Yael T. Abouhalkah

To save Kansas, elect a different Legislature to nullify Gov. Sam Brownback

Kansans need to elect a different Legislature this year that will stop and even repeal some of Gov. Sam Brownback’s disastrous policies.
Kansans need to elect a different Legislature this year that will stop and even repeal some of Gov. Sam Brownback’s disastrous policies. The Associated Press

To save Kansas, the destructive policies of Gov. Sam Brownback must be repealed.

The course of action laid out here today is straightforward.

Kansans — especially in Johnson County — need to elect a radically different Legislature in 2016.

High-quality candidates in the moderate wing of the Republican Party and in the Democratic Party must step forward to run for House and Senate seats.

Their goal: Replace Republican lawmakers who too often have supported Brownback’s programs to recklessly cut taxes, starve public schools of funds, punish the poor, decline Medicaid expansion and divert road improvement revenues.

If strong challengers win enough races, a new Legislature could stop future costly tax cuts, repeal unfair tax breaks for 330,000 LLCs, increase K-12 funds, expand Medicaid and otherwise improve Kansas.

Let’s name names from the large, influential and often right-wing Johnson County delegation.

Among senators who — if they run for re-election — could be ousted in August primaries or November general elections are Jim Denning, Julia Lynn, Jeff Melcher, Mary Pilcher-Cook and Greg Smith.

Among House members who could be shown the door if they run again are Keith Esau, Amanda Grosserode, Brett Hildabrand, Jerry Lunn, Charles Macheers, Craig McPherson, Ray Merrick and Ron Ryckman.

Other incumbents could be replaced, too, if solid candidates emerge for those seats.

With enough new members from Johnson County and the rest of the state, the Republican majority in a more reasonable House could replace the vindictive and mostly useless Merrick with a pragmatic, forward-thinking speaker.

The Senate could become a more responsible body as well.

Make no mistake: Getting rid of some or all of these elected officials will be difficult. The resistance to change in Topeka will be furious.

Brownback will step in, as he especially did in 2012, to promote lawmakers who are sycophants for his conservative causes. He will warn everyone that he can punish recalcitrant GOP legislators because his term runs until January 2019.

U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins recently began a political action committee aimed at helping fill the Legislature with people she supports. That’s not a positive move toward a new beginning.

Sen. Majority Leader Terry Bruce earlier this year issued a memo that said Republicans essentially should run on the Brownback record of efforts to “end wasteful spending” and block Medicaid expansion.

And militant pro-life groups are always ready to rush to the sides of legislators they control.

Now for the good news: The anti-Brownback forces have some momentum, too.

A poll showed the governor with extremely low favorable ratings. His political sway has been diminished.

Groups such as the MainStream Coalition, Game On for Kansas Schools and others that support better public education are committed to major and positive changes in the state capital.

People seeking to put a different Legislature in charge will need to pour time, money and energy into these efforts.

Johnson County businesses dismayed by the attacks on public education will have to step into the political fray with wallets open.

Elected officials stunned by decisions in Topeka that have stripped local governments of power and millions of dollars in funding will have to speak up. Cue stronger leadership from County Commission Chairman Ed Eilert, Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach and others.

Kansans who want to support policies that can rebuild the state’s future must take a stand. Elect a new Legislature that can help nullify Brownback’s irresponsible reign.