Republicans achieve big gains in Kansas House

The Republican wave was no more evident than in the Kansas House, and that could mean a big lurch to the right in state government. Before Tuesday’s election, the GOP held a 76-49 advantage in the House. Now it has a 92-33 advantage. That success goes along with a Republican sweep of statewide races from governor on down.

“It was not a pretty night for Democrats,” House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said Wednesday.

It was a history-making election.

The last time the House Republican margin was so lopsided was in 1954 when the GOP held a 105-20 advantage. And the last time Republicans swept the statewide races was 1964.

The Democratic losses in the House means the end of a bipartisan majority of Democrats and moderate Republicans that has fought for school funding, and passed a 1-cent state sales tax increase earlier this year to fend off what supporters said would have been devastating cuts to education, social services and public safety.

“It’s gone,” Davis said of the bipartisan group. “The face of state government has changed significantly with this election. You are going to see some very different things coming out of the Legislature. You have a very significant conservative majority in the House.”

Davis said he believes there will be much more force behind attempts to put additional restrictions on abortion, make it more difficult to get a divorce and prohibit domestic partner registries such as the one Lawrence has. All these issues have been in play during the past few years.

Republican Gov.-elect Sam Brownback emphasized fiscal issues during his campaign, proposing a “Road Map for Kansas,” which focused on improving the economy and student academic performance.

In his victory speech, Brownback continued that theme, saying, “We campaigned on the Road Map. We won on the Road Map. We will govern on the Road Map.”

But Brownback and Attorney General-elect Derek Schmidt have called for repeal of federal health care reform, and Brownback and Secretary of State-elect Kris Kobach have called for photo ID to vote and proof of citizenship to register to vote.

In addition, Davis said abortion opponents know they have a friend in the governor's office and will expect movement on their issue.

Kansans For Life put out a news release that said Brownback “will welcome, and sign, the many pro-life bills” that had been vetoed by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. And Kansans for Life said the Republican victories in the House further strengthened its hand.

“While he (Brownback) may not be actively promoting those kinds of issues, they are going to land on his desk. I expect he will sign most of those provisions,” Davis said.

Brownback has said he wants to impose a state spending freeze, while overhauling the school finance system, which accounts for more than half of state spending, and state tax policies.

He now has a larger majority to help him. The GOP advantage in the Senate was already 31-9.

Republican gains in the Kansas House occurred statewide.

In Johnson County, voters ousted five of six Democratic incumbents.

Republicans also picked up open districts that had long been held by Democrats, and toppled other incumbents across Kansas.

Davis said the Democratic losses were the result of Republicans making the elections a referendum on President Barack Obama.

“Republicans were very successful in executing a campaign strategy that clearly played well with the electorate,” Davis said. He said he doesn’t think the election results showed voter unhappiness with the sales tax increase.

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, which worked to defeat legislators who supported the state sales tax increase, hailed the results of the election.

“As we work to grow the Kansas economy by promoting job growth and retention, we are looking forward to a new era in Kansas government, led by Gov. Sam Brownback and bolstered by a more pro-business Legislature,” said Kent Beisner, chief executive office of the Kansas Chamber.

State Treasurer Dennis McKinney, a Democrat, who lost in his election bid against Republican Ron Estes, said Kansas Democrats are a resilient bunch.

“I’m going to predict that we’ll be back,” he said.

By Scott Rothschild

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