Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018

Congressional Candidate Watkins Prepares for Matrimony with Planned Parenthood Award Winner

I have good news and bad news for fans of Second Congressional District candidate Steve Watkins. The West Point grad and former Airborne Ranger is getting married on May 12th. (Though a website at The Knot devoted to the couple has since been scrubbed, Google handily caches that stuff.)

Normally, I'd simply say, congratulations, and it's about time. Matrimony is awesome! However, there's something voters should know about Watkins' bride. It's something I would want to know as I considered the (overwhelming) number of Republican candidates for Congress in the Second District.

Fong Liu, Watkins' intended, is a Planned Parenthood award winner. Liu is an OB-GYN. When she was in medical school, she served on the board of Planned Parenthood Alabama, and won the 2004 Young Volunteer of the Year Award  (page 21) from the organization.

She earned the honor by being a "patient escort, lobbyist, educator and past president of her local chapter of Medical Students for Choice."

For me, this disqualifies Watkins as a viable Republican candidate for U.S. Congress. It's not uncommon for a candidate to have a spouse with differing political views, but this isn't a soft-sort of difference of opinion about something like tax policy. This shows a dramatic moral departure from what most Kansas Republicans demand from their Congressional candidates.

Looking the other way is unconscionable. Giving a Congressional platform that will allow a rabid abortion supporter access to lobby on behalf of Planned Parenthood is intolerable for me.

Liu is an obstetrician and gynecologist who has lobbied on behalf of Planned Parenthood, an organization that sells baby body parts. This is a woman who walked pregnant women in to meet their babies' executioners.

I can't find anywhere online in which Liu denounces her prior support or reveals a change of heart. If I were a voter in the Second Congressional District, I would need to see an Abby Johnson-sized turn in order to support Watkins' candidacy. I just can't stomach the potential damage of having her rubbing elbows with policy makers if her deepest political principle is ensuring abortion on demand and using taxpayer money to do it.

I don't live in Kansas' Second District, but I am happy to report there are a number of great candidates in that race. Pro-life voters have several choices so they can cast a vote that doesn't mar their conscience in any way.

I sincerely wish Watkins and Liu the happiest of marriages when they enter matrimony May 12, but if Watkins has an ounce of pro-life principle in his body, he will abort his campaign rather than provide his wife an opportunity to advance her favorite cause of abortion through his candidacy.

Side note: Folks should probably take a look at donors to Watkins' PAC and his campaign. I hear there are some politically savvy folks behind him, and this makes me wonder if they knew this and found it acceptable. 

Friday, March 23, 2018

Guy Who May Not Actually Know Any Republicans Attempts to Handicap GOP Race

Serious question: Have Steve Kraske or his affable side kick from Lawrence ever met an actual Republican voter?

My guess, based on a recent column, is no. I want to preface everything I'm about to say with this: Contrary to what you may have heard, I don't have a horse in the Kansas Governor's race. I really like the GOP candidates, and I have grave concerns about each of them. (And if you're all lucky, maybe I'll regale you with Deep Thoughts on the topic in the future.)

In the meantime, Kraske's most recent effort at handicapping the race is just laughable.  Kraske theorizes, accurately, that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was likely the man to beat in the GOP primary for Governor. 

"Suddenly, though, January morphed into March, and Kobach is looking nothing like King Kong," Kraske breathlessly tells readers.

Everyone with two functioning brain cells knew the race would tighten when Colyer became Governor, based on the advantages of incumbency. When some of the candidates dropped out of the crowded race, the field was bound to narrow further. That one is based on math.

Kraske quotes an old poll conducted on Feb. 13 and 14 that found Gov. Jeff Colyer with a lead within the margin of error of 23 percent to Kobach's 21 percent. The poll included other candidates like Wink Hartman and Mark Hutton who have dropped out. And it was taken at the height of positive coverage for Colyer. He had just taken the Governor's office less than two weeks earlier. Since then, Hartman, who polled at 5 percent, has become Kobach's running mate. Does Kobach pick up that 5 percent? It's tough to say, but my gut says probably. A more recent poll suggests that too. 

Kraske's other exhibits for his thesis is Kobach's last campaign finance report. Kobach was lighter on funds than other candidates. Here again, that's yesterday's news. Kobach just named one of the state's wealthiest people as his running mate. Hartman was willing to ply his own campaign with $1.6 million of his own money. Will he drop a cool million into a joint ticket? Who knows? It's a plot twist that shouldn't be overlooked by Kraske and his faithful professorial sidekick. The money game is different today than it was back in January.

Kraske's final point is that Kobach's recent trial versus the ACLU went poorly, and here is where it starts to become obvious that the columnist is just penciling a tome of wistful thinking: No one except a handful of journalists and the "resistance" paid any attention to that trial. (Full disclosure: One of the attorneys involved once represented me in a legal matter.) Most members of the "resistance" aren't voting in the Republican primary.

Republican voters weren't following along that trial trying to choose a gubernatorial horse in the race. Republican voters aren't breathlessly awaiting a verdict. They paid about as much attention to the media coverage of that trial as I pay to American Idol. (Is that show still even a thing?)

No matter how that particular event shakes out, it will be a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it save for Bryan Lowry. 

Why do I have this picture of a young Lowry? I don't know. Someone sent it to me a few years ago. 

The idea that a stampede of Republican voters is going to base their votes on it is ridiculous. It is, however, likely to be mentioned in every story about Kobach until the end of time. 

The Star columnist glosses over a recent poll, released by the Kobach campaign so grain of salt etc., that found 31 percent of likely voters choose Kobach to 18 percent for Colyer. Its margin of error is 4.4 percent. 

That poll was conducted between March 15 and 17. It's a lot fresher than the poll on which Kraske hangs his hat. It suggests that 36 percent of those polled are still undecided in the race. Those are the likely targets of Kraske's pitch, but most Republican voters--especially those who vote in midterm primary elections--don't pick up the Star all that often. 

Bottom line: It's a little early to make sweeping generalizations about the state of the GOP race, especially if you're someone who doesn't know any actual Republican voters.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

In Which Gidget Plays Fun Killer

Lawmakers are invited to Skinny's tonight for an annual drunken karaoke event. 

Yes, it's the middle of the session. Yes, half of them have families at home who they've barely seen, and no, they still haven't decided what they'll do about school finance.

But they're headed to Skinny's in Topeka tonight to drink and make merry with lobbyists who organize the debauchery. The event begins at 9 p.m., but the real fun starts much later when liquid courage draws them to the microphone.

It sounds fun, but the optics are awful.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Swamp Meddling in KS with a Side of 2nd District Polling

The swamp is stepping into the Kansas Democratic race for Governor. Normally, I oppose Washington, D.C. jumping into the Sunflower State and pretending to understand anything about our Home on the Range. But if the swamp people want to mess up the Democratic primary, my feelings won't be hurt at all. 

The former western regional candidate services director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Jordy Ziegler, just announced she'll join Sen. Laura Kelly's campaign as campaign manager.

It sure looks like the Swamp is choosing the Kansas Democratic nominee before Democratic voters have a chance to cast a ballot. That should make other Democratic candidates fiery mad. The only one who seems to be firing back so far is Rep. Jim Ward. He's launched an all out assault on Kelly's voting record on gun control.  

Dems probably shouldn't be all that surprised by the national party's actions. See Chad Taylor and how the Dems disenfranchised all of their own voters in favor of an "independent" candidate in the race against Sen. Pat Roberts circa 2014. 

Swamp Dems should be careful. Their more recent efforts at selecting a party nominee over the objections of the actual voters yielded the Hillary campaign, and we all know how that ended: With liberals in genital hats crying and screaming at the sky. Great for comedic relief, not so great if winning is the goal.

Speaking of swamp meddling, one Republican candidate for Kansas 2nd Congressional seat visited Washington, D.C. last week. I don't have any insider information on why that might be, but if I had to guess, I'd say the Swamp is likely very interested in the Kansas Republican primary in the second district. 

Washington pundits are calling the race to replace Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins one to watch, and the Democrats have a strong-ish candidate amassing a war chest. That would be failed gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis. He lost to now-Ambassador Sam Brownback, but he managed a moral victory, narrowly winning the second. At last report, he'd raised $700,000 compared to a bevy or Republicans who collectively earned less. And that's money those candidates will need to fend off one another long before the general election. It's a problem.

So... perhaps the NRCC is auditioning candidates, hoping to back a horse in that race. For what it's worth, the NRCC is gross. They should stick to backing incumbents and let Kansans choose its own Republican horse. I think that's generally their task, but Democrats need to pick up a mere 24 seats to turn over control of the House to Nancy Pelosi, and with so many House Republicans choosing not to seek re-election, the GOP will be playing a lot of defense in 2018. (Also, every once in awhile, the general electorate really mucks things up. See the Roy Moore campaign. I don't know how regular voters goofed so epically on that one, but they boffed it badly, and now there's a Democrat representing ALABAMA in the U.S. Senate. Alabama!!!)

So... one Republican candidate was in D.C. last week.  Make of that what you will. For all I know, the candidate was visiting an old friend or polishing shoes at Metro Station to raise campaign bucks. That may be more lucrative than fundraising in Kansas right now since the gubernatorial race seems to be sucking up all the oxygen right now.

But while we're on the topic, I should mention that I've heard rumor of poll results in the 2nd. According to my super insider-y and somewhat gossip-y sources, a poll of 529 registered Republicans in the district gives a lead to Tyler Tannahill.

Tannahill is a political newcomer, which in all honestly, makes me incredibly nervous. (See Donald Trump's ridiculous comments on gun control. People who've spent time in the political trenches don't say stupid stuff like, "take the guns first and worry about due process later." They don't say those things, because they've carefully considered the issues and policies. Trump uses instinct, which might work great in the animal kingdom, but here in the human arena, we've been gifted with the ability to use logic and reason coupled with careful thought and study.)

Despite being a newcomer, Tannahill made a splash early by holding a campaign raffle for an AR-15. He launched the raffle a day before the shooting at a Florida school, and when the liberals discovered the raffle for an "assault" rifle, they went remarkably rabid, upping Tannahill's name recognition in an instant. Impressively, he didn't back down. So that's good. Perhaps he relies on reason and careful thought rather than "instinct."

The national media attention may be responsible for the mid-February poll indicating Tannahill would receive 14 percent of the vote in a primary election were it held that day.

State Sen. Caryn Tyson garnered 7.8 percent, followed by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald at 6.2 percent, and Rep. Kevin Jones at 3.2 percent. The remaining candidates didn't break 1 percent. 

The real takeaway from the poll is that 67 percent of voters in the 2nd remain undecided. Something needs to happen there to narrow the field, but so far, I don't see much reason for anyone to budge. No one has raised obscene amounts of money, and the polls aren't showing a big enough spread to encourage anyone to bow out. The very good news is voters in the 2nd have a lot of really good choices. Hopefully, they'll choose wisely.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Pair of Brewing Bromances in Kansas Governor's Race?

Heading into the Kansas Republican gubernatorial debate, I was worried the candidates were going to take off the gloves and start slapping one another in the face. Instead, the audience was treated to a pair of brewing bromances.

Word on the street is a few of these candidates might be swiping right and creating teams.

Here's what I've heard: Wink Hartman is set to suspend his campaign, maybe as early as this week, but he may not be out of politics all together once he does.

Meanwhile, Kobach is going to be looking for a number two to share his ticket. The unicorn, Republican lieutenant governor partner is a woman from the Big First Congressional District with elected experience, ag street cred, and a (conservative) voting record. That person is a myth, so Governor candidates will have to settle for someone who ticks only a few of those boxes (or at least someone who can fake it in cowboy boots and a snazzy belt buckle.)

Hartman doesn't have many of the unicorn requirements, but he has the one characteristic key to Kobach's heart: Hartman shares Kobach's values, judging from the Saturday's debate.

As an added benefit to such a ticket, Hartman solves concerns some voters might have about Kobach. Several insiders worry that the Secretary of State is more of a legislator than an executive. Hartman has spent his life as an executive. Hartman's biggest challenge is that he doesn't have the ability to wow a room, a quality Kobach has in spades. Kobach doesn't seem to enjoy fundraising all that much, and Hartman has a giant wallet.

They complement one another well.

Perhaps most importantly, I suspect a lot of hard Kobach supporters would choose Hartman as their second choice, and a lot of Hartman supporters would say Kobach is their second choice. Few of the supporters of either campaign are likely to walk away if they join forces.

If the rumors are true, expect Kobach to make an LG announcement a few weeks from now. 

I'm also hearing rumors that Mark Hutton and Ken Selzer may be eyeing a partnership. I am not hearing as many specifics, so this one doesn't ring quite as true, BUT those two gave each other lots of positive nods during Saturday night's debate. 

If that duo decides to team up, Selzer belongs at the top of the ticket. He has executive experience, and a statewide victory in a crowded Republican primary.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Musical Chairs -- Topeka (And D.C. Style??)

Big announcement coming tonight--Gov. Jeff Colyer will name his number two. 

But a handful of names being tossed around could lead to one of my favorite games: Musical chairs. I don't have any special insider-y knowledge, but I'll share what I'm hearing about where the music might stop.

1. Sen. Rick Billinger -- He's a farmer from the Big First, so almost a unicorn as everyone is looking for an LG who has ties to the Big First. Most would prefer a female, but short of some surgeries and hormone therapies, there aren't too many of those available with the right credentials.

He's from Goodland, where he served on the county commission for a few decades. He served two terms in the Kansas House and is in his first term in the state Senate. To be fair, I've also said he's a Hutton supporter.

If he gets the nod, folks in the 40th Senate District will name his replacement before the end of this session, marking the second statehouse change due to Colyer's ascendency. (The first is Larry Campbell. Campbell was named state budget director and will be replaced by precinct folks in Olathe soon.)

2. Jim McNeice -- He's a member of the Kansas State Board of Education. He checks virtually none of the unicorn boxes. He's male, virtually unknown, and from Wichita. He is a former teacher and principal, so there may be some school lobby excitement at his candidacy. 

I have no idea how state school board members are replaced. If it's anything similar to how local school board members are replaced, the board itself chooses the replacement. In my experience, most boards are really, really bad at this, and I have little hope the state board is any different in that regard.

3. Secretary of Ag Jackie McClaskey--she ticks all the right boxes. Ag background, ovaries, first district, but rumor has it she wasn't interested in the position. Still, Hawver says she's getting the nod. 

If she does, it will be interesting to see who replaces her as the head of Ag. There are a lot of farmer types in the statehouse. 

4. Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins -- This makes ABSOLUTELY no sense to me at all. BUT, her name has come up a few times now. She would've had a clean shot at the Governorship, but she chose not to run. However, LG is a part-time gig, and her resignation from Congress would spark a special election in the 2nd. There are a few reasons some Establishment-types might see that as beneficial. A Republican incumbent would have an easier shot at retaining the seat come November, and precinct people in the 2nd--NOT the primary electorate--would choose the Republican candidate for a special election. That person would then be the frontrunner in the August primary. I *do* think Establishment-types are leery of the choices right now. There are a bunch of candidates in the Republican race, and to date, none have raised nearly the amount of cash Paul Davis has. 

Any of the above would spark a fun game of musical chairs, because replacement candidates for the jobs they're all in likely come from the Kansas Legislature, sparking additional openings. This could be fun!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

One Legislator To Depart for Colyer Appointment

Get ready. One lawmaker is set to be named state budget director tomorrow. I don't have permission to name the person, but it means a JoCo district may be getting a new legislator soon.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

How Conservatives Should Respond to Media Requests from Now On

Conservatives are, in general, awful at dealing with the media. They seem to think telling the truth will be enough to cut through an undeniable and unreasonable bias. It never is, despite their best efforts.

However, we've now seen the ideal way to respond to media requests, courtesy of David Kensinger. Kensinger, as insiders know, is a former adviser to Gov. Sam Brownback. He's now a lobbyist.

And he trolled the media so hard that I can't stop laughing about it. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley filed a police report alleging that Kensinger threatened him by pointing a finger gun in his direction and mouthing the word, "Boom."

When the Kansas City Star sent Kensinger an email inquiring about allegedly threatening a lawmaker, Kensinger responded with the word, "Seriously?" and a picture of David Hasselhoff.

This is how conservatives should respond when asked something ridiculous--with a picture of the Hoff. 

I only wish I'd thought of it first.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Spinning the Wheel of Potential Lt. Gov Candidates

So... this is a super quick gossip drop. I'd like to write more, but I don't have the time to get too in-depth. So, I'm going to regurgitate some 4-1-1 and simply say, Talk amongst yourselves!

In addition to the 9 gazillion candidates for governor, come June 1, assuming everyone is still in the race, there will also be 9 gazillion running mates. This could be fun!! 

First, let's talk ideal qualities in a running mate in the Republican primary. The unicorn is a female with legislative experience with strong ties to the Big First. This person doesn't really exist. 

Word on the street is that approximately 1.5 million of the current Republican candidates have sent word to Ashley McMillian, the Vice Chair of the KS Republican Party. She doesn't have legislative experience, but she knows everyone, she's from the Big First, and she has Republican street cred. (Rules for obtaining Republican street cred: Never listens to rap music. Likes children. Blocks Gidget on Facebook. Knows all the cool kids, etc. etc.) Rumor has it, she's told everyone she's not interested, so everyone is forced to look elsewhere. 

Other popular potential LG candidates, according to the rumor mill, include Sen. Molly Baumgardner and former state Sen. Garrett Love. Baumgardner's district covers parts of the Third and Second Congressional District. She lives in Louisburg, but the district that she covers includes my house in Johnson County--barely. The people who talk about such things tell me she's been asked by more than one candidate and has told at least one candidate no thanks. 

Former state Sen. Garrett Love is another popular contender for an LG nod. He identifies as a male, so that hurts him. But he's from the Big First, where he's well known. He also has a reputation as a good fundraiser. I haven't looked, but people tell me his Senate account bulges with six figures. I hear he's also told at least one person he isn't interested. I don't know if that means he's not interested in serving with the person who asked or if that means he's not interested at all.

We're going to know Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer's running mate quite soon--probably. (I guess he could name an LG and then run with someone else.) Sources tell me he's looking at Jackie McClaskey. McClaskey is the current Kansas Secretary of Agriculture. And, she's a she from the Big First. Currently, she lives in Manhattan, where the state's Dept. of Ag is located. (This is in opposition of what's in state statute, but who's keeping track of that kind of nonsense these days.) Anyway, she is from Girard, went to K-State, now works in Ag. She ticks all of the Big First boxes, and she identifies as a woman. 

Kobach, I've heard, is leaning on someone who ISN'T from the Big First and who isn't a woman, but I've also heard that he's considering Senate President Susan Wagle. (I hear she's interested, too). This rumor makes about as much sense to me as attempting to get a line-less sun tan by basking in the three hours of sunlight in a Siberian winter. Kobach is running as a conservative, and Wagle's conservative street cred is, well, questionable. Though she's definitely making a bid to govern from the right this session, she's been squishy. Still, as some tell me, she is a woman. She has legislative experience, and only careful political watchers recognize that Wagle's politics have been a somewhat whiplash affair. 

Wink Hartman might announce his LG before the others. Word on the street is that he won't wait until the filing deadline in June to make that announcement. I haven't heard any names bandied about, but I have heard he himself has been approached by a few candidates about the possibility of joining tickets with Hartman as the LG. 

I think anyone who watches Facebook probably suspects Mark Hutton is thinking about Erin Davis as a potential number two. She's a woman with legislative experience and she's definitely in his corner. 

I haven't heard a thing about the remainder of the Kansas GOP candidates, nor have I been able to read their social media tea leaves to take a guess. Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer is definitely the dark horse in the race. He raised a surprising amount of money and has ties to the Big First and the Third, which opens up his options considerably.

Now, about the Dems: I've heard a crazy story. Word on the street is that presumed frontrunner state Sen. Laura Kelly is hoping to moderate her socialist side. Therefore, she's looking at actual Dem moderates. My (probably bad) Dem source tells me she's winking in the direction of former state treasurer Dennis McKinney. McKinney has served as a statewide official and hails from the Big First. Having farm creds probably matters a lot less on the D side of the ticket in Kansas. There are a LOT of Republicans in the First district, and a salty handful of Dems. The Dem strongholds are the People's Republic of Lawrence, JoCo, WyCo, and pockets of Topeka and Wichita. If the Dems continue on the path of actually having a primary election, the Dem candidates would be wise to pick an LG partner who can draw voters from those strongholders. If the Ds do what the Ds usually do, they'll settle on a frontrunner before the primary election. I honestly don't see that happening this time around, but the Ds continually surprise me.

And in that vain, the other rumor I've heard is that Kelly is considering Josh Svaty, the scariest of the Dem gubernatorial candidates for Republicans, to be her side kick. He would probably say she should be his number two, because he's the frontrunner. 

I'm curious what you all think. 

As David Kensinger would say, "Boom."