ORMAN VS. ROBERTS
Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. These elections mark the last times that the Kansas electoral college voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. Since then, for the last 12 presidential elections, Kansas has voted Republican.
Nov. 4 — Election Day 2014 — could mark a shift away from this pattern. The Kansas senate seat held by Republican Pat Roberts since 1997 is being challenged by Independent candidate Greg Orman. The Democratic Party initially backed Chad Taylor. Since then, though, Taylor has withdrawn from the race, leaving voters to decide between Republican and Independent candidates.
AP Government teacher Ronald Stallard, says that Taylor dropped out of the race because of pressure from his party. He says that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was aware that they had low chances of getting a Democrat in office over a Republican in Kansas, so they nudged him out of the race in order to make room for Orman.
Orman’s campaign website advertises him as “fiscally conservative, but socially tolerant.” This means, according to Stallard, that he’s interested in shrinking both the federal government’s yearly spending deficit and its influence on personal issues like abortion and marriage equality.
What’s getting him the attention, according to Stallard, is his promise to “look at the ideas.” Instead of voting along party lines, Orman says he’s going to take his own look at the issues, and align himself with either party. Orman’s website says that his alignment with a particular party would depend on their willingness to reach common-ground solutions.
“A lot of the moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats like [Orman’s] message, so they were leaving Taylor’s campaign,” Stallard said. “[The Democratic Party] was looking for somebody who actually has a chance of winning.”
Senior Ali Dastjerdi, president of the SME Political Union, says that the DNC is invested in this election because of its broader, nationwide goals.
“The Democrats know that they can’t get a Democrat in the senate from Kansas,” Dastjerdi said. “But being able to unseat a Republican in this race is essential, for them, to maintain their majority.”
The Senate is currently controlled by the Democrats. According to Stallard, they’re worried about Republicans getting a majority in both the House and the Senate.
Since the Democrats nudged Taylor out of the election, this particular senate election is drawing attention from national news outlets like CNN and Fox. Polling data shows that Orman is ahead — CNN reported on Oct. 7 that he leads Roberts by two percent.
According to Stallard, the country is taking an interest because something’s happening in Kansas that doesn’t usually happen — the Republican Party is threatened in a state where they usually aren’t.
Ultimately, Stallard says that such a large-scale extrapolation — that the Kansas senate election alone will decide whether or not the Republicans will gain a majority in the Senate — is inaccurate. Close elections going on in states like Louisiana and Michigan will make the same impact, he says.
“It matters on so many different things, there are a lot of states out there that have close races,” Stallard said. “The senate is either going to get stuff done of they’re not. Congress in Washington is so dysfunctional anyway, they’re going to do what they do.”
DAVIS VS. BROWNBACK
When then-Senator Sam Brownback took democratic governor Kathleen Sebelius’ place in Topeka, he was elected by a margin of 63 percent.
He ran on principles of fiscal and social conservatism. In office, he signed three anti-abortion bills, enacted cuts to education funding that were declared unconstitutional and lowered income taxes in an effort to alleviate Kansans’ economic hardships.
On Nov. 4, Paul Davis, Democratic leader of the Kansas House of Representatives, will contest his reelection. And, as of Oct. 1, Davis leads his opponent by 3 percent in a poll run by the Huffington Post.
According to AP Government teacher Ronald Stallard, Davis’ lead is mostly attributed to Brownback’s unpopularity. Since his election by a margin of 63 percent in 2010, the New York Times reported that in 2014, he has an approval rating in the negatives.
“If you look at what has happened in the economy, the tax cuts that he put into place have not stimulated the growth they they said it would,” Stallard said.
Senior Ali Dastjerdi, president of the SME Political Union, says that Davis’ lead in the polls isn’t because there are now more Democrats in Kansas. Though he’s running as a Democrat, he opposes Brownback’s solidly conservative policies, which makes him appealing to moderates from both parties.
Davis first ran for public office in 2003, after working as a lawyer in Lawrence in his own firm. According to his website, he ran out of concern for Kansas’ public education system, when its budget was slashed as a part of Brownback’s fiscal reform agenda.
“In one sense, it’s a question of school funding,” Dastjerdi said. “Without a doubt, our district has been hit because of Brownback’s educational policy. Davis’ platform increases education funding, so that would immediately impact East.”
To show his own ideas to help lift Kansas out of economic recession, Davis points to his own efforts to stimulate job growth — a plan for economic investment in transportation. Davis expects this investment to result in over 175,000 jobs as a result of his “bipartisan coalition.” In 2013, he worked on a bipartisan budget that reduced government spending by $1.2 billion and avoided raising property taxes without making any cuts to public schools.
If Davis is elected, he will preside over two Republican-controlled legislative houses. According to Stallard, its unlikely that his situation will result in the same congressional gridlock President Obama faces in Washington. Davis would be a Democrat in Kansas, a state that is largely made up of Republicans, and would have no choice when it comes to working with his Republican colleagues.
“He can’t go in with this massive liberal agenda, because he knows it’s not going to happen,” Stallard said. “If you get a Democrat into office, a strong one, you have to be able to compromise.”