Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Hard Left

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hard Left

The Kansas House and the Kansas Senate took a hard left yesterday. Though House Republicans gave the Speakership to Ron Ryckman, the more conservative of the two candidates, pretty much every other leadership race (with the exception of Scott Schwab for Pro Tem) in the House went to the so-called "moderate" candidate. 

(Can we have a quick word about calling them "moderates?" I get so sick of this. The word suggests that the folks on either side of the so-called "mods" are extreme, which couldn't be further from the truth. We need a new word. I don't know what that is, but vernacular is key to winning a narrative, and so "moderate" has to go. I think I may start calling them lukewarmers. I'm open to suggestions.)

Two things enabled Ryckman's victory in what should have been about a 44-41 vote for Hineman. First, I suspect many Johnson County Republicans--even the lukewarmers--were uncomfortable handing the keys to the House over to Rep. Russ Jennings, a Lakin Republican. The western lukewarmers' idea of a new school funding formula excludes local control and simply redistributes Johnson County money to rural districts. Second, I suspect some legislators have trust concerns with Jennings. Rep. Steve Johnson, an Assaria Republican, said almost as much to a Wichita Eagle reporter. 

"While I don't always agree with Ron, I know I can trust him," Johnson said. 

Over in the Senate, Susan Wagle retained the Presidency as expected. I was surprised to see seven votes for Sen. Ty Masterson, the more conservative of the two candidates for Senate President. My tally had Masterson at 5 or 6, though I hear there was an expectation by real insiders (not me) that Masterson would have 8. One Republican may said one thing and done another. Sen. Jeff Longbine will serve as Senate vice, and Sen. Jim Denning will be majority leader. 

Though there are people caterwauling on Twitter about Ryckman and Wagle being conservatives, I think Ryckman is to the left of former House Speaker Ray Merrick, and honestly, I don't think Wagle has acted much like a conservative in the last year. 

Meanwhile, the Dems took a noticeable turn left as well--at least in the House. Rep. Jim Ward beat out Rep. Tom Burroughs to become House minority leader. Somehow, Ward is to the left of Burroughs. 

For conservatives, that SHOULD mean tackling budget issues at the front end of the session and not waiting until the clock runs out at the end of it. There are other political pressures at work that could give conservatives some leverage (Ahem. Fourth District. Ahem. Potential other statewide openings.) if they act quickly.

No faction has a clear majority, because no one has any idea where the lukewarmers are going to settle on most issues. With the Kansas Supreme Court likely to demand somewhere between $450 and $900 million more in school funding and existing budget challenges, this session is going to test the principles of anyone who actually has them.

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