Flipping the script from 2012, moderate Republican candidates in Johnson County unseated several ultraconservative members of the Kansas Legislature in Tuesday’s primaries.
The 2016 election proved to be a bold move in a positive direction for the largest county in Kansas. Its elected officials soon could have more power to stop reckless parts of Gov. Sam Brownback’s economic agenda in Topeka.
Four years ago, Brownback led the charge in the GOP primaries to help oust moderate members of his party from the Legislature. His reasoning at the time: He wanted more support for his agenda in Topeka.
But Brownback is extremely unpopular in Kansas right now, for good reasons. His 2012 tax cuts have not led to promised strong employment growth, and state revenues have been weak for three years in a row.
This summer, the moderate candidates on the campaign trail talked about making sure public education was adequately funded. They also were not inclined to pursue even lower income tax rates, as Brownback has said he wants to do.
Successful Senate candidates in the primaries in the county were John Skubal and Dinah Sykes — challengers who beat incumbents Jeff Melcher and Greg Smith, respectively. Skubal and Sykes have talked about making sure Kansas provides better basic services to its residents. That could require getting rid of all or part of the income tax cuts.
Among victors in the House primaries were Republican candidates including several who, at campaign appearances, said they were ready to challenge questionable parts of the Brownback agenda in Topeka.
A list of the moderate winners who defeated incumbents included Patty Markley in the 8th District, Tom Cox in the 17th District, Jan Kessinger in the 20th District, Joy Koesten in the 28th District and Shelee Brim in the 39th District.
However, the primaries did not decide the final winners in the House and Senate races. Democratic candidates have filed in most races in the county and around the state.
Given Tuesday’s outcome in Johnson County, Democrats will have good reasons to work even harder in the three months ahead. They may have the potential to knock off some Republicans who won Tuesday night — plus more GOP legislators who didn’t face challengers on Tuesday.
No matter what happens in November, the Legislature in 2017 will look different from the one that’s led Kansas the last four years. That bodes well for the Sunflower State.