Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): January 2014

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I'm not a big fan of the Kansas GOP Convention. The annual event went down without much of a hitch. I attended. 

As my traveling companion, who is not very active in politics said: It looked like a bunch of rich people trying to impress each other.

The friend didn't stay long at the convention. Friend simply stopped in to pick me up so we could spend the day hanging out once the things I needed to do were complete. And yeah, friend's description pretty much summed up why I can't stand the convention. 

I wish the state party would do a better job of getting regular people to the event. I did my part. I brought someone who otherwise isn't normally involved politically. I wish more people would do the same, and that everyone who regularly attends would work harder to make newcomers feel welcome. It seems like such a waste to get all of those politicians and lobbyists and staffers and grassroots advocates together without trying to bring in as many new people as possible. New people means political buy-in. More volunteers. More electoral wins. Dynamic and diverse ideas.

A bright spot this year: Someone actually decided to set up actual learning opportunities at the convention. This was sorely missing in previous years. It's usually just a lot of networking and fundraising. The actual exchange of ideas was limited before this year. Many kudos to whomever made the decision to offer sessions on things like social media and fundraising. 

Pretty much everything else was mildly tortuous. At least this year, one of the big name speakers invited by the Governor doesn't appear to be a criminal. (A few years ago, one of the big speakers, invited by Brownback personally, was Virginia's now disgraced former Gov. Bob McDonnell.)

My least favorite part of the entire thing is random people coming up to me and saying, Who are you? For the record, that's rude. If you want to know who someone is, the appropriate way to handle the situation is to say, "Hi, my name is Gidget." Most people will respond with their names.

The problem is most people don't want to actually know the individuals they're accosting with "who are you?" They are trying to determine if the "you" they're addressing is worth their time or effort. Are you someone who can get me up close and personal with someone important? Are you important? Do you have spare cash you'd like to donate to a cause? That's really what the question means, and I hate it.

I get that question a lot. I suspect it's because I look like I don't belong there. And I guess that's the true in some respects. I am a conservative first and a republican second. I care much more about winning issues than I do about having more people on the red team in office. The red team isn't that good at advancing its causes, even when they control the ball. 

So that brings me to the stunner of the convention: State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald is running against Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins. (Gasp!)

He announced his intentions at the convention, and to hear people talk, you would think he beat a puppy and smacked his grandmother. The faux outrage was instantaneous and over-the-top.

People were angry that this upstart would dare campaign against a sitting Republican. The nerve of that guy who is going to cost campaign time and money and possibly affect other races by throwing his hat in the ring.

It is the exact same reaction that greeted Milton Wolf when he decided to run against Sen. Pat Roberts.

I disagree 100 percent with the angst. No one is entitled to a seat in the U.S. Congress. Not Lynn Jenkins and not Pat Roberts. I'm saying this as a person who likes both of them. 

The debate is worth having, and I personally think that having a primary opponent typically pushes Republican incumbents to the right. I think both Roberts and Jenkins will vote, speak and advocate further right knowing they have to face a very conservative primary electorate in the near future. Nothing wrong with that. 

State of Ridiculousness

There was so much nonsense in Brownback's State of the State Address that it took me several days to really consider it. My immediate thoughts about the speech went something like this: Brownback has lost his mind. He's jumped the shark. He's taken complete leave of his senses. 

I waited to post, because I want to give our governor the benefit of the doubt.

He may still have some of his marbles, but he's definitely jumped the shark. 

Brownback's proposals are tired retreads. 

Most baffling is the Governor's insistence that we MUST HAVE ALL DAY KINDERGARTEN. Not only that, but it should be funded by the state.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why we need this when all of the research on the topic suggests whatever small advantages kids garner from all-day kindergarten evaporates by the end of first grade. So I guess, we're shooting for higher grades the first semester of first grade? I'm not really willing to pay thousands of dollars for that outcome. If it were my money, I would weight the benefits with the cost and see that it's not worth it.

But it's an election year. And apparently half of Kansas is  convinced that the condition of most Kansas schools is roughly equivalent to those of concentration camps. So conservatives think the solution to this (non-problem) is more money, more money, more money. Oh, and more teachers. And more teachers in teacher's unions. Problem solved!

The other arguments I've heard for the state-funded, all-day kindergarten go something like this: The sooner kids go to school, the sooner we can intervene (with their problems. They're too poor. They have special needs. They have <<insert challenge that only state funding can solve>>). 

My problem with this is a very philosophical belief about government intervention into the lives of citizens. I don't like it, period. I can understand and appreciate that earlier autism interventions, for example, mean better outcomes for children with autism. But funding all-day kindergarten with that as a purpose seems like dropping an ocean-size net in the hopes of catching a few minnows. 

The second most common argument goes something like this: Day care is expensive. Kindergarten is better than daycare. State funded, all-day K helps parents. 

Um. Since when did it become the goal of state government to make sure life is a bowl of cherries for parents? Government shouldn't do anything to make parents' jobs more difficult, but I'm not sure why those without children or with grown children should have to work so parents can put their kids into state-funded day care. And if that's really a problem we want to solve, why not just call the Brownback proposal "All-Day State-Funded Daycare?" At least you don't have to have a teaching license to run a daycare. Kansas could put kids in state-funded daycare for about a quarter of the cost of all-day kindergarten.

A bulk of Brownback's speech was dedicated to education, and a large part of that involves his plans to take money out of my wallet to line the pockets of teacher unions. No thanks.

Also, whoever wrote this line, "It seems strange to me that the state counts all of the 12 and only half of the K." That's Brownback, in the speech. Dear speechwriter, take a lap. I think the phrase was meant to be catchy or witty or quotable. It wasn't. It's yucky and ridiculous. Don't use it again.

Like his kindergarten proposal, the majority of Brownback's proposals involve spending more money. The Governor also proposed $2 million in new spending to address housing shortages in rural Kansas. 

I don't get it. If there are housing shortages, aren't there developers interested in solving that problem and making money on the solution? This just seems like the job of entrepreneurs. When government fills a gap, it crowds out opportunity for businesses and individuals. 

In addition to his proposals, the Governor used part of his time to spout complete and total nonsense. The speech was filled with head-shaking non-sequiters.

For example, in the middle of the speech Brownback introduced two wounded war veterans from Ft. Riley. Now, I love our soldiers probably as much or more than anyone, but the introductions were for show.

"Please welcome Capt. Adam Cowan and Capt. Casey Wolfe. In Kansas we honor our veterans. We remember their service with gratitude and are humbled by their commitment to this great nation," Brownback said. And before and after that he talked about stuff that has zero to do with the military or soldiers. 

Introducing soldiers was pure political theater. I would like to think Republicans are better than that -- attempting to score points that way. I mean, introduce them as your special guests at the beginning of the speech if that's the case. But why, in the middle of the other nonsense, make a show of pointing them out? It was theater and nothing more. Not cool.

And then there's the stuff about traveling to Mound City to meet with descendants of the survivors of the Pottawatomie Trail of Death. Brownback said he went to a graveyard where American Indians were buried, and he apologized "for the barbarous treatment of Native Americans moved to Kansas."

But he wasn't finished with apologizing on behalf of everyone in the state. Brownback also offered his apologies for segregated schools. Or Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education.What on earth. 

"As Govenor, I acknowledge and accept responsibility on behalf of the people of Kansas and I ask forgiveness for these wrongs we have done," he said.

Seriously. What in the world? Who is he apologizing to? Was he an active participant to any of those things? I sure wasn't, and you'll note, I'm not running around apologizing for things I didn't do and had nothing to do with.

That is the garbage self-righteous liberals use to score political points. It's about as vomitous as it gets. Why would any self-respecting Republican copy this page from the liberal handbook? It's insulting. 

There you have it. Brownback gave a speech. It was shockingly and embarrassingly awful. So I'll offer apologies on Kansas' behalf. I am sorry for that icky display of politics. I did have something to do with Brownback's election. I worked on his campaign. I voted for him, and I talked many of my friends and neighbors into doing the same. 

Take my apology with a grain of salt, though. There's a better than even chance that I'll be voting for Brownback again. I've got limited choices.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

K. Yo will have Kompetition

Rep. Kevin Yoder will have a Democratic opponent for his 3rd District Congressional seat.

Kelly Kultala announced her campaign for Congress this morning. Hope springs eternal, I guess, because the odds of her being successful this morning are about the same as my chances of winning the lottery. 

In a press release, she said, "Washington these days reminds me of when my daughters were little and would fight over their toys -- lots of finger pointing and name calling but nothing gets done."

Kelly said she's ALWAYS worked together to get results in bipartisan fashion. (It's just wonderful to hear the waves crashing from the balcony of my ocean front home in Kansas.)

KK's press release says she went back to college while her daughter was a baby and how she was a working mother paying the bills for her cancer stricken husband. 

And, of course, the release explains that her time in public service has been defined by working with Republicans and Democrats. (She's not really a liberal, people, really!!)

So, the race for the third Congressional race just got a little less boring, I guess.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Guess who isn't coming to dinner?

Jay Sekulow.

Kansans for Liberty is throwing a fundraising dinner in Topeka on Jan. 14. 

As recently as Dec. 31, the group's website advertised that Jay Sekulow, of the American Center for Law & Justice, would be a special guest speaker at the event. 

Only, that's not true.

A discerning reader sent American Center for Law & Justice an email inquiring about Sekulow's participation in the event, only to learn that Sekulow, an attorney, would not be attending. (His name was spelled incorrectly and the name of his organization was also incorrect.)

As my informant said:

"If someone is going to use a big name to up their ticket sales, maybe he shouldn't choose someone who sues people for ethics for a living."

That sounds about right. 

For what it's worth, Sekulow's name no longer appears on the website. The speakers now include Walt Chappel, a former Kansas Board of Education member; Kristin George, the co-founder of Kansans Against Common Core; and state Rep. John Bradford.

I had never heard of this group before receiving an anonymous email, but according to their website their  mission is to build a positive working relationship and dialogue between the grassroots movement in Kansas and state legislators, and to work for legislation that is moral, constitutional and protects the sovereignty of state and individual.