GOP Wins Top Kansas Races; Right Scores Down Ballot

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Republicans won the top election races in Kansas and voters appeared to push the GOP-dominated Legislature to the right as counting stretched into Wednesday.

Mitt Romney's claim on the state's six electoral votes as the GOP presidential nominee had long been conceded before Tuesday's election by supporters of Democratic President Barack Obama. Every Republican nominee has prevailed in Kansas since 1964, and neither campaign had much of a presence this year.

The four members of the state's all-Republican delegation also won re-election. Two-term Rep. Lynn Jenkins had the most spirited challenge in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas but defeated Topeka minister Tobias Schlingensiepen.

With no U.S. Senate race this year and Republicans expected to comfortably win re-election to all four U.S. House seats, the most closely watched races were for the Legislature.

President Obama had a relatively strong showing in Kansas in 2008, grabbing nearly 42 percent of the vote. With almost all of Tuesday's votes counted, Obama had about 38 percent, with exit polling of more than 700 voters showing that the economy was their top concern.

"The last four years Obama made promises -- and he hasn't kept them with the debt and job growth," said Taylor Weaver, a 21-year-old Andover technical designer at Spirit AeroSystems who voted a straight Republican ballot. "Obama and the Democrats -- they had their chance."

Legislative races were intense because Democrats have worked with moderate Republicans leading the Senate to stall some of Brownback's agenda, even though the GOP had majorities of 32-8 in the Senate and 92-33 in the House.

Republicans appeared headed toward keeping those majorities, but that was good news for conservatives because the GOP right defeated eight moderate senators in the August primary. If trends early Wednesday held up, conservatives would hold 27 seats in the 40-member Senate and as many as 75 in the 125-member House.

The GOP's biggest targets were four Democratic senators in northeast Kansas -- Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka, Tom Holland of Baldwin City, Laura Kelly of Topeka and Kelly Kultala of Kansas City. Holland and Hensley won their races. Kelly led her contest, but Kultala trailed in unofficial results in her district.

"I've always felt Kansas is a conservative state, and that's one of the things I've appreciated. It seems the Legislature has become a little bit lax in some areas," said Bret Allen, 46, a Republican banker from Lenexa who voted for Republican Greg Smith in the state Senate race.

Democrats unseated Republican Sen. Chris Steineger of Kansas City, who'd switched parties after losing the Democratic primary for secretary of state in 2010. His district was mostly in Wyandotte County, one of the state's few Democratic strongholds.

They sought to make legislative races a referendum on Brownback and massive income tax cuts enacted this year. Brownback and others who back the cuts contend they'll stimulate the economy.

On Tuesday, state officials and university economists issued a new financial forecast predicting the state will collect nearly $705 million less in revenues during the fiscal year that begins in July 2013 than it will during this fiscal year, as massive income tax cuts enacted this year take effect.

Legislative researchers immediately projected a budget shortfall of $328 million, reflecting the gap between anticipated revenues and existing spending commitments for the next fiscal year.

Eric Meyer, a 29-year-old Topeka resident, works for the Kansas Association of School Boards and sees the tax cuts as a threat to future education cuts. He and his wife, Britta, 23, a receptionist and cosmetologist, is expecting their first child, a girl.

"We've just kind of come out of the Great Recession," he said. "We're thinking we're finally out of this mess, and this tax plan could throw us into a greater recession."

But the exiting polling Tuesday showed that voters gave Brownback relatively good marks for his nearly two years in office. John Mayhon, the 52-year-old owner of a Topeka insurance agency and a Republican, said criticism of Brownback's tax plan is "almost a scare tactic."

"It hasn't had enough time" so it can work, he said.

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