Reject extremism in Kansas’ Aug. 5 primary

07/20/2014 7:00 AM

07/18/2014 5:40 PM

With Kansas finances decimated by tax cuts and the voting status of thousands of citizens in limbo, the perils of electing leaders intent on far-right experimentation are painfully apparent.

Fortunately, voters have a chance in this year’s primary and general elections to elect smart candidates who want to return the state to sensible governing.

The Aug. 5 primary race for governor has been low-key. GOP incumbent Sam Brownback and his running mate, Jeff Colyer, are challenged by Jennifer Winn, a Wichita businesswoman running for her first public office, and her running mate, Robin R. Lais. The governor’s race will become better defined in the run-up to the general election, for which Paul Davis and Jill Docking are emerging as a strong team for the Democrats.

That leaves two contested statewide races for which The Star is recommending candidates.

Secretary of state

Republican incumbent Kris Kobach convinced a malleable Legislature to adopt one of the nation’s harshest voter-suppression laws. It makes registration contingent on a person’s ability to provide official documents showing they are U.S. citizens. This has not gone well.

With the primary election coming up in just two weeks, more than 15,000 would-be voters are in “suspended status” because they have registered at the state’s motor vehicle offices, which don’t require the citizenship documents.

Meanwhile, a national survey rated Kansas as one of the “lower performers” among the states in some important voting indicators. The state experienced a relatively steep drop in voter turnout from 2008 to 2012, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts Elections Performance Index. Provisional ballot use and rejection rates were disturbingly high.

Some critics want Kobach to cease running around the country in pursuit of anti-immigrant causes and focus on his secretary of state duties. We would prefer that he simply leave the office.

Fortunately, Republican Scott Morgan of Lawrence looks to be an excellent replacement. As a staff counsel for former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, he served on the Federal Election Commission for three years. He has worked in government at the federal and state levels and now owns a publishing business.

Morgan has ideas for increasing voter participation. Unlike Kobach, he shows a genuine interest in the nuts-and-bolts aspects of running the office. Morgan deserves a chance to face Democrat Jean Schodorf in November.

Insurance commissioner

Kansas Sen. Clark Shultz is the best choice to replace Sandy Praeger, who is retiring after three terms.

A title insurance agent from McPherson, Shultz chairs the Senate insurance committee. He understands the industry and the challenges of regulating it.

Over 17 years in the Kansas Legislature, Shultz has gained a reputation for being fair and evenhanded, essential qualities for an insurance commissioner. He regards the post foremost as an opportunity to advocate for consumers while also helping businesses thrive.

Unfortunately, other candidates in the GOP primary seem to regard the job as a post from which to rail against the Affordable Care Act. They pledge, if elected, to do everything possible to thwart the law.

That is empty campaign bluster. Thousands of Kansans have gained access to insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The job of the insurance commissioner is to make sure the law serves Kansans as well as possible.

Other candidates are Beverly Gossage of Eudora, David J. Powell of El Dorado, Ken Selzer of Leawood and John M. Toplikar of Olathe. The winner will face Democrat Dennis Anderson of Overland Park.

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