My Fellow Kansans | KCUR

My Fellow Kansans

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 September through the election as we examine the forces and consequences of Kansas politics, the history behind it and the likelihood of another course-changing election in November.

If you’re already subscribed to Statehouse Blend Kansas, stick around – we think you’ll enjoy My Fellow Kansans from the Kansas News Service.

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.

That's A Wrap

May 7, 2018

Kansas lawmakers have ended their 2018 legislative session. School spending, guns, and taxes were at the center of big debates this year. This week we discuss what passed, and what didn't. 

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?

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.

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?  

After months and months of debate, it’s finally happened. The Kansas Legislature has passed a school funding plan. Now, the questions are whether lawmakers can fix a mistake in the plan and, once fixed, whether it increases funding enough to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court.

The clock is ticking for the Kansas Legislature to agree on a new school finance formula. One lawmaker in the middle of the debate says while progress is being made, it’s not happening fast enough. On this episode, the story of the legislature’s increasingly frantic efforts to meet the court’s end of the month deadline.

 

Is this the right time for a new political party in Kansas? Can an independent candidate win the governor’s race? The coming election could give us answers to both questions. The viability of independent candidates and parties in this edition of Statehouse Blend Kansas.

Last year the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state wasn't adequately funding its public schools. What the justices didn’t say was how much more money would be enough. But a new development has potentially changed the debate to the tune of $2 billion dollars. 

 

Are Kansas’ strict voter registration laws necessary protections against fraud, or are they a nakedly political attempt to disenfranchise certain voters? That question is at the heart of a federal trial going on in Kansas. We explain this complicated issue and get the latest from the Statehouse. 

In the weeks since the shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school, student activists and others have taken to the streets in an effort to spur policy makers to talk about how we regulate guns. But, is that debate happening here in Kansas?

Statewide criminal registries took off in the 1990s, fueled by crimes against children and a desire to alert people to the presence of sex offenders in their neighborhoods. But some are saying that Kansas’ database has gotten out of hand, that it’s expanded to include too many different types of offenders. So, a debate is beginning about how it might be streamlined.

 

The Medicaid Gap

Feb 20, 2018

Kansas is one of a handful of states that have not expanded Medicaid. This has created a gap for patients who are too poor to afford insurance, but make too much money to be eligible for Medicaid. Advocates say that expansion could give coverage to these people, but with consistent legislative opposition, what are the odds of a bill passing this year?

The political divisions in America, and Kansas, appear deeper than ever. Republicans and Democrats can't seem to work together on anything. One candidate for Kansas Governor thinks an independent party might help our polarized politics. We talk with Greg Orman on this episode of Statehouse Blend Kansas.

How important is the tone a Governor sets in state politics? Can a tenor of optimism or the opposite affect policy? As Kansas transitions from former Gov. Sam Brownback to new Gov. Jeff Colyer, we discuss what practical difference this change in leadership might make in the statehouse.

During his State of the State address, exiting Gov. Sam Brownback said his budget recommendations included an additional $600 million in funding over the next five years. That left many lawmakers stunned, and Senator Jim Denning, a Republican representing the 8th District, angry. We sit down with Denning to talk about what he's expecting as Lt. Governor Colyer takes on a new role as governor, and discuss why an attempted ousting of a legendary state employee ignited a major backlash.

 

Matt Hodapp / KCUR 89.3

For a while, it seemed as though it would be a long time before Kansas lawmakers came up with a tax plan that could pass. Just when it seemed the impasse was at its worst, the Women's Caucus stepped up with a plan that led to a compromise.

Guests:

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

With school finance, taxes, and a budget passed, the Kansas Legislature adjourned. Just after the final yays, nays, and hurrahs, podcast host Sam Zeff hopped into the Topeka studio with Kansas News Service reporters Celia Llopis-Jepsen and Jim McLean for a quick take on the legislative session that was.

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