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Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Wednesday October 27, 2010

Kansas politics in National Review. Today Denis Boyles takes on Kansas politics in National Review Online, starting with well-deserved criticism of Thomas Frank’s book What’s the Matter with Kansas? He also predicts that Republicans will sweep all the statewide election contests. But the real target of this article is the Kansas Supreme Court and our state’s method of judicial selection. For those wishing to rely on the Kansas Commission on Judicial Performance as a source of reliable information about judges, Boyles describes it as a “Potemkin commission” that “spends $700,000 of taxpayers’ money annually running ads in support of retention and endorsing every single judge in the state.” Boyles says the problem with Kansas will be clear to everyone after the election: It’s the Kansas Supreme Court.

Midterm blowout forecast. From The Hill: “Republicans are headed for a blowout election win that seems certain to seize more than enough seats to knock out the Democrats and take control of the House. … The deficits facing some longtime Democratic incumbents, who have spent most of their careers relatively safe from electoral peril, are striking — a reflection of just how deeply the anti-incumbent sentiment runs this election year.”

National Center for Aviation Training ceremony today. As The Wichita Eagle’s Rhonda Holman notes in an editorial today, Sedgwick County has spent $52 million on a training facility for the aviation industry. At the time, industry leaders told us this was necessary to retain aircraft jobs in Wichita. It should be noted that this expenditure has not been sufficient, as since then Cessna, Bombardier Learjet, and recently Hawker Beechcraft have each hit up the state — and in some cases local government — for corporate welfare under the threat of locating jobs elsewhere.

New Wichita schools divert attention. Two years ago the voters of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, passed a bond issue to build new schools and facilities. Today the Wichita Eagle describes a groundbreaking ceremony for two new schools. The problems with all the planning for the schools are these: First, it looks like the district is doing something to solve problems, when the path the district is taking is not likely to produce the promised results. Second, the district’s attention has been, and is now, focused on facilities, not the real problems the schools face, like an honest assessment of student results. Third, the district was in no way honest with Wichita taxpayers about the additional expense required to operate the schools after they are built. Fourth, more spending on government schools makes it even more difficult for families who want to pursue other paths for their children. Overall, a bad day for children in Wichita.

Challenges for Kansas education. Speaking of, Kansas State Voard of Education member Walt Chappell contributes an article describing some problems with education in Kansas and some recommendations for policy changes. One problem is our priorities, as mentioned in the previous section. Chappell writes: “First, we need to change our priorities. More emphasis is needed on preparing our students to earn a living and financial literacy instead of on varsity sports. Currently, more money is spent on a few players to win the Friday night football or basketball game than to teach our kids the skills they need to get a job.” The complete piece is at State of the State KS.

October surprises more difficult now. The popularity of advance voting in states like Kansas makes it more difficult to pull off an “October surprise.” This is a campaign tactic where unfavorable information about a candidate is sprung upon the public right before the election, the idea being that the accused candidate will not have time to react to the charges and voters will go to the polls on Election Day with the negative information fresh in their minds. Journalists probably won’t have time to react, either. We see examples of this technique in Kansas now with DUI charges against third district Congressional candidate Kevin Yoder. In the fourth district Raj Goyle is raising new charges against Mike Pompeo. But with perhaps as many as half the voters having already voted by the weekend before Election Day — the favorite time to launch an attack — the effectiveness of this technique is reduced. When should a campaign release the surprise charges? The good news is that with the expanded voting schedule, campaigns have more time to rebut or clarify charges, or disprove factually incorrect information. We saw this in the Republican primary for the fourth district, where last-minute charges by the Wink Hartman campaign were found to be lacking clear and convincing evidence.

Advance voting regrets. With so many Kansas voters voting far in advance of Election Day, what happens if voters regret their vote? Suppose their chosen candidate dies or withdraws from the race? (Withdrawing is more likely during primary contests.) More likely, what if there is an “October surprise” that makes you want to change your already-cast vote? Personally, I still like to vote old-school style at my precinct’s polling place on Election Day. But for those voting in advance, there’s no need to mail in your ballot far in advance. As long as it arrives by Election Day, your vote will be counted just the same.

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2 Comments

  1. sue c. October 27, 2010

    Todays quick takes were awesome, Bob! Thanks for keeping us informed.

  2. Wendy October 27, 2010

    I love the Quick Takes!

    Regarding advance voting:

    I dislike it. Most candidates work so hard on their campaigns – it’s difficult for them to get to every door in their district in the small window of time available. This is the only option for candidates having a small amount of money.

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