Republican moderates’ near sweep of contested primaries in Johnson County Tuesday represented a sharp tack away from the path blazed by conservative incumbents over the past several years, results that will likely have a significant impact on the way business is conducted in Topeka in the coming legislative sessions.
As officials and advocates analyzed the results of the elections, many pointed to the ground work of groups like the MainStream Coalition and Stand Up Blue Valley in helping spur moderates to head to the polls. MainSteam, for example, had nine summer interns working on turnout ahead of the election. The group canvassed more than 10,000 households and made more than 2,500 phone calls.
“We learned Tuesday that when voters are engaged and armed with information, they will select candidates that reflect their values,” said MainStream Coalition Executive Director Brandi Fisher. “This hasn’t always been the case for moderate voters in Kansas, especially during low-turnout primaries. As a result, extremely conservative legislators have been able to make it to Topeka.”
Judith Deedy, the head of GameOn for Kansas Schools, the northeast Johnson County-based advocacy group, echoed Fisher’s sentiments that Tuesday’s results advanced a group of candidates to the general election who better reflect the values and priorities of Johnson County residents at large.
“For the past several years, we have seen a disconnect between some legislators’ votes and their constituents’ values,” Deedy said. “On Tuesday, informed voters opted for multiple people who would be better ‘representatives’ than their current legislators.”
While conservative groups acknowledged the message from Kansas voters that they wanted a new course, they cautioned that in such volatile times, lasting change isn’t likely unless conservatives, moderates and liberals can start actually working in good faith to find common ground. Mike Jones, the chair of the Northeast Johnson County Conservatives, said it’s clear that voters across the political spectrum are angry this year, and that anger is being reflected in votes against established political powers at all levels of government.
“Moderate Republicans deserve credit for organizing their supporters with a focused message that worked, and marshaling that support into a wave that was not unlike the wave that ushered conservatives into power the last three cycles. We humbly congratulate those who won and look forward to future elections and advocating for the conservative message. Obviously, we have work to do,” Jones said. “While this will [be] relished as a victory for the left and moderates, will it translate into a victory for Kansas? Even in districts where crushing defeats were handed down, 40 percent or more of the voters will feel like they aren’t being represented properly in Topeka. Anger and emotion have taken over politics and until both sides can once again communicate and compromise with civility our state will continue to suffer.”