likes to play up its gunslingin' Wild West reputation, formed in its earliest days in the cattle business. Now giant industrial meatpacking plants define the economy of a modern cowtown.

Chris Neal / For the Kansas News Service

Greensburg, Kansas, already found itself in a struggle for survival before getting leveled by a tornado in 2007. Then outside help and new hope emerged with the idea of rebuilding the town as a green, environmentally sustainable place. But the town's still lost more than a third of its population since the twister. It hopes for a rebirth, but powerful forces continue to drive depopulation even after its makeover.

My Fellow Kansans Live

Nov 11, 2019

My Fellow Kansans is coming to Johnson County Library Nov. 13 for a live podcast event. Host Jim McLean will lead a discussion about rural issues with a panel of special guests, including state Rep. Eileen Horn. If you live in the area, we hope you'll join us. RSVP at KCUR.org/Kansans.

Chris Neal/Kansas News Service

The closing of a rural hospital marks a particular loss for a community — greater distances to travel for health care, fewer jobs, and the sense that a town is on the wane. This episode of the podcast looks at the forces that have led to an epidemic of shuttered small-town hospitals, and some things being tried to resuscitate rural health systems.

Rural communities continue to empty out, victim to powerful economic forces that nudge people to larger cities and suburbs. If the depopulation in some places appears all but inevitable, some social scientists suggest it need not mean doom. There are ways to shrink smarter, focusing on improving the quality of life for people who remain rather than chasing businesses that might never come.

Many of Kansas’ small towns look weathered, worn and neglected after more than a century of exodus. The unending trend toward bigger farms, and fewer farmers, has sped that depopulation. That rise of modern farming techniques continues to pose a threat to rural cities and towns, particularly across the commodity crop-growing Great Plains.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

One decade after the next, since the days of the Homestead Act, remote Kansas cities and towns have seen their sons and daughters move on to bigger, more vibrant places. That's had profound impacts on rural economies, rural health care and the vibrance of communities whose past looks rosier than the future. Jim McLean examines the factors that could make a difference between towns withering away or making the best of a modern, rural reality.

Chris Neal/Kansas News Service

Rural Kansas has a storied past. But as once-thriving towns continue to shrink — does it have a future? That depends on who you ask. In season two of My Fellow Kansans, host Jim McLean explores rural Kansas to discover what the future holds for rural communities across the state. 

Our conversation begins October 18. Subscribe now.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

Kansas voters elected a new governor, Democrat Laura Kelly, who wants to promptly expand Medicaid eligibility, resolve a long-running lawsuit with more school funding, and address a crisis in the state's foster care system. But her ability to fulfill that agenda will depend on how willing a more conservative Legislature is to work with her.

Following an on-stage conversation with the governor-elect, My Fellow Kansans host Jim McLean was joined by Washburn University political scientist Bob Beatty and Kansas News Service reporters Stephen Koranda and Celia Llopis-Jepsen for a live panel discussion of the dynamics heading into the 2019 legislative session. 

Beatty, armed with insights from a Fox News exit poll, said voters are looking for their elected officials to chart a center path. 
 

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

With the election of Democrat Laura Kelly as governor, it appears Kansas is trending back to the center. But voters sent a mixed message as conservatives regained control of the Legislature. 

To cap off this season My Fellow Kansans, the incoming governor sat down with Jim McLean of the Kansas News Service and took questions from a live audience at Washburn University in Topeka. 

As Kelly prepares to take over the reins of state government, she said she's found the problems to be worse than she thought. But the governor-elect, a veteran of the state senate, is confident she'll have a "moderate majority" of Democratic and Republican lawmakers working with her on solutions. 

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service

Well, fellow Kansans, it’s over.

Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly, running as the “fix-it” candidate on the premise that Kansas had gone off the rails, beat “full-throttle conservative” Kris Kobach in the race for governor.

Her win signaled Kansans’ desire to, if not reverse the state’s turn to the right, at least turn down the political rhetoric and focus on the basics.

Madeline Fox / Kansas News Service

A race that looked to be oh-so-close turned out to be a clear victory for Democrat Laura Kelly, the new governor-elect of Kansas.

On this mini episode of “My Fellow Kansans” we hear what Kelly had to say on election night and her explanation of what vaulted her to victory over Republican Secretary of State and conservative firebrand Kris Kobach. 

Kansas News Service/File photo

If conservative firebrand Kris Kobach would continue Kansas on its path to the right, Democrat Laura Kelly would be its pivot back to center.

After a weak start early in the campaign, polls suggest Kelly is now virtually tied with her Republican opponent in the heated race for Kansas governor.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen / Kansas News Service

If there’s a talking point in Kris Kobach’s campaign that virtually no one could quibble with, it’s captured in his billboards: “The consistent conservative.”

On the campaign trail, he offers another term that underlines the ambitious Republican secretary of state’s approach to politics and to governing. He promises to be a “full-throttle” conservative.

Indeed, if his politics are conservative, his approach to public life is aggressive. He pledges a hard line against abortion, on immigration, for lower taxes.

And he promises to fashion a Kobach administration in Kansas the way President Donald Trump has remade politics in Washington.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas News Service/File photo

Of the three leading candidates in the race for Kansas governor, polls suggest Greg Orman is the least likely to win.

Recent surveys show the independent in single digits — well behind Republican Kris Kobach and Democrat Laura Kelly, who are virtually tied.

My Fellow Kansans LIVE

Oct 18, 2018

My Fellow Kansans is coming to Johnson County Library on Oct. 25 for a live event, featuring podcast host Jim McLean and political scientist Beth Vonnahme. We'll discuss the current state of Kansas politics and learn how Kansas voters are feeling ahead of the upcoming midterm elections. You'll have a chance to ask questions and hear more about the making of our podcast, too.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

In 2016, as Kansas voters revolted against Gov. Sam Brownback and his conservative allies in the Legislature, one-time Republican gubernatorial nominee Jim Barnett, saw an opening.

The Topeka doctor bought a red pickup truck, and, with his wife, Rosie Hansen, started exploring the possibility of running for governor again — this time as the unabashed moderate in a field of conservatives.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Before he was governor, Sam Brownback had been state agriculture secretary, congressman, and U.S. senator. But when he captured the state’s top office in 2010 he had even bigger plans: to transform Kansas into a red-state model for the nation.

That’s not the way things panned out.

File photo

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.

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.

 

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.