Everyone who had Donald Trump winning the White House, raise your hand.
Didn’t think so.
It’s been another amazing, confounding year in politics. Trump broke virtually every rule of modern electoral politics, yet he’ll take the oath in January.
In Missouri and Kansas, favorites rose, then fell, and rose again. Debates were almost non-existent. Political ads seemed more common than ever, and less effective.
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But there were local stories as compelling as those in any other election cycle. Here’s a top-10 list of the major local political stories in 2016:
1. Sen. Roy Blunt narrowly defeats Jason Kander for the U.S. Senate in Missouri. The race was much closer than anyone expected — Blunt, the GOP veteran, faced an unusually strong challenge from the Democrat (who we now know can assemble a military weapon while blindfolded).
Blunt needed money, a last-minute rally with Sen. Ted Cruz, and most of all Trump to get him across the finish line. Blunt was the only statewide Republican to get less than 50 percent of the vote, while Trump neared 60 percent.
Still, Blunt won, and the Senate remains safely in Republican hands. The race cost $75 million, a record.
2. Eric Greitens defeats Chris Koster for Missouri governor. Greitens, a political novice, was the surprise winner of the Missouri GOP governor’s primary, besting political veterans Peter Kinder and Catherine Hanaway and wealthy businessman John Brunner.
Greitens’ success in the general election opened even more eyes. He was less well known than Koster, Missouri Right-to-Life was not enthusiastic, and Koster had the endorsements of the conservative Missouri Farm Bureau and the National Rifle Association. But Greitens won easily, paving the way for right-to-work legislation, tax cuts and other GOP goals that outgoing Gov. Jay Nixon opposed.
3. The Kansas Legislature turns more moderate. While the rest of the country was turning into Trump-land, moderates in Kansas pushed back against conservatives and Gov. Sam Brownback. Incumbent GOP conservatives were ousted in the August primary, and Democrats picked up seats in November.
Coalition-building is an art as well as a science, so the strength of a liberal-moderate alliance next year remains an open question. But Brownback no longer enjoys automatic support of his budget and tax policies in Topeka. A new wind blows.
4. Missouri voters support ethics reform. The most unsurprising outcome in November: By a nearly 40 percent margin, the state’s voters embedded campaign contribution limts in the state’s constitution. Within days, special interests began plotting ways to get around the limits, and a lawsuit has been filed to stop them. But voters are clear. Jefferson City needs ethics reform, now.
5. Kansas retains five Supreme Court judges. It was supposed to be the only real argument in Kansas politics in 2016, but the expected push to remove controversial judges seemed to fizzle. Even in Sedgwick County, where anger at judicial treatment of two killers still runs deep, voters wanted to keep the bench intact.
6. Trump wins the Missouri primary. Trump’s general election victories in Missouri and Kansas were never in doubt, but his race in the Missouri primary was extraordinarily close: Trump defeated Cruz by about 2,000 votes out of 939,000 cast. The outcome was particularly interesting because Missouri wunderkind Jeff Roe ran the Cruz campaign — and Cruz still lost.
Trump’s Kansas City rally was notable for the outside demonstrations, where protesters wrestled with a horse.
7. Rep. Kevin Yoder defeats Jay Sidie in the Kansas 3rd District. Democrats thought they had the perfect candidate to take on Yoder, and for a time it looked as if they might be right. But Sidie rarely stepped from the shadows to confront Yoder directly, relying on TV ads and news stories instead. It didn’t work.
Bonus story: ballot counting in Johnson County was dreadful, and late.
8. Rep. Mike Pompeo takes a job running the Central Intelligence Agency. The Wichita-area congressman picked off an early job with the Trump administration, touching off a scramble to fill his seat. Other would-be appointments — Brownback and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — have been left, as of this writing, at the altar.
9. Rep. Tim Huelskamp loses primary to Roger Marshall in the Kansas 1st District. Huelskamp was a loud and proud member of the Freedom Caucus in the House, appearing often on Fox News to talk about ideas and issues near and dear to conservatives’ hearts. But he made the House leadership mad enough to get kicked off the Agriculture Committee, which angered lots of Republicans in the Big First.
Huelskamp says he hates Washington, but he’s been trying for weeks to keep living there — as a lobbyist, an advocate, a Trump appointee, even as a replacement for Pompeo (Huelskamp may run for the seat). Come back to Kansas, Tim.
10. The St. Louis Rams move to Los Angeles. The football club’s move west qualifies as a political story because there was intense discussion of taxpayer support for a new stadium in St. Louis. Didn’t happen, although city fathers now want state help for a soccer park.
The Rams haven’t been very good in Los Angeles, by the way.