There’s good news on the horizon for Kansas voters who want less government control over their lives and constitutional liberty preserved. Despite record spending this election cycle, Kansas Democrats not only failed to block Republicans from holding a supermajority in the Kansas legislature; both chambers will be decidedly more conservative. Democrats also failed to flip the U.S. Senate seat held by retiring Sen. Pat Roberts.
A more conservative House and Senate should be able to overcome Governor Kelly’s vetoes on important issues like property tax transparency, education accountability measures, and easing occupational licensing restrictions to make health care more affordable and accessible.
The leaders of two advocacy groups say that’s in part due to grassroots efforts and the Republican ground game.
“We said they’re trying to outspend us, but they can’t outwork us,” said Elizabeth Patton, executive director of Americans for Prosperity-Kansas. “You saw the results of that on Tuesday night. We were exceptionally strategic, and it mattered.”
A U.S. Senate seat was the top prize on Tuesday. Congressman Roger Marshall, a Republican, defeated Democrat Barbara Bollier for the seat held by retiring Sen. Pat Roberts.
Despite raising $24 million, Marshall won by 11 percentage points.
“The Democrats spent so much money and there was so much hub-bub even nationally about how much money was spent in little old Kansas,” said Jennifer Baysinger, Vice President of the Kansas Chamber. “They spent a lot of money, but they spent it terribly.”
Republicans Maintain SuperMajority in Kansas Legislature
Down ballot, Republicans expanded their majority in the Kansas House and Kansas Senate. The GOP holds veto-proof majorities in both chambers. In the House, Republicans flipped five seats and hold an 89-33 majority. Three seats, currently held by Democrats, are too close to call. They include District 16, where Democrat Linda Featherstone leads Republican Rashard Young by 1 vote; District 48, where Republican Terry Frederick leads incumbent Democrat Jennifer Day by 9 votes; and District 102, where incumbent Democrat Jason Probst leads Republican John Whitesel by 6 votes.
Republicans held their 29-11 majority in the Kansas Senate but the new Senate will be decidedly more conservative. Five moderate Republicans who often sided with the Democrats – Senators Berger, Givens, Goddard, Hardy, and Skubal – lost their seats to conservatives.
Christie Kriegshauser, the director of political affairs for the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, credits much of the Republican success to really listening to voters on doorsteps.
“It’s very important not to get stuck in your own bubble,” she said.
Democratic candidates had their own sense about COVID and they wholeheartedly believed it, she explained.
“They, Democrats, they decided to stay home. They were believing their own narrative about COVID and how people would react,” Kriegshauser said.
Knocking on doors and really listening helped Republicans hone a message that sold outside of their own political bubble. Instead of talking about mask mandates, Republicans talked about things like free market health care options, and getting back to work and back to the classroom.
“Over and over it was the kitchen table economics,” Patton said.
Quality Candidates Made the Difference
According to Baysinger, quality candidates made a difference, especially in Johnson County.
“Roger Marshall’s win and Trump’s win in Kansas made it look so red, but Trump lost Johnson County by 8 percent and Republicans retained all of their candidates in Johnson County. You don’t maintain all of those seats in the Senate in Johnson County in the same year that Trump loses by 8 points, but those Republican candidates are rock stars.”
Having more conservatives in the Republican caucuses will make a difference.
“Majorities matter, but they’re not our strategy,” Patton said. “You can get burned by a Republican caucus that isn’t aligned with policy. That’s why we do the primaries to fundamentally get quality candidates who are policy aligned. They love liberty, and they understand what it’s going to take to be a quality legislator.”
She is hopeful that this fresh crop of legislators will be able to enact free-market reforms for health care and fewer occupational licensing requirements. Baysinger said she anticipates many policy wins on things like tax transparency, other tax reforms, and some legal reforms.
“The politics is what makes the policy work,” Patton said. “I’m really excited about where we’re going to go long term in our state.”