Here are my predictions for the Nov. 4 elections, for the U.S. Senate and other key races in Kansas. These are not necessarily my endorsements, many of which have appeared in previous columns. I have taken the liberty of sprinkling in some editorial comments. While I was lucky enough to get them all correct in the August primary election, some of these races are among the most difficult to predict ever. But here goes:
U.S. SENATE: The Senate will flip to Republican control. Republicans need to pick up a net six seats to run the Upper Chamber. My prediction is that they will pick up their six seats, plus more. The reason the Republicans will take the Senate in this midterm election has to do with the negative attitude of most Americans toward Barack Obama and the overwhelming sense that the country is on the wrong track. The party out of power usually gains from that kind of negativity.
U.S. SENATE IN KANSAS: Forget the gyrating polls. Republican incumbent Pat Roberts will eke out a victory over his opponent, independent Greg Orman. Kansas has elected only Republican senators since 1932, the longest stretch of any state in the country. And I don’t think Kansas will change this year. One key to a Roberts victory is that a vote for Orman could result in a Democratic Senate. The other is that Barack Obama’s abysmal 32 percent approval rating in Kansas is the wind behind Robert’s back. Orman likely will carry moderate Johnson County, but Roberts will win the rest of the state by enough of a margin to prevail.
U.S. CONGRESS, 3RD DISTRICT: Republican Kevin Yoder will win this one by a mini-landslide. His opponent, Democrat Kelly Kultala, has a big strike against her, besides being a Democrat in a very Republican district. She is a Wyandotte County resident in a district that is controlled by Johnson County. Yoder has run a deliberately low-key race, not wanting to get his name morphed with controversial Pat Roberts or Sam Brownback.
GOVERNOR OF KANSAS: Although you can count me as a Republican against Sam Brownback, my instincts tells me he will carry the election, although barely. Despite a very low approval rating, Brownback will overcome that by a barrage of commercials, funded to a great extent by the Koch brothers, attacking his opponent, Paul Davis. Six out of the last 12 governors in Kansas were Democrats, but Davis has an albatross around his neck, and that is Barack Obama, who is extremely unpopular in the state. Davis has been a longtime Obama supporter, however, he says now he is disappointed in the president. Brownback supporters, the hard-core Republicans, can be counted on to get out and vote. Johnson County could go for Davis. Although Johnson County represents about a quarter of the Kansas vote, it will not be enough to carry Davis to victory. This really is a shame, because Brownback’s tax-slashing agenda will really hurt Kansans for years to come — but not until after the election.
SECRETARY OF STATE: Unfortunately — yes, that is an editorial comment — Republican Kris Kobach will win in a close race against Democrat Jean Schodorf. There is a strong anti-Kobach wave in Kansas, which could have and should have led to his defeat. But Schodorf has not run a campaign. She has been invisible. This is not all her fault. Her fund-raising has had to compete with the Roberts-Orman race and the Brownback-Davis race. By the time the givers had given to those races, there just was not enough left over to fund a Schodorf campaign. The state will have to bear four more years of Kobach, plus whatever office he seeks next. Heaven help us.
JOHNSON COUNTY CHAIRMAN: In this non-partisan race, incumbent Ed Eilert will prevail over his opponent, Patricia Lightner, by a mile. Add the votes that Eilert received in the August primary to most of those who voted for losing candidate Ed Peterson, and the margin for Eilert should be very healthy. That doesn’t mean ultra-conservative Lightner has not waged a fierce battle. She has. But Eilert’s decades of public service as Overland Park mayor, county commissioner and county chairman make his iconic name one of the most recognizable and respected in the entire county. He is known for his frugal leadership, which makes it difficult for a conservative opponent to “out-conservative” Eilert.
JOHNSON COUNTY COMMISSION, FIRST DISTRICT: Ron Shaffer, current mayor of Prairie Village, will triumph over former Mission Mayor Laura McConwell. Shaffer is from the larger city. McConwell still bears the burden of the controversial “driveway tax” she pushed through as mayor. Both are strong candidates, but there is no way Shaffer can lose this one.
To reach Steve Rose, longtime Johnson County columnist, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.