Moderates | KCUR

Moderates

Courtesy of Joy Koesten

Most of the focus so far this election season in Kansas has been on the competitive primaries for gubernatorial and congressional nominations. But races for the state House could prove just as consequential.

Across the state, conservatives are challenging moderate Republicans and Democrats in a coordinated effort to reclaim legislative seats they lost in 2016.

Jim McLean / Kansas News Service

A Republican state senator who endorsed a Democrat for Congress and criticized Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer’s health policies is paying a hefty political price for speaking her mind.

Senate President Susan Wagle announced last week that she had stripped Sen. Barbara Bollier, a moderate from Mission Hills, of her leadership position on the Senate health committee.

file photo / Kansas News Service

A group of Kansans hoping to establish a new centrist political party in time to field candidates for the upcoming general election failed to get enough signatures to make that happen.

Even so, they say, they got enough support to convince them that they could be on the 2020 ballot.

“We’re in it for the long game,” said Scott Morgan of Lawrence.

Whether you live in Missouri or in Kansas, when you head to the polls you often have to decide between two parties: either Democratic or Republican. But sometimes, there's another option. Today, we explore the concept of third parties and discuss why some candidates run as independents. Also, we compare our local political scene with the rest of the country.

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.

Helene C. Stikkel / U.S. Department of Defense

As  the first woman to represent Kansas in the U.S. Senate, Nancy Kassebaum Baker is a political legend. Today she shares her thoughts on the current state of the Republican Party, locally and nationally. Also, tracing one's lineage is popular, but it remains challenging for descendants of slaves. A genealogist explains the common challenges that can arise, and offers professional advice to ease the journey.

Manitoba Provincial Archives - CC

Do moderates even exist in today's bifurcated political landscape? Today, we examine the ideals of centrism and learn about some of history's notable moderates. Then, we celebrate National Winnie the Pooh Day by remembering the morale-boosting bear of World War I who inspired the world-famous cartoon character.

Kansas Legislature, coloring by Kelly Tate

Next Monday, Dec. 5,  all the lawmakers elected to the Kansas Legislature will meet in Topeka to nominate new leadership for the 2017 session.

Without a doubt, there will be many more Democrats and moderate Republicans in the statehouse this time. Conservative Republicans lost roughly a third of their seats in the just-certified elections. 

But conservatives will still be the single biggest faction in both the House and the Senate, and so a lot depends on who they back for top posts. 

How many moderates?

Courtesy of Thomas Frank

Kansas was the birthplace of Prohibition and an epicenter of the anti-abortion movement.

Historian and political analyst Thomas Frank — a Mission Hills native — wrote a whole book, What's the Matter With Kansas, about how politics in the state has been fueled by conservative social ideals.

Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10 a.m. Nov. 9 with results from Johnson County.

Democrats gained enough Kansas House seats in Tuesday’s election to form a coalition with moderate Republicans to pass or block right-wing legislation.

But any such coalition will be more tenuous in the Senate after Democrats gained just one seat there.

Gov. Sam Brownback and conservative Republican allies have controlled the legislative agenda since moderate GOP leaders were purged from the Senate in 2012.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Growing up in Shawnee, Tom Cox remembers looking up to “traditional Republicans.”

Politicians like Bill Graves, Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum – Kansans who were willing to reach across the aisle and set political ideology aside in the interest of public policy.

“My pitch at the door? ‘I’m running against a Brownback Republican, and I’m an anti-Brownback Republican,’” Cox says. “We need to save our state,” Cox says. “We need to focus on tax reform, education reform and protecting local governments as a start.”

Frances Burnett, 91, switched her party registration from Democrat to Republican so she could vote in the Senate District 34 primary for Ed Berger.
Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

For the first time in more than 30 years, there’s a Democrat running in every Kansas Senate district. But their fellow left-leaning Kansans might not be voting for them in August.

That’s because some are so fed up with Gov. Sam Brownback, they’d rather switch parties to vote for a moderate Republican in the primary than allow the governor’s supporters to stay in the Legislature.

A lifelong resident of Arlington, Kansas, 91-year-old Francis Burnett laughs when asked if she’s a Democrat.