Or­man pre­vent­ing ref­er­en­dum on Brown­back’s poli­cies

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Opinion -

In 2016, Brown­back was not on the bal­lot, but many right-wing Re­pub­li­cans, who had sup­ported his ex­ten­sive, high­in­come-ori­ented tax cuts, proved vul­ner­a­ble. A host of mod­er­ate Re­pub­li­cans and Democrats won enough seats to over­ride Brown­back’s 2017 veto of higher in­come taxes and then, in 2018, these leg­is­la­tors re­sponded to the Kansas Supreme Court by pass­ing a $500 mil­lion in­crease in school fund­ing.

Score one (2014) for Brown­back and one (2016) for his op­po­nents. Nev­er­the­less, nei­ther elec­tion rep­re­sented an ac­tual ref­er­en­dum on Brown­back and his poli­cies, given his ab­sence from the 2016 bal­lot and the Roberts fac­tor in 2014. More­over, with Brown­back gone from the state and the in­tro­duc­tion of in­de­pen­dent Or­man, the 2018 elec­tion will also con­sti­tute an im­per­fect ref­er­en­dum.

Re­gard­less, Brown­back’s legacy pow­er­fully af­fects this con­test for gov­er­nor.

Most re­mark­able in 2018 is Kris Kobach’s com­plete em­brace, and then some, of Brown­back’s tax-cut­ting ex­per­i­ment, al­beit with a few twists. He si­mul­ta­ne­ously ar­gues that he will fund class­room ed­u­ca­tion (by his def­i­ni­tion) and re­build our in­fra­struc­ture, all through eco­nomic growth. That’s Brown­back rein­car­nated.

As a so­cial con­ser­va­tive, Kobach has moved fur­ther right than Brown­back in ad­vo­cat­ing against non-ex­is­tent voter fraud and beat­ing the anti-im­mi­grant drum as loud as he can.

In sum, Kobach has dou­bled-down on Brown­back’s far-right record.

If this elec­tion posed a sim­ple yes-no vote on Brown­back’s legacy or Kobach’s pol­icy po­si­tions, Kobach would likely lose. In­stead, the 2018 gov­er­nor’s race comes down to its can­di­dates. Put­ting aside the mi­nor in­de­pen­dent can­di­date and the Lib­er­tar­ian, a straight-up con­test be­tween Repub­li­can Kobach and Demo­crat Laura Kelly would prob­a­bly, even in red-state Kansas, elect the mod­er­ate Demo­crat, given Kobach’s ap­par­ent ceil­ing of 43 or 44 per­cent.

While not as flashy as Kobach (no ma­chine gun trucks), Kelly may well be ex­actly the per­son to con­tinue the progress of the last two leg­isla­tive ses­sions, to say noth­ing of pru­dently ad­dress­ing ed­u­ca­tion, health care (ex­pand­ing Med­ic­aid), and in­fra­struc­ture. A 14-year state sen­a­tor, Kelly would bring a range of leg­isla­tive ex­pe­ri­ence not seen since the pro­duc­tive Ben­net­tCar­lin-Hay­den years, 1974-1990.

En­ter the man be­hind door No. 3, in­de­pen­dent Greg Or­man, who turns the en­tire idea of a Brown­back ref­er­en­dum on its head. If Or­man, with his steady nineper­cent sup­port in the polls, siphons off enough votes, mostly from Kelly, the state could eas­ily elect a mi­nor­ity-sup­ported gov­er­nor who has neg­a­tive ap­proval rat­ings and who sup­ports the failed eco­nomic poli­cies of Sam Brown­back. That would be a trav­esty.

To para­phrase Sin­clair Lewis, “It can hap­pen here.” But it need not. As Or­man sup­port­ers go to the polls, they should think twice, or three times, be­fore wast­ing a vote that would al­low the widely dis­cred­ited views of Kobach and Brown­back to pre­vail.

Bur­dett Loomis is an emer­i­tus pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science at the Uni­ver­sity of Kansas.

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