The two-month dash is underway to the Nov. 4 finish line in a pair of high-stakes, high-profile Kansas elections.
In the races for governor and U.S. Senate, voters will have ample opportunities to evaluate the differences in the candidates’ viewpoints.
As a pair of raucous but informative debates showed Saturday, challengers in both races are going to have to ramp up their campaigns as they try to defeat Republican incumbents.
In the governor’s contest, Democrat Paul Davis has gained plenty of knowledge about crucial state matters while serving as a state representative since 2003 and, more recently, as House minority leader.
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Davis is not afraid to go toe-to-toe with Gov. Sam Brownback. Davis held his own with the former U.S. senator during their often-wild discourse at the State Fair in Hutchinson.
However, to beat the smooth-talking Brownback, Davis in the coming weeks will need to be even more aggressive in pressing home the fact that the governor’s economic “experiment” of slashing income tax rates is not working.
Davis must offer more evidence of how the governor’s plan is cutting revenues for basic services, such as education, while not bringing in the surge of jobs once predicted.
On Saturday, Davis, for instance, missed chances to rebut Brownback’s claims that the tax cuts are producing a wealth of jobs in Johnson County. (That’s false, according to federal Bureau of Labor statistics.) And Davis let Brownback talk about the state’s reserves of more than $400 million without hammering home the point they were about $700 million a year ago, before tax cuts sliced into revenues.
Davis did well to note the differences on several major matters. Fortunately, he indicated that under his watch Kansas would try to expand Medicaid assistance to more needy residents. Brownback’s weak retort was that he doesn’t like Obamacare, apparently no matter how many people it could help.
Brownback has a record to run on, but it’s pockmarked with problems. Davis needs to zero in on them — especially the financial disaster caused by the costly tax cuts — to attract more votes in early November.
In the U.S. Senate race, Greg Orman after Saturday’s debate now knows a lot more about the challenges he faces over the next eight weeks while trying to knock off Pat Roberts.
Orman, an independent, is going to have to do a better job of distinguishing himself from the far-right views now held by Roberts, who’s trying to cling to a seat he’s held for almost 18 years.
In Hutchinson, Orman several times said he agreed with Roberts on issues. That’s a good indication Orman is not a card-carrying Democrat. Roberts made that charge numerous times while looking foolish by constantly bringing up the name of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
However, Orman must come up with a better message than the one that he’s disgusted with both parties in Washington. So are most Americans.
Orman must tell Kansans what he’s going to do if he gets to the nation’s capital. Voters need to hear more definitive answers on how the Olathe businessman hopes to get good legislation passed in a setting split by highly partisan politics.
As Roberts showed, he’s comfortable cracking a few jokes, talking about how conservative he is — “no” to any new gun laws or sensible immigration rules, for example — and hoping Kansans forget how disengaged he has looked on state issues in recent years.