Blunt the conservative movement in Kansas
The Kansas City Star
For nearly two decades, the Mainstream Coalition’s political action committee (MainPAC) has proudly backed a bipartisan slate of candidates in every Kansas primary and general election. Whether a candidate is a Republican or a Democrat has never mattered to us. What has mattered, and will always matter, is whether candidates embrace Mainstream’s moderate principles - whether they’re committed to keeping religion out of government and government out of religion; whether they support a strong and well-financed public education system; and whether they make decisions independent of extreme ideologies.
This year’s election is no exception. MainPAC’s endorsements for the Nov. 6 elections include both Republicans and Democrats. Unfortunately, this year we are finding fewer candidates to endorse. The reason for this is simple: the conservative wing of the Republican Party in Kansas has turned its back on the moderate values we promote.
The Aug. 7 Republican primary elections, decided by a paltry 17 percent of the electorate in Johnson County and 11 percent in Wyandotte County, claimed many of the moderates we endorsed. With backing from corporate funders such as the Koch brothers, Gov. Sam Brownback targeted the moderate senators who opposed his conservative agenda, and won. The party’s conservative wing, which already had a firm hold on the House and the Governor’s office, is now poised to take over the Senate if it can repeat its success in the general election. The majority coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats that had served as a shield from Gov. Brownback’s conservative agenda — a coalition that supported merit selection of judges, an equitable tax system, strong public school funding, and a thoughtful discourse of women’s issues — is now endangered.
The party that gave us such respectable and moderate voices as senators Nancy Kassebaum and Bob Dole is today a party controlled by conservative religious interests and corporate funders who want to shrink government to the point of irrelevance. They believe voucher-funded private schools are a perfectly acceptable alternative to a strong public education system. And they find favor with a narrow coalition of religious conservatives who deny evolution and demonize candidates who do not support an outright ban on abortion.
In this new political reality, the stakes are high. Should the conservatives emerge from the Nov. 6 elections with 27 of the Senate’s 40 seats, they will have what is called a “constitutional majority.” That is, they would have the power to amend the constitution to weaken public funding for our schools and give the governor more control over the selection of judges, based on politics rather than legal merit. Moderates need 14 votes in the Senate to thwart the conservatives from attaining this constitutional majority. The November election is our last chance to keep this from occurring.
In past general elections, enough moderate candidates had survived their primaries to give MainPAC a healthy number of viable candidates from both parties to endorse. This year, few moderate Republicans survived the primary. Be assured, however, that we will, as we always have, keep our eyes out for the extremists in both parties. We will call out those candidates who, regardless of their party, put ideology before facts, whose fiscal policies jeopardize our public schools, and whose religious beliefs lead them to impose their personal theology on the entire state. Mainstream has never strayed from this responsibility, and it never will.
As the November 6 election approaches, we want all disaffected moderate Republicans to know that they can count on Mainstream to be their political home. At the same time, we urge these Republicans to put their principles ahead of their party. If they hope to preserve any tradition of moderate politics in Kansas, they must identify and support those candidates who embrace the principles that have long made this a great state to live in.
Moderate Republican leaders must also go one step further and make their support public. It is time for those leaders, past and present, to stand up, speak out, and tell the state that the party they’ve called home for all these years has moved sharply to the right. It is time for them to follow the lead of many Republicans who have openly challenged the rising tide of extremism in the Republican Party. It is time for them to stand up with MainPAC and publicly support the candidates who best represent their values.
Brandi Fisher is the MainPAC executive director and Mark Dugan is the MainPAC board chair.