Monday, November 17, 2014

I don't think so, Virgil

I'm sure Rep. Virgil Peck is a super nice guy. He probably leads his church youth organizations and organizes golf tournaments for orphans.

But he's said some monumentally stupid and embarrassing things in public. So naturally, he's thrown his name in to challenge Rep. Ray Merrick for Speaker of the Kansas House.

I don't have any insider-y knowledge about this race, but if the vote for Kansas Speaker isn't 97-1 in favor of Merrick, we've got problems.

Unfortunately, the votes for House leadership aren't public. So, say Peck somehow manages to win or even come close, we won't know how members of the Republican Caucus voted. 

That drives me bonkers. 

Leadership roles are critically important, and as a constituent, I'd like to know that my Representative uses that vote in an appropriate manner. With anonymous voting, I really can't say that. The secret ballot certainly allows politicians to promise favors in return for leadership votes with absolutely no transparency. Not cool.

Anyway, Rep. Peck is infamous for saying Kansas could solve its illegal immigration problem by shooting illegals from helicopters like feral pigs. A very low moment for conservatives. I know it was a joke, but it wasn't funny. He said it in public, and Peck will never again be mentioned in the news without the information about his notorious gaffe seeing print. 

Conservatives don't need to be painted with that brush every time the Kansas Legislature gets a mention in the Topeka Capitol Journal or the Kansas City Star.

It's damaging enough that people are calling Peck's decision to seek the job a "challenge from the right." Just stop, media. It's a challenge from a guy who dresses like a clown. As far as I know, no conservatives are rallying to Peck's side. (I sure hope they aren't anyway. Peck hails from way, way down south. I'm from way, way Johnson County, so I have no idea what happens out by the Oklahoma border.)

Anyway, others seeking leadership roles include Randy Garber, Kyle Hoffman and Mario Goico, who each hope to serve as Assistant Majority Leader. They're all old white guys -- not that there's anything wrong with that. Garber is from Sabetha. Hoffman is from Clearwater, and Goico is from Wichita.

Travis Couture-Lovelady, so far, is the only person seeking to be Caucus Leader. Ron Ryckman, Jr. is the only person, so far, running for Majority Whip. (For what it's worth, Travis is young. Ryckman, Jr. is young-ish.)

Rep. Peggy Mast, Emporia, faces a challenge from Rep. Don Schroeder, Hesston, for Pro Tem. 

GOP will select its legislative leaders on Dec. 1.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pat Roberts sees the light

Fresh off a tight election, Sen. Pat Roberts appears to have seen the decidedly conservative light.

I was alarmed on Nov. 6, when Roberts reportedly said he wanted to "fix" Obamacare and end gridlock in Washington.

That's not what he's saying today.

Yesterday, he penned an editorial to The Kansas City Star promising to:

• Repeal and replace Obamacare, "lifting the burden on our job creators and lowering costs for patients;

• Stand up to unconstitutional attempts to imposed undocumented immigrants by executive order; ("undocumented immigrants" -- Roberts' language, not mine. They're "illegals.")

• Open the Keystone Pipeline, "shed the yoke of the EPA and finally become energy independent."

Roberts told Breitbart that he supports a strategy that would cut off funding for President Obama's planned executive amnesty.

On Election night, Roberts promised to be bold and conservative. His words suggest that's true. Let's hope he follows through with actions.

Someone's already worried about 2016

And her name is Air Claire McCaskill, who owes her Senate seat to the breathtaking stupidity of Todd Akin.

Anyway, Claire told reporters today that she will not vote for Sen. Harry Reid for Senate Minority Leader. He hasn't done enough to reach out to Republicans.

Riiiiiight. It's because she wants to work with Republicans.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dem autopsy a cautionary tale for Republicans

This guy at the DailyKos is probably onto something.

I really hope the Kansas Democrats never put him in charge. Although on second thought, I think I have met this guy one time, and I'm not sure they want him in front of a television camera. Behind the scenes, he could be dangerous.

His autopsy of what he calls the "error brigade" rings true to me, anyway. 

He writes: "The pressure it seemed was on Democrats: Stick to our message and our message is... unfortunately in March of 2014, the message remained: 'Not Sam Brownback.' This message, 'Not Sam Brownback' resonated only as far as a race with Sam Brownback in it of course, but even in that race, Democrats knew that it needed something else."

Obviously, they needed to define Paul Davis. They never did. They also failed to capitalize on issues the writer says would have resonated with voters, choosing instead to focus only on education.  They relied on big data rather than actually talking to people.

"Kansas Democrats simply assumed that education was the top issue for voters," he writes. "It resonated with them."

It didn't, thankfully. (Of course, we know that some of Dems' complaints about education funding in Kansas were simply inaccurate. Being honest is generally helpful when you're trying to reach people on a personal level.)

The Dems needed an edge in Johnson County, but the author said the education issue was always going to be a hard sell in this end of the state.

"...the new plan in Johnson County -- a place that Democrats had to win -- to provide middle school students with free iPads and high school students with MacBooks would completely destroy an education argument. Parents simply wouldn't accept the idea that schools where (sic) if their kids were coming home with free technology no matter how rural schools suffered," he wrote.

But that, he said is the fault of Democrat schemers for using data rather than actually talking to people. 

He suggests that residents in the southwest Kansas, specifically Hispanics, had concerns about the minimum wage. In western Kansas voters wanted to talk about water conservation, ag policy and wages.

But, he notes, Democrats don't recognize these issues when they're running statewide campaigns from Topeka and Lawrence. (He also mentions the detrimental challenges of having a communications director who calls some parts of Kansas, "crapholes." D'oh!)

Republicans should learn from these conclusions:

1. An effective political party should be a bottom-up organization. 

"A state party is almost never built top down. A governor doesn't suddenly build up a party full of county commissioners and state house members. The reverse is almost always true."

Gov. Brownback started building the Kansas GOP machine long ago. Unfortunately, I believe once he reached the pinnacle, he quit listening to the grassroots. The Governor famously got involved in selecting delegates to the state party. The state party writes the platform and is typically includes precinct people and party volunteers. These are the people who do the entirely selfless work of campaigning. And for the Governor to deign to attempt to control who lands in those slots is just tacky and disgusting. This election was scarier than it should have been, and I suspect that is in part because Brownback appears to be somewhat of a narcissist, surrounded by yes people who will not allow a sliver of discord. It worked this time, because the electorate in Kansas is truly conservative, but I don't think that's a long-term plan for success.

2. A wise party encourages local candidates to run provides them active support, the DailyKos author writes.

The writer gives too much credit to the idea that Republicans are doing this in the way we should be. We aren't, but it's solid advice.

3. Talking to voters is far more effective than relying on polling.

The national GOP earned its comeuppance on this one in the 2012 election. The Dems, it seemed, had a magical turnout machine and the Republicans had one had technical problems on Election Day in 2012.

My fear is that we could go the way the Kansas Dems did this year in the future. Our tech and data did what it was supposed to do in 2014, but we cannot be complacent. They should never, ever replace actually talking to people one-on-one. 

4. Finally, the author makes a plea for Kansas Democrats to get out of their bubble in Topeka and Lawrence. 

"If the Kansas Democratic Party hopes to survive, it must fumigate it's (sic) office and realize it doesn't belong in Topeka. Or Lawrence. It must move to Salina. Tomorrow. Immediately."

The Kansas Republicans have done a fairly decent job of getting out of Topeka, but we aren't working hard enough on the ground in places like Wyandotte. And I am continually baffled at the echo chamber where most party faithful spend their time. Our echo chamber is great right now, but the demographics long term are not in our favor. We must do the work now of engaging minority voters, WHERE THEY ARE;  and of engaging single women voters -- fewer and fewer people are getting married these days.

We're going to need to peel off larger and larger of segments in those two populations if we hope to succeed 10 years from now, and possibly, if we hope to have continued success even in 2016. 

The voters in the graphic above, they'll be back in 2016. If we don't start educating them now, they'll be at the polls, woefully ignorant, and likely to vote with the Democrats.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Eating Crow

I was wrong, and like I expect my elected officials to do, I am taking responsibility.

I anticipated that Gov. Sam Brownback would lose. He pulled through, and I am grateful. It should be noted, he had far fewer votes than Sen. Pat Roberts and far less than Kris Kobach. I also expected that Brownback and Roberts may be a drag down ticket. They were not.

I had misconstrued concerns about Congressman Tim Huelskamp. He wrapped up the Big First handily.  I should know better than to believe the media narrative. 

I was so, so wrong about Johnson County, and I'm embarrassed. I live here and pride myself on being of the people. It's possible I'm not as down home as I think I am. I expected Laura McConwell would win a seat on the Board of Commissioners. Didn't happen. I also expected Rep. Paul Davis and candidate Greg Orman to do much better in Johnson County. They didn't even win the county. 

Johnson Countians deserve much more credit for their conservatism. We aren't a bastion of Democrat-lite anymore, and that makes me happy.

Roberts helps take the Senate: What it all means

So what does this election mean? What's the message?

The message was not that voters want the parties to work together to "get stuff done."

If the goal of the voters was to get Congress working, they would have sent as many Democrats as possible. Democrats NEVER have a problem working with one another, but they draw the line at working across the aisle. 

Anyone who reads the election tea leaves and believes the message is anything other than a complete and total repudiation of Obama and his policies should lay off the drugs.

Listening to pundits and politicos wax philosophical I am troubled that they are continually saying there will be no effort to overturn Obamacare. Twenty-five Senators who voted for Obamacare are vanquished from the national scene, and 100 percent of the newly-elected GOP Senators -- Sens.-elect Cory Gardner of Colorado, David Perdue of Georgia, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Steve Daines of Montana, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska -- campaigned on repealing Obamacare.

There may be a message there. So when I hear Mitch McConnell concede that repeal is impossible, I feel like slapping a kitten. Conceding defeat before mounting an effort is so, so stupid. (That's a message for real life, kids. Don't ever, ever concede defeat. Ever. Ever. When you stop trying to win, you lose -- unless you're a professional football team playing the Oakland Raiders.)

I am also concerned that Jerry Moran's group -- the National Republican Senate Committee, or whatever they're calling themselves now -- is parroting lines about "crushing the Tea Party" by finding electable candidates.

I do not know how you look at what appeared to be a terrifyingly close race in red Kansas and draw the conclusion that you found the most electable candidate and stamped out the Tea Party. Please, please make no mistake, newly-electeds, you are riding a red wave of victory today, because the Tea Party went to the polls this time.

But as a self-proclaimed Tea Partier, I will tell you right now, I am done being a battered wife. I did it this time to keep the marriage together until the kids are grown. But I am done. If you, newly-electeds, think you're going to go to Washington, reach across the aisle and give the Dems great, big bear hugs, I am finished voting for you. I don't know if that means third party or staying home, but I'm done getting punched by you all. Done.

Back in the old days, the Establishment at least did the Tea Party the favor of only hitting us where the bruises won't show, but now? McConnell, Cochran and others have NO compunction with punching us right in the eye.

I sincerely hope the old white guys who were gifted a return trip to Washington take a sliver of humility with them. To his credit, Roberts seemed to hear the message. He promised supporters last night that he would be bold and conservative.

However, he told the crowd he wasn't dragged by his feet to victory, he charged up the hill (or some such nonsense). And I would argue, no. That's not what went down. Tea Party conservatives did what needed to be done. And no matter who gets out front and attempts to take the credit for that win, that truth will remain. We went to the polls and did what needed to be done. 

For my part, I will be watching, and I will not go quietly into the night just because the election is over. I helped send Pat Roberts back to Washington, and I expect him to be a thorn in the President's side. Anything else is a punch in the face.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Wrap Up

There's a good chance we don't know who controls the Senate before bedtime tonight. If we're lucky, we'll know early, early tomorrow morning. Worse case scenario, we don't know until December or even January.

The DailyKOS has a handy map showing when polls close across the country. (Their times are listed in Eastern, so think one-hour earlier, Kansas friends.)

We need three of toss-ups, in addition to pick-ups in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota -- currently held by Democrats, but likely to swing. That's assuming we're able to hold Kansas and Kentucky. If we lose those we need five toss-ups from Alaska, North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Iowa, New Hampshire (!!), Georgia, and/or Louisiana. 

Things don't get all that interesting until 6:30 p.m. when North Carolina polls close. If Kay Hagan loses, I think the Senate is officially ours. The Real Clear Politics average gives Hagan the tiniest edge, a .7 advantage. 

Voters' part in the Sunflower State Showdown ends at 7 p.m. I told you my predictions yesterday, but I am re-thinking everything today. Several poll watchers, election workers and voters have called to tell me their polling stations were packed this morning. That's not unusual, but there's a polling place across the street from where I work, and into the afternoon, I am watching a continuous line. Most of the voters appear to be of the gray-haired variety. Make of that what you will. JoCo election commissioner Brian Newby told the Kansas City Star today that turnout looks high. I can't decide if that's good for our team or bad for our team. We should know some results within an hour of poll closing, but there is a western sliver of the state in which polls close at 8 p.m. 

At 8 p.m., Colorado polls close. The RCP average and the most recent polls appear to give Republican Dan Gardner the advantage. But it's Colorado. The people there are super, super weird, and half of them are probably high. 

Louisiana also closes at 8 p.m. All of the Important Pollsters and Pundits (IPPs) are calling the Pelican (Bayou??) State a toss-up. Doesn't matter. It is highly unlikely this race is decided tonight. If no candidate gets 50 percent of the vote, the runoff election will be Dec. 6. 

Another toss-up state, Georgia, is also likely to require a runoff election. The runoff isn't scheduled until January. JANUARY!! The good news is all of the smart people believe that we win it in a run-off election. The bad news is that everyone who lives in Georgia is going to wish for an electromagnetic pulse to knock out all communications between tomorrow and the Jan. 6 election. I can't imagine the prospect of having to listen to more campaign garbage for two more months. Sorry, Georgia. Really, really sorry.

At 9 p.m. Iowa polls close. The race there is about as much of a must-win for Republicans as I can remember. If things go badly in the evening -- say, heaven forbid, Kansas has been called for Orman (who VP Joe Biden has now outed as "with" the Dems. Huge shocker.) -- Iowa could look like a do-or-die.

And here's why political watchers aren't getting any sleep tonight: Alaska is a toss-up. In the worst case scenario for Republicans, the Senate is effectively tied with a supposed Independent from Kansas awarded a Senate seat, Louisiana and Georgia up in-the-air, Arkansas or Kentucky go wonky. Alaska polls close at midnight, waaaaaay past my bedtime. 

Long story short: I'm probably skipping the parties this year. (I don't really like them anyway -- too country club, too social climbing, etc.) I am going to try to peel myself away from the television and Twitter and spend some quality time with the people who matter to me.

I advise you to do the same.