Former Johnson County Sun publisher Steve Rose has spent decades analyzing Johnson County and Kansas politics. But in all that time, he’s never seen a political scenario where so much was at stake as what lies on the horizon today.
In fact, Rose says, the coming battles in the state house and at the ballot box between moderate and conservative factions of the state’s Republican party are so momentous that the very future of the Kansas hangs in the balance. (See Rose’s Wednesday column in the Kansas City Star for more details.)
In a speech Thursday during a legislative forum hosted by the Mainstream Coalition at Colonial Church, Rose painted in stark terms the potential consequences of the current budget debates and upcoming elections, in which the most conservative elements of Republican party politics have targeted eight moderate state senators for defeat. Three of those senators, Terrie Huntington of Fairway, John Vratil of Leawood, and Tim Owens of Overland Park, are from Johnson County — and their reelection is crucial to maintaining essential funding for public schools and social services, Rose said.
“It is probably the most important election the state and Johnson County have ever had,” he said. “The fate of this state depends on what happens to the senate in the coming election.”
Rose said well-heeled backers like the Koch brothers and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce were prepared to spend countless dollars propping up conservative candidates. The elections are likely to get nasty.
“They (the conservatives) will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars lying about these people (the moderates),” he said. “And the average person going to the voting booth might buy it.”
Should just two of the eight senate seats swing from moderate to conservative, the entire leadership of the state senate would shift. And if conservatives took over the senate leadership, it’s likely they would be able to pass measures that would make deep cuts to state income taxes, and in doing so decimate public schools funding and social services. Their theory, he said, is that eliminating all corporate and income taxes would create so much growth that it would compensate for the revenue such cuts would eliminate.
“They actually think that if you cut taxes, you’ll have people moving here from Florida and Texas and places like this,” he said. “It’s voodoo economics. But that doesn’t mean they don’t believe it.”
Rose, who briefly declared a candidacy as a Republican for U.S. Congress in 2010, said the extremism of conservative legislators in the state was driving liberal and moderate political factions to team up.
“I’ve heard about the Mainstream Coalition for years, but I’ve never been to a meeting,” Rose told the crowd of 150 at Colonial Church. “Because, to be honest, I’ve always thought the group was a little too liberal for me. But as things have gotten more and more out of control in Topeka, I feel we’ve gotten closer and closer together.”