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The facts, faces and hum of local politics with Steve Kraske and Dave Helling

Six things to watch for in Tuesday night's elections

08/03/2014 10:47 PM

08/04/2014 9:35 AM

Tuesday night’s primary election results in Missouri and Kansas will leave a trail of crumbs (or tears) for discerning voters that will shape storylines for the fall general election and the 2015 General Assembly in Jefferson City.

Here’s a list of what to watch for:

1) If the three-quarters cent sales tax for transportation fails in Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon and lawmakers will be on the hook to find answers next year.

Lawmakers have consistently rejected toll roads and higher gasoline taxes. If the sales tax goes down in flames, a new solution will be needed, particulary when it comes to improving and expanding I-70.

As things stand now, the Missouri Department of Transportation has halted all new roads projects. And, officials say, by 2017 funding will dip below what’s needed to maintain the present system.

That situation demands answers that have proven elusive.

2) Likewise, if Kansas City voters south of the river wind up rejecting a streetcar taxing district Tuesday, Mayor Sly James and members of the City Council will face big decisions on how to expand the system.

As things stand now, the streetcar line under construction extends only 2.2 miles from Crown Center to the River Market.

That won’t cut it for a city that desperately wants to retain a major-league image.

The system will remain an unfinished piece of important business and an immense challenge for James, who continues to enjoy unusual popularity.

James has said he has no plans for another vote on the matter for at least a couple of years. That’s a problem because the future of federal funding remains so uncertain.

3) The percent of the vote that Kanas Sen. Pat Roberts garners Tuesday night. A total in the mid-50s will move him out of embarrassment territory in his battle against flawed tea partier Milton Wolf.

But if he’s under that total, the three-term senator will retain the walking-wounded tag assuming he advances to the fall election against an under-funded Democrat, Chad Taylor, and a well-funded independent, Greg Orman.

In particular, watch the western Kansas counties. That’s Roberts home turf, but his polling out west has been hovering in the 50-percent range. Roberts should be way above that.

4) In the GOP primary for Kansas governor, watch the percentage that the largely unknown Jennifer Winn gets in her bid against incumbent Sam Brownback.

Brownback will win. But the percentage Winn gets will indicate just how much dissatisfaction there is among Republicans with their governor whose re-election prospects have dimmed in recent months.

A recent SurveyUSA poll showed that almost four in 10 Republicans had abandoned Brownback.

5) The same applies to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, being challenged in the Republican primary by Scott Morgan.

Keep in mind that primary voters tend to be conservative. That should bolster both Brownback and Kobach.

6) Todd Tiahrt’s fate in Wichita. The former 4th District congressman is making a rare comeback attempt in a bid to reclaim his old seat.

Tiahrt lost a competitive GOP primary race for the U.S. Senate in 2010 after a long career as the Wichita-area House member.

He was an early favorite for the next Senate seat that comes open in Kansas. But all that is very much on the line Tuesday night as he battles incumbent Mike Pompeo in what amounts to a personal grudge match in Wichita.

Pompeo was the favorite heading into Tuesday night. If Tiahrt loses a second straight race, chances are his political career is over.

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