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    Kansas Governor’s Race Seen Redefining G.O.P.




    Kansas Governor’s Race Seen Redefining G.O.P.

    Post  joe on Fri Oct 22, 2010 7:47 am

    Kansas Governor’s Race Seen Redefining G.O.P.

    PAOLA, Kan. — This state has been painted, unwillingly at times, as a caricature of a certain brand of conservatism. It was here that the State Board of Education challenged the theory of evolution, that an abortion provider was fatally shot at his church, and that a writer set his polemic “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”

    Ed Zurga for The New York Times
    Sam Brownback, who is expected to win the governor’s race in Kansas, is a conservative in a state dominated by moderates.

    But while Republicans dominate the State Legislature and the governor was once chairman of the state party, the reality about those who currently control Kansas is far subtler — the effective majority in the Legislature is a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats, while the governor defected to the Democratic Party.

    So, if Sam Brownback, a former United States senator and, briefly, presidential candidate, is elected governor in two weeks as nearly everyone expects, Kansans are anticipating the type of conservative revolution that those living elsewhere already assumed had swept through this state long ago. Mr. Brownback’s ascent would be the culmination of a civil war that has raged here for decades between moderates and conservatives in the state’s Republican Party.

    While the governor’s office has flipped back and forth between moderate Republicans and Democrats, Mr. Brownback would be the first conservative to hold the office in at least a half century.

    John Hanna/Associated Press
    State Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City is the Democrat challenging Sam Brownback in the Kansas gubernatorial race.

    “At this point the conservatives have won,” said Boo Tyson, executive director of the MAINstream Coalition, a nonpartisan organization.

    “The reality is,” said the current governor, Mark Parkinson, the former Republican chairman who left the party over his concerns about its shift rightward, “there will never again, ever, be a moderate Republican governor. Those days are over.”

    Supporters of Mr. Brownback are looking forward to checking off a long conservative wish list — including tax cuts, spending freezes, regulatory rollbacks and new restrictions on abortion. “There is certainly excitement that when we put a bill on his desk that he is going to sign it,” said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life.

    And moderate Republicans in the Legislature, many of whom survived ouster campaigns from within the party this year after voting with Democrats to temporarily increase sales tax, are bracing for what they fear could become a permanent political shift.

    The Republican legacy here runs deep. It was the Republican Party that led the push for the Kansas Territory to be granted statehood as the nation plunged into civil war 150 years ago.

    Generations of Kansans have repaid the party with enduring loyalty at the ballot box; nearly always backing the Republican candidate for president, sustaining the nation’s longest streak of sending only Republicans to the United States Senate. They generally show so little interest in the Democratic opposition that the old nickname “bleeding Kansas” could be misread today as a reference to the unmistakably crimson hue of state politics.

    Since the Reagan revolution, however, there has been a growing debate about what, exactly, a Kansas Republican should look like. The moderate establishment points back to a series of homegrown prairie pragmatists like Alf Landon, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bob Dole. It may be telling that, in contrast, the state’s most prominent conservative has only started to gray in recent years.

    That would be Mr. Brownback, 54, a farm boy turned politician who became the youthful face of the party’s ascendant conservative wing by defying the party establishment to challenge a moderate Republican who had been appointed in 1996 to fill Mr. Dole’s Senate seat. At the time, many inside the party viewed Mr. Brownback as so conservative that when he won the primary they openly backed his Democratic opponent.

    Fourteen years later, Mr. Brownback’s brand of religiously infused social conservatism seems increasingly mainstream here. Indeed, there has been some conservative discontent over the times he has teamed with liberal colleagues on issues like human rights and immigration reform.

    The only challenger he faced in the primary this year was from his right, a candidate who argued that every law be rooted in the Bible and the Constitution. The person he selected as a running mate, often an act of political balancing, is known as a staunch conservative.

    But Mr. Brownback’s politics continue to be the focus of his Democratic opponent, State Senator Tom Holland, who has talked about Mr. Brownback’s relationships with polarizing conservatives like the billionaire Koch brothers and the evangelical leader Lou Engle.

    “Kansans want moderate leadership,” Mr. Holland said, pointing to the election defeats of State Board of Education members opposed to teaching evolution and the attorney general who crusaded against abortion rights. “We have a history again and again where conservatives take over and do something extreme and the voters kick them out of office.”

    Even if that message fails to prove a winning one next month, Paul Davis, the Democratic minority leader in the State Assembly, believes the conservative takeover of the Republicans may eventually lead to a realignment of the parties. As evidence he noted that three incumbent Democrats in his caucus first won office as Republicans.

    “I think over time,” Mr. Davis said, “you’re going to see more and more of these moderate Republicans decide that they have more in common with Democrats than with conservative Republicans.”

    For now, though, conservatives are celebrating what promises to be their most successful election to date. The party is well positioned to win the entire Congressional delegation for the first time in more than a decade with an unusually conservative slate. And though the Legislature might still field a significant number of moderate Republicans, they first had to overcome a coordinated ouster campaign from within the party that was financed in part by a fellow Republican state representative.

    Stephen Morris, the president of the State Senate, said there had been “a lot of resentment” among his fellow moderate Republicans about primary challenges. But he praised the overtures Mr. Brownback has made during the campaign toward moderates, adding, “We really don’t know what to expect from Sam.”

    Bill Graves, a former two-term Republican governor, said he suspected that moderation would come naturally. “There is a huge difference between being a vote in a legislative body on policy issues and being chief executive,” he said. “There is a certain pragmatism you have to bring every morning in order to serve the state.”

    At a campaign stop at the small town square here last week, Mr. Brownback, dressed in khakis and a button down, seemed unusually relaxed for the final days of a campaign. He shook hands and sipped local cider and chatted unhurriedly with about two dozen supporters before making some brief impromptu remarks.

    Afterward he would talk privately about the advice he received from Newt Gingrich years ago about how to change the political culture of a place: You have to win three election cycles, he remembered Mr. Gingrich telling him, three in a row. But now, speaking to supporters, he focused on election No. 1.

    “I hope you vote Republican this fall,” he said. “Let’s get a clean sweep.”

      Waktu sekarang Fri Oct 21, 2016 2:36 am