Thursday, September 4, 2014

What Happened In Kansas

The headline at TPM read “Democrat Drops Out Of Kansas Senate Race.

It sounds like very bad news for the Democrats’ hopes to keep the Senate in their control: Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) would cruise to re-election and the GOP would pick up six more seats.  Hey, presto, Mitch McConnell is the Majority Leader and dems da berries for the rest of the Obama presidency.

Not so fast.  The Kansas senate race was a three-way, pitting Mr. Roberts against the Democrat Chad Taylor and Independent Greg Orman.  Mr. Roberts had a small lead in the race — he’s had troubles of his own, including a rather odd Tea Party primary challenger who in his spare time posted x-rays from his medical practice on Facebook — but with Mr. Taylor out of the race, Mr. Orman actually has a pretty good lead in polling over Mr. Roberts.  Mr. Orman, a former Democrat, has indicated that if elected he would caucus with the Democrats, but even if he doesn’t, he still denies the Republicans a safe seat in the Senate.

There is more going on in Kansas than just the Senate race.  Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is struggling in his race for re-election after using the state as the Great Experiment for all the Tea Party economic wet-dreams of cutting taxes.  His draconian measures drained the state coffers and damaged its credit rating.  He purged the state GOP of anyone suspected of harboring a nice thought for common sense.

But the Republicans that he purged are not going quietly, and it may have been this bit of news that prompted Mr. Taylor to drop out of the race.

More than 70 former Republican lawmakers announced their support for the independent candidate for U.S. Senate over incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts on Wednesday.

Traditional Republicans for Common Sense, which is made up of moderate Republicans who have served in the Kansas Legislature, chose to endorse Greg Orman over Roberts and Democrat Chad Taylor.

“Our members know leadership because they’ve been leadership,” said Jim Yonally, the group’s chairman and a former state representative from Overland Park. “Our members have been there. They’ve been on the frontline. They’ve had to make the tough decisions.”

The group sees Orman as a pragmatist who can broker compromises between the two parties, said Rochelle Chronister, who has previously represented Neodesha in the House and served as chair of the Kansas Republican Party.

[…]

The group’s membership has a lot of overlap with Republicans for Kansas Values, which endorsed [Democrat] Paul Davis over Gov. Sam Brownback in the governor’s race in July, with a few exceptions. Chronister has not endorsed either candidate in the governor’s race, but she has criticized Brownback in public statements.

What this comes down to is that if the Democrats keep the Senate in 2014, the one person they may have to thank in their victory speech is their former colleague and far-right talisman Sam Brownback.