The Wichita Eagle editorial board has made its endorsements for offices in the August 3rd Kansas primary election. Before voters decide whether to rely on these recommendations, they deserve some examination.
For example, for the Kansas House of Representatives the Eagle endorsed incumbent Republican representative Jo Ann Pottorff for her “balanced voting record.” The Eagle said she was willing to stand apart from the area’s “hard-line conservatives.”
But an examination of Pottorff’s voting record indicates something other than balance. This year, on the Kansas Economic Freedom Index (a project of this site), her score was 13 percent. That placed her in the tenth percentile of members of the Kansas House on a scale that rewards fiscally conservative votes. It’s a liberal voting record, in other words. We might even say a “hard-line liberal” voting record.
(If the Eagle was to criticize a liberal, however, it would probably use the softer and preferred term “progressive.” Even liberals try to hide their lineage.)
Other examples of language that reveals the Wichita Eagle’s bias is in their endorsement of an opponent to current representative Joe McLeland. In its endorsement, the Eagle editorial board wrote: “Unfortunately, he also seemed at times to be a yes-man for GOP leadership and anti-tax think tanks. It was particularly disappointing how McLeland, the chairman of the House Education Budget Committee, parroted misleading information about school budgets during the past session.”
Why didn’t the Eagle write this about Pottorff: “Unfortunately, she seemed to be a yes-woman for the governor and the anti-economic freedom, big-spending teachers union leadership and school spending advocacy groups”?
Regarding McLeland, the Eagle is probably referring to the controversy about unspent school fund balances. The Eagle, along with the teachers union and other school spending lobbies, didn’t believe that these balances existed and wrote so in several opinion pieces. The Eagle probably still doesn’t believe these funds exist, notwithstanding the fact that the schools spent the very same fund balances they said didn’t exist and couldn’t be spent: “By using fund balances, schools in Kansas were able to increase spending by an estimated $320 million in the current school year. Revenue to Kansas school districts declined by about $50 million, but $370 in fund balances were used to boost total spending by $320 million.”
So when the Eagle makes an endorsement based on a factually unsound position, what should voters do?
In the Republican party primary for Sedgwick County Commission District 4, the Eagle chose Lucy Burtnett over Richard Ranzau, praising Burtnett’s “thoughtful voting record” during her two years as an appointed commissioner.
In 2006, while campaigning for this same position, Burtnett was reported by the Wichita Eagle to have this reaction to a proposed Sedgwick County property tax increase: “Lucy Burtnett, the current 4th District county commissioner, told 30 people attending a candidate forum at the Northeast Senior Center that none of the commissioners find the increase acceptable.” Part of the purpose of the proposed tax increase was to fund a jail expansion.
After losing the primary election, Burtnett voted in favor of a tax increase that was somewhat smaller than what the county manager originally proposed. Its purpose, partially, was to fund a jail expansion.
Two years later — realizing the jail expansion wasn’t necessary after all — the county rolled back part of the tax increase that Burtnett voted for.
“Thoughtful” voting record, as the Eagle endorsement said? Or thoughtless?
Describing her as “not overly ideological or partisan,” the Eagle again overlooks facts.
Webster’s dictionary gives one definition of ideology as “the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program.” The Eagle uses this term with a dark connotation, implying that candidates with ideologies are inflexible and unwilling to consider anything other than their own views. Other liberal media outlets use this term in the same way.
But ideologies cut both ways. And Schodorf hasn’t seen many school spending programs and accompanying taxes that she won’t vote for. This is in spite of evidence that schools had money they weren’t spending, and that all the spending hasn’t done much to improve student outcomes. (The Eagle and Schodorf would have to look beyond the fraudulent Kansas state assessment scores to see that.)
The view of Schodorf and the Wichita Eagle editorial board is that Kansas public schools are always underfunded, and schools can be fixed only with more money. That’s an ideology, and one that is demonstrably harmful to Kansas schoolchildren.
This is all the more striking when we consider that Schodorf is chair of the Senate Education Committee. She has been in one of the most powerful positions to do something for Kansas schoolchildren, but she has not done that. So when the Eagle praises her for being “a pragmatist who cares about finding real solutions, not scoring political points,” consider that Kansas has few of the reforms such as charter schools and school choice that are working in other states. These are “real solutions” that the Eagle doesn’t favor. Instead, Schodorf seeks favor and campaign contributions from the teachers union and school spending lobby, earning the “political points” the Eagle editorial board purportedly condemns.
As for not being partisan, Schodorf simply belongs to the wrong party, if we are to believe that the Republican Party is home to conservative thought and practice. Schodorf’s voting record this year is more liberal — considering the same bills — than that of the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for this position.
It’s pretty easy to appear non-partisan when your party label is wrong.
It’s hard to tell, but it appears that the Eagle editorial board gave extra consideration to its Schodorf endorsement because she didn’t run a negative campaign. Regarding Mike Pompeo, the Eagle wrote, after listing his credentials, “It’s too bad he ran such an ugly campaign.”
That “ugly campaign,” however, can be viewed as simply responding to the allegations and charges made by another candidate. He didn’t attack Schodorf — perhaps he should have — so she, as well as the other candidates, didn’t have to defend themselves.