Steve Rose

Call me a RINO and hear me roar for Paul Davis for Kansas governor

Paul Davis, Democratic candidate for Kansas governor, debated incumbent Sam Brownback last week.
Paul Davis, Democratic candidate for Kansas governor, debated incumbent Sam Brownback last week. The Wichita Eagle/The Associated Press

Sign me up as another Republican for Democrat Paul Davis for Kansas governor. That makes me a RINO, a Republican In Name Only, in the eyes of conservatives. Never mind my earlier endorsement for Pat Roberts, as well as my admonition for a Republican U.S. Senate, plus a strong endorsement for Republican Kevin Yoder for the U.S. Congress. (Although Yoder is a bona fide conservative, he is no radical extremist.)

To some conservative Republicans, any deviation from the party line is treason. That makes it a cult, not a political party. Only cults demand blind loyalty to its leaders, no matter what.

To get a sense of how much many conservatives hate whom they call RINOs, get a load of this:

At a June, 2012 tent revival for conservatives held in Gardner, a small town near Olathe, they had, as part of the event, a game for kids.

For amusement — sick humor, if you ask me — they propped up a large poster titled in large print: “Eliminate the RINOS!”

Underneath that headline, centered on the poster, was a drawing of a large rhinoceros. On the rhino was a round target, inside of which was a big red heart. If you hit the heart inside the round target, the rhino would definitely be killed.

Below the rhino, it said, “Vote Conservative Republican.”

A souvenir photo of that poster, with kids awaiting their turn to throw darts at the “RINO,” was emailed to a large swath of conservative Republicans by State Rep. Bill Sutton, a conservative Republican from Gardner, who helped put together the event.

He wrote this tagline under the photo: “Train them young! Kids are lining up to kill RINOS!”

What a great lesson to teach kids. Eliminate those who disagree with orthodoxy. Those who share many, if not most, ideas with you are the greatest threats. Yes, mein Führer.

This revival tent event was truly symbolic of a “small test” philosophy. Conservatives have dismissed with disdain all those who do not toe the line all the time.

It is we moderate Republicans who demonstrate the most loyalty, but in our case, the loyalty rests with the state of Kansas, not always the party, come hell or high water.

How can any Republican who cares about Kansas rally around a governor who is bankrupting the state? Even though Sam Brownback has an “R” beside his name, his agenda is killing Kansas.

Virtually all moderate Republicans — or RINOS — share one priority. It is education — K-12 public education and higher education.

Brownback’s tax-slashing policies will inevitably lead to great harm to both, because there simply will not be sufficient funds to support them.

Many conservatives do not seem to care if there are cuts, or they don’t believe they will happen.

Based on their public statements, we know they generally hold public education in low regard (wasteful and liberal). And universities? They’re also liberal and for the “elite,” who don’t need state help.

And what does Sam Brownback believe in?

He claims to support education, yet he signs every bill the conservative legislature sends him. And unless a court orders otherwise, what the legislature sends to the governor are inadequate funds for public schools and cuts to the state’s universities. And this is happening before the real budget crunch hits home.

The fact is, the end result of Brownback’s tax-slashing “experiment,” will be cut, cut, cut. And schools just will not be immune to those cuts.

So, if opposing Brownback’s disastrous agenda — and therefore opposing Brownback’s re-election — makes me a RINO, then hide the darts.

To reach Steve Rose, longtime Johnson County columnist, send email to