Wake up, Johnson County voters, because crucial GOP primaries loom

Johnson Countians on Aug. 2 need to choose Republicans who will advocate for strong public school funding.
Johnson Countians on Aug. 2 need to choose Republicans who will advocate for strong public school funding. along@kcstar.com

Some of the most important battles to oust extremist Republican Kansas lawmakers will be fought over the next five weeks in Johnson County.

That fact became more evident than ever on Friday when four ex-Kansas governors released an extraordinary, bipartisan letter that blasted Gov. Sam Brownback’s policies as “destructive” and “dangerous.”

The letter from Republicans Bill Graves and Mike Hayden and Democrats John Carlin and Kathleen Sebelius was on behalf of the Save Kansas Coalition.

Its key point said, “We need your financial support to help educate Kansas voters about the destructive policies of Governor Brownback and his supporters in the Kansas Legislature.”

This is an important call to arms to get rid of the Republicans lawmakers who have done the most damage to the state budget by supporting Brownback’s appalling fiscal policies.

And Johnson County is at the center of these efforts, which is appropriate given its status as the economic engine of Kansas as well as the state’s largest county.

▪ Key members of the Save Kansas Coalition have Johnson County roots. They include the Mainstream Coalition, Stand Up Blue Valley and Game On for Kansas Schools.

▪ Some of the most ardent legislative supporters of Brownback’s reckless policies are from Johnson County.

▪ Finally, an almost full cast of more moderate, traditional Republicans will be on the Aug. 2 ballot in Johnson County.

Here is how those primaries could play out for the betterment of Kansas.

In the Senate, Dinah Sykes would defeat incumbent Greg Smith and John Skubal would beat incumbent Jeff Melcher.

In the House, among the winners would be Patty Markley over incumbent Craig McPherson; Leesa Gabel over incumbent Keith Esau; Tom Cox over incumbent Brett Hildabrand; Jan Kessinger over incumbent Rob Bruchman; Joy Koesten over incumbent Jerry Lunn; Mitra Templin over Nathan Lucas and incumbent Willie Dove; Shelee Brim over incumbent Charles Macheers and Owen Donohoe; and Donald Roberts over incumbent Bill Sutton.

The four ex-governors released the letter on the same day the Legislature was desperately trying to find a way to keep public schools open with a constitutional funding plan, an effort that went into Friday evening.

Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts have led to a loss of $650 million a year in income taxes, constant budget reductions, more than $1 billion in diversions from state highway funds, postponement of state pension payments and adverse changes in social service budgets.

Brownback won’t take responsibility for the financial chaos he has caused.

Now for the warning: Brownback has been down this road twice before and triumphed.

In 2012, he went on the attack against some of the more moderate members in the Legislature — including in Johnson County — and got rid of enough of them to make his agenda easier to pass.

In 2014, moderate Republicans joined with Democrats to help their candidate — Paul Davis — stop Brownback from being re-elected. Brownback won again.

He won’t be on the ballot on Aug. 2 or Nov. 8 this year.

But as Friday’s letter shows, the anti-Brownback forces are going to be pulling out all stops to defeat many of his conservative GOP enablers in the Legislature.

It’s going to be a wild next five weeks in Johnson County.