Yael T. Abouhalkah

Johnson County’s GOP primaries turn white-hot as Wednesday event looms

Republican Tom Cox appeared Sunday at a League of Women Voters forum in Johnson County. In the Aug. 2 GOP primary, Cox is running against incumbent Brett Hildabrand for the Kansas House District 17 seat. Hildabrand did not attend the event.
Republican Tom Cox appeared Sunday at a League of Women Voters forum in Johnson County. In the Aug. 2 GOP primary, Cox is running against incumbent Brett Hildabrand for the Kansas House District 17 seat. Hildabrand did not attend the event. abouhalkah@kcstar.com

Johnson County Republican voters hold the fate of the Kansas Legislature in their hands as Aug. 2 elections loom.

A little bit of hyperbole there? Perhaps, but the case certainly can be made.

The county’s moderate GOP voters have plenty of chances to kick out the extremist legislators who have helped Gov. Sam Brownback destroy the state’s finances.

One way to do that is tie the ultra-conservatives to their support over the years for the reckless steps Brownback has taken, with the lowlight being the income tax cuts that have slashed $650 million a year from the state budget. That money could have been used for public services such as solid schools and universities.

But Brownback and his proponents such as the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are fighting back. This week the chamber’s PAC released its list of endorsements, with lots of Brownback sycophants on the page.

In addition, incumbents are lashing out against their opponents, supporters or the press (imagine that!) on social media, such as Sen. Jeff Melcher has decided to do.

So who are the good guys and gals in many of these races?

Johnson Countians can see for themselves at a League of Women Voters of Johnson County event from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Blue Valley CAPS Building, 7501 W. 149th Terr., in Overland Park.

The league says it has invited all candidates in competitive House races in a large portion of Johnson County, as well as the Senate district in that area.

Here’s the unknown: Will the ultra-cons show up to make their case that they deserve to be retained in office? Or will they cede the two hours to their challengers?

That’s what happened Sunday. I attended another league event in northeast Johnson County where none of the incumbents showed up to defend their records. But most of the challengers appeared.

For example, Dinah Sykes made a good case that she’s ready to provide better leadership for the Republican Party in Senate District 21 than incumbent Greg Smith has done in recent years. Smith failed to show.

Here’s the lineup for Wednesday’s event, per the league. I have boldfaced the candidates who — up to this point — appear to be more promising candidates in the races. An asterisk notes an incumbent.

HOUSE

District 8: Patty Markley, Craig McPherson*

District 14: Keith Esau*, Leesa Gabel

District 15: Erin L. Davis*, Bo Dostal, Kim Palcic

District 20: Rob Bruchman*, Jan H. Kessinger

District 27: Timothy James Harmon, Sean E.Tarwater, Sr.

District 28: Joy Koesten, Jerry Lunn*

District 30: James A. Dingwerth, Randy Powell*

District 38: Willie Dove*, Nathan Lucas, Mitra Templin

District 43: Donald Roberts, Bill Sutton*

District 78: Allen Clayton, Ron Ryckman*

SENATE

District 11: Jeff Melcher*, John Skubal

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