Johnson County voters buck pollsters’ predictions, help propel Brownback and Roberts to new terms

Nearly 200,000 Johnson Countians cast ballot via early voting or at their polling place, like Community of Christ Church in Prairie Village, above.
Nearly 200,000 Johnson Countians cast ballot via early voting or at their polling place, like Community of Christ Church in Prairie Village, above.

The nearly 200,000 Johnson County voters who flocked to the polls Tuesday bucked the predictions of pollsters who suggested they would favor Democratic and Independent candidates in statewide elections, instead helping push Gov. Sam Brownback and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts to reelection.

An NBC/Marist poll released just last week found that in the Kansas City area, Rep. Paul Davis enjoyed a comfortable lead over Brownback, with 54 percent of likely voters saying they planned to vote for the Lawrence Democrat over just 34 percent for Brownback. But on election night, Brownback won in Johnson County by 2,771 votes, 49 percent to 47 percent. Davis fared much better in Wyandotte County, beating Brownback there 66 percent to 31 percent. Combined, the two Kansas City area counties went 50.1 percent for Davis to 46.9 percent for Brownback, far below the margin needed to overpower the results from western Kansas counties where Brownback enjoyed much greater support.

Johnson County also voted in favor of Roberts, giving him a 2,430 vote edge over Greg Orman. Without the backing of his home county, Orman was handily defeated statewide, losing 53-43 percent to Roberts.

Stephanie Sharp, the former state representative who now serves on the JCCC Board of Trustees and also works as a political consultant, predicted ahead of the close of the polls Tuesday that Brownback and Roberts would win reelection, but said after the final tally that the Johnson County results surprised her.

“I thought they would both lose here but would pick up enough across the state to overcome it,” she said. “Getting the right people to the polls made the difference. You still have 50 percent of the electorate who didn’t vote yesterday – our social media feeds, phones, emails were full of voters but half the population isn’t engaged, and campaigns count on that. They also count on the negativity keeping voters away from the polls altogether.”

Congressman Kevin Yoder’s 63-37 win over Democrat Kelly Kultala in Johnson County let him glide to a third term in office, and Secretary of State Kris Kobach fended off a challenge from Democrat Jean Schodorf with the help of Johnson County voters who supported him by a 57-43 margin.

Countywide, 190,735 of the 380,824 registered voters went to the polls Tuesday or cast their ballots via advance voting, a turnout rate of 50.08 percent. That turnout is significantly below the 269,632 voters who cast ballots in the 2012 presidential election year, but on pace with the 184,834 Johnson Countians who voted in the 2010 election that first sent Brownback to the governor’s office.

In northeast Johnson County, Republican incumbents Barbara Bollier, Stephanie Clayton and Melissa Rooker widened their margins of victory from the 2012 election cycle. In 2012, Bollier defeated Democrat Amy Bell 53-47 with 12,698 votes between the two of them. Last night, Bollier took fully 62 percent of the vote to Bell’s 38 with 9,540 total votes cast.

Clayton defeated Democratic challenger Patricia Stratton 65-32 this year. In 2012, she beat Democrat Zach Luea 59-41 to earn her first term in office.

And Rooker, whose district leans Democratic in many parts, defeated challenger Jennifer Robinson 57-43, a more comfortable margin than the 51-49 it took to defeat Roeland Park City Councilor Megan England in 2012.

In District 24, newcomer Jarrod Ousley defeated Republican Brandon Hermreck 61-39.