Let’s concede that Sly James and Sam Brownback are hardly two peas in a pod.
But before this moment passes, let’s lump them together for one significant reason: What both just achieved from a bare-bones political standpoint is significant.
Both men just stepped away from singular achievements that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Let’s start with Kansas City’s gregarious mayor, who won re-election Tuesday with 87 percent support.
Never miss a local story.
Let me repeat that — 87 percent.
Yes, you can say that he beat a man named Vincent Lee who hardly campaigned. You can say that Sly James walloped a guy nobody knew.
And you’d be right.
But context is important. James had a pushover opponent because his first-term record was sterling enough that no credible challenger stepped up. That’s remarkable. It’s been said many times, but it’s worth repeating: Local government is the toughest branch of government because it’s closest to the people.
Local government gets personal in a hurry. James conquered that mountain through force of personality, smarts and a stature that makes him tough to cross.
He’s launched streetcars. He’s close to landing a second whopper with the downtown convention hotel.
Local government insiders can’t remember the last time a Kansas City mayor so easily sauntered to a second term. Even comedy club owner Stan Glazer rang up 40 percent against Kay Barnes in 2003.
Sly James is King of Kansas City.
Any conversation about Brownback comes with caveats. But first, let’s point out that the Kansas governor again got what he wanted out of the Legislature. Yes, it was pigpen ugly. Yes, his much-ballyhooed adrenaline shot to the Kansas economy sputtered. For sure, he’s blown up his presidential ambitions.
But check out his 2015 to-do list. He wiped out the old school-funding formula (a move a court ruled unconstitutional Friday). He rejiggered welfare policy again. He moved local election dates, capped property taxes and slapped restrictions on city annexations.
And he won on tax policy again, preserving his breaks for small businesses despite growing doubts. He did something else, too: He persuaded the most conservative Legislature in state history to raise taxes.
I’ve called Brownback the most consequential governor in Kansas history. He’s King of Kansas.
To reach Steve Kraske, call 816-234-4312 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.