Wasn’t that fun?
Politicians and interest groups poured about $40 million into Kansas this year — all the TV stations will soon have new helicopters — but the state awoke Wednesday to find it had the same governor and U.S. senator it had Tuesday.
It would be easy to think all that money was wasted. It was not.
To govern is to choose. And this year, for the first time in a generation, Kansans had realistic, viable choices at the ballot box.
That was particularly true in the governor’s race. To his credit, Gov. Sam Brownback never backed away from his tax cuts and budget policies (even if he did fudge the results on more than one occasion). Democrat Paul Davis offered a clear vision of a different path (even if he kept those plans quieter than Democrats might have liked).
The Senate race was muddier. Sen. Pat Roberts elected not to run on his record, perhaps because it was so thin. Instead, he put Sen. Harry Reid on the ballot. Harry lost.
So did Greg Orman. But the independent was trying to accomplish the most difficult thing in politics: running against both major parties. He was further hindered by a tactical inability to criticize his opponent, lest he be considered a partisan just like everyone else.
But just a few weeks before Election Day, I asked Orman if he thought he had a fair chance to make his case to the state’s voters. His answer was simple: yes.
Can any candidate ask for more?
Kansans heard from four major candidates this fall and picked two of them, both Republicans. The races weren’t close.
Yes, there were negative ads. The mailers were especially atrocious. Facts were spun, lies were repeated, claims went unanswered.
But misleading negative campaigns aren’t going away. Every election cycle, political operatives find new ways to motivate voters by scaring them or making them mad.
It’s going to get worse. Lots of voters were furious this year after getting mailers about their voting records. The idea is to shame nonvoters into showing up at the polls.
In two years, it won’t be a mailer. The scolding reminders to vote will come by phone. In five years, your TV screen may nag you to cast a ballot.
For all that, though, voters showed Tuesday they are quite capable of sensibly sorting through their options. Negative ads were part of the Senate and governor races, but the margins for Roberts and Brownback suggest Kansans simply saw clear choices in 2014 and made them.