Know what’s going to make this year’s elections for Kansas legislative races intriguing?
It’ll be just who voters send to Topeka from the 13 districts where in 2016 voters checked Republican Donald Trump for president on the same ballot they voted for a Democrat to represent them in the Kansas House of Representatives.
Oh, and then there are the seven Republicans who were sent to Topeka from districts where Democrat Hillary Clinton was the winner of the presidential vote.
Here are the 13 Democrats in Trump-carried districts: Reps. Adam Lusker, Frontenac, Monica Murnan, Pittsburg, Cindy Neighbor, Shawnee, Tom Burroughs, Kansas City, Debbie Deere, Lansing, Jeff Pittman, Leavenworth, Tim Hodge, North Newton, Ed Trimmer, Winfield, Tom Sawyer, Wichita, Brandon Whipple, Wichita, Steve Crum, Haysville, Patsy Terrell, Hutchinson (deceased), and Eber Phelps, Hays.
The Republicans in Clinton-carried districts: Tom Cox, Shawnee, Stephanie Clayton, Overland Park, Jan Kessinger, Overland Park, Linda Gallagher, Lenexa, Melissa Rooker, Fairway, Randy Powell, Olathe, and Tom Sloan, Lawrence.
These are the districts where — apparently — votes don’t trickle down on party-line tickets.
We’ve had two years of Trump as president, and while there was party allegiance in most Kansas House districts, we Statehouse habitués wonder what happens this year when the Republican president’s policies start trickling down on Kansas.
Remember two years ago when asked about their presidential preference, many Republicans said, “Donald who?” and then moved away from conservations to make sure they’d shut off their car in the parking lot.
Nobody knew just where Trump would take the country, but for traditional Republican voters, it sounded a little risky.
And Democrats...once they learned Trump’s stance on tax cuts, immigration, international trade and such...started branding everyone with an elephant (and no union bug) on their campaign signs as “Trump supporters.”
Back in 2016, Trump won 91 Kansas House districts, Clinton 34. And in most of those districts, Clinton presidential voters voted for Democrats, Trump voters voted for Republicans for the House.
In his first two years, Trump clearly divided his traditional Republican Party into conservatives and moderates — as they have been dividing themselves in the Kansas House for the past three or four election cycles.
Now, that division, which used to be “Gov. Sam Brownback” and “Non-Gov. Sam Brownback,” appears to be moving to “Trump” and “Not-Trump” among Republican voters.
That’s going to make the legislative elections interesting this summer and fall.
Governor? Oh, yes, we’ll elect a new governor and there will be a new Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner and see whether we’ll keep or fire the Attorney General and State Treasurer...but that’s the top of the ticket. Those candidates don’t generally knock on your door unless they’re out of gas.
Kansans know where the work gets done. It’s the Legislature where your taxes, roads, social services, kids’ education and general quality of life are determined. Not the top of the ballot, but at ground-level (third floor actually) in the Statehouse.
We’re going to see just what Kansans want in the way of representation in the state where they live. We’re going to see how Republicans campaign on state issues, not national issues that may trickle down into everyday life in Kansas. Count on Democrats to campaign on local issues too, of course, but with the parting shot that Kansans probably need a representative to “protect” them from — or at least slow down — whatever Trump might do in his next tweet.
Or, maybe those cross-party elections were just the result of candidates getting to know their voters, knowing what’s important to them, and working to make it happen.
That’d be nice...
Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report. Visit his website at www.hawvernews.com