In my last diary, I ran through KS House seats 1-40, so if you haven’t read that, I’d advise starting there. In this edition, I’ll examine seats 40-80, which include some in suburban Johnson County (heavily covered in the previous edition) as well as Topeka, Salina, and much of the eastern & central parts of the state, even reaching down to the Wichita exurbs.
KANSAS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES – 125 seats
Current composition: 76 Republicans, 49 Democrats (or about 61%-39%)
HOW TO READ THE COMPETITIVE SEAT LISTINGS:
KS-HR-# <—this is the district’s number
43.5R/27D/28.6U <—this is the voter affiliation breakdown, R is Republican, D is for Democrat, and U is unaffiliated voters. Statewide, as of June 2010, the state’s registration numbers were 43.5% Republican, 27.2% Democrat, and 28.6% Unaffiliated. Unless the tenth of a percent is a 4, 5 or 6, I rounded to the nearest full percentage point in most cases.
District Map <—-this is the official map (pdf format) of this district from the Legislature’s website (opens in a new window). Maps from: KSLegislature.org.
COMPETITIVE SEAT LISTINGS:
KS-HR-41: 32R/34.5D/32.5U : District Map : (D/Open) – With the retirement of Democrat Marti Crow, this still-competitive, but increasingly blue, seat is now open. In 2008, Crow smacked down Republican Jana Taylor Goodman 59-41, who, having won the Republican primary convincingly, is back for another try at the seat in 2010. Crow and other local Democrats are backing Nancy Bauder, the Exec. Dir. of the Community Development Corp. of Leavenworth, and a small business owner. Gov. Parkinson held a fundraiser for Bauder, whose high-quality website makes Goodman’s look outlandishly amateurish. Her economic development credentials are also flawless, and make Goodman’s non-existent ones even more pronounced. Rating: Lean Democrat
KS-HR-42: 41R/27D/31U : District Map : (R) Connie O’Brien, a retired special education teacher, won her seat in 2008 with almost 60% of the vote against the underfunded Timothy Moran, but faces a challenge from James “Jim” Pittman, a military veteran, engineer, and Chairman of the Lansing Planning Commission. O’Brien, a mother of 11(!) and vice-chair of Leavenworth County Republicans, is a past President (1996) of Kansans for Life, the most powerful local anti-abortion group. As such, she’s aligned herself with the hardcore conservatives, both socially and fiscally. This could make her vulnerable to a strong challenge, though I’m unsure if Pittman can provide it (though he certainly has a good profile to do it). Rating: Likely Republican
On a personal note, having examined lots of local legislators’ websites, voting records, biographies, positions and electoral histories, I have concluded that Connie O’Brien is the single worst person in the entire Kansas Legislature. She is a hardcore, unthinking, dogmatic partisan who insults her fellow legislators (Democrats and Republicans alike) while distorting the work of the Legislature. While Connie’s Corner sounds like the type of place you might find knitting tips, with Connie O’Brien you’ll find intense partisan invective that you won’t find on nearly any other legislator’s website. And what the hell kind of grandmother votes against requiring people to wear seatbelts while voting to let them smoke in restaurants? She is a lying, egotistical, hypocritical bigot whose presence in the Legislature is a disgrace to the state, and especially to the people of Leavenworth County.
KS-HR-43: 44R/22D/33.4U : District Map : (R) Mike Kiegerl (at right) was first elected to this new district upon its creation in 2002. He’s faced a declining share of the vote as the area urbanizes (well, suburbanizes) and grows more moderate, taking only 53% of the vote in 2008 (thanks to a Libertarian eating a huge 12% of the vote). This cycle, he faces Democrat Kevin King (at left), an analyst at Sprint, who looks a bit like Kiegerl, actually. The area remains quite Republican-friendly and Kiegerl has been a low-profile conservative, but King’s been running a pretty strong campaign, racking up endorsements and showing up at community events. Rating: Lean Republican
KS-HR-45: 35.6R/32D/32U : District Map : (R) Tom Sloan – While the moderate Sloan has managed to hold this blue-tinted district since 1995, winning 53-47 over an untested Democrat in 2008, his luck may be about to run out as he faces two-term former Lawrence school board member (and former President) Linda Robinson. She also happens to be a longtime community leader (Governor’s Education Council, Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, etc) while not being terribly old (I’d guess late 50s?) She’s about as top-tier as they come for a race like this. Rating: Tossup
KS-HR-47: 46R/25D/28.5U : District Map : (R) Lee Tafanelli – First elected in 2000, Tafanelli faced a somewhat close call in 2002, winning 56%. In 2004 & 2008, he was unopposed. He served in Iraq in 2005-2006, but got back in time to defeat the youthful bluegrass musician/student Jim Faris in 2006 with 65% of the vote. He will face Faris, now an Oskaloosa city councilman (pop. 1165), local journalist and paraeducator, again in 2010. It should be a closer race, now that the warm glow of military service has dissipated more fully from Tafanelli and Faris has some local political credibility. Also, Faris plays the upright bass in his family’s mildly successful bluegrass band, which is kinda awesome. And he’s a newlywed and expecting a baby this month, actually. Awww… Rating: Likely Republican
KS-HR-49: 48R/21.5D/30U : District Map : (R) Scott Schwab – Aside from practicing his shiiteating grin, Schwab enjoys trying to throttle more representative democracy in its cradle. I first heard of incorrigible douchebag Schwab when he introduced legislation just after the 2008 cycle that became known as the “Sean Tevis Bill”. After Sean Tevis raised $108k from small donors in 2008, Schwab introduced a bill requiring donations under $50 have the same disclosure requirements as big donations–but only if the candidate got a lot of them. Tevis fought back, and with the Internet’s help, the bill got put on ice and Schwab crawled back under a rock. So if you like Sean Tevis–and I know you do because you’re on the Internet right now–consider a donation to Schwab’s opponent, the awesomely-named Keith Mace. Mace was an IT guy and a telecoms expert for the General Services Administration, even serving as Acting Director for the GSA FAST Program (fast acquisition of tech, basically). Also, Mace has a fine, upstanding mustache. Plus, Schwab only got 59% against a non-entity-type opponent in 2008, and uber-conservative Ben Hodge only got 55% here in 2006 (Hodge replaced Schwab when Schwab ran for Dennis Moore’s seat in 2006–and couldn’t even get past the primary). Keith Mace’s website: http://keith4kansas.com/ Rating: Lean Republican
KS-HR-52: 48.6R/27D/24U : District Map : (R) Lana Gordon – Kyle Kessler is a reasonably strong opponent (he’d been mentioned as a possible candidate in the post-Laura Kelly days in KS-02 to take on Lynn Jenkins). Unfortunately, this district is probably too red for him to win, especially over the popular and fairly moderate Lana Gordon, who has regularly won with 70%+ of the vote since elected in 2000. Rating: Likely Republican
KS-HR-54: 45R/30D/24U : District Map : (R) Joe Patton – As he has since winning election in 2006 with 51.5% of the vote (he nabbed 57% in ’08), Patton will face a race this year, this time thanks to 26-year-old teacher Scott Seel (who needs to fill in some of the pages of his otherwise-nice website, www.seelforkansas.com) Topeka voters are notorious for dumping useless Republican incumbents (see: Ryun, Jim) and Patton has not been terribly impressive. Rating: Lean Republican
KS-HR-59: 47R/24D/28U: District Map : (R) William Prescott – Freshman Prescott, a former Osage County Commissioner, is running for a second term after winning his first with 54.3% of the vote. In 2006, Democrat Jim Irey held the then-incumbent to just 51.2%, prompting his retirement. Irey lost the 2008 follow-up race to Prescott. This year, Prescott will face the weaker Blossom Barth, who appears to be doing little in the way of campaigning. Rating: Likely Republican
KS-HR-60: 38.6R/29D/32U : District Map : (R) Don Hill – Elected in 2002, the relatively popular and moderate (pro-choice and led the pro-school Republicans) Hill wasn’t even challenged by Democrats in 2008, despite the increasingly blue tint of his district. This cycle, Hill has a serious opponent in Mike Dorcey, who lost the County Clerk race in 2008, but at least has electoral experience. Additionally, Dorcey is Community Relations Director of the Emporia Unified School District, giving him education bonafides in a cycle where that’s a hot topic. Overall, Hill’s moderate profile should keep him safe. Rating: Likely Republican
KS-HR-62: 53R/24D/22.6U : District Map : (D) Steve Lukert – A former Republican, Lukert lost a state Senate race in 2004, switched parties, and won his KS House seat in 2006 with 53% of the vote, and won re-election with 57%, despite the heavy Republican tilt of the district, making him Kansas’ answer to Chet Edwards. He will face Randy Garber, a Navy vet, heating/cooling specialist, and pastor of Trinity Church of the Brethren. Despite the partisan lean of the district, Garber seems a wee bit….hmm, how to say this in a nice Kansas way? Garber’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic. And that’s all I’m gonna say. Rating: Likely Democrat
KS-HR-65: 38R/33D/28U : District Map : (R/Open) Incumbent Barbara “Barbie” Craft is retiring, leaving her Junction City seat open. Geary County Commissioner Larry Hicks is in the running for the Democrats, while Republicans had a Junction City Commissioner running, and passed him up for a guy named James Fawcett. With an open seat, a moderate, responsible already-elected official is exactly the sort of politician Kansans like to send to Topeka. Plus, popular Gov. Parkinson held a fundraiser for Hicks two weeks ago, so KS Dems are obviously pretty high on his chances. Even better, the Republican Craft showed up to that fundraiser and praised Hicks, although she’s technically supporting the Republican Fawcett. Link for that story. Rating: Lean Democrat
KS-HR-67: 47R/24.6D/28U : District Map : (D) Tom Hawk is a former Manhattan (KS) school superintendent and is going for his fourth term, after winning his third with 56%. It’s a tough district but the adamantly pro-education Hawk fits in well here. His opponent is opthamologist Dr. Susan Mosier, who would be a strong candidate thanks to her civic involvement, if it weren’t for her right-wing flirtations. Still, Republicans are high on her chances and the district is pretty tough. Rating: Lean Democrat
KS-HR-69: 40R/25D/34U : District Map : (R/Open) The teabaggers strike! Elected in 1994, incumbent Deena Horst is a retired art teacher and frankly, she does seem like the nicest person ever, and I say that as someone disinclined to like Republicans–but she lost her primary to teabagging Salina City Commissioner Tom Arpke. Meanwhile, Team Blue has an attractive young fellow named Gerrett Morris (at left), who, according to his campaign website is “serving as Chairman of both the Saline County Young Democrats and the Salina Tree Advisory Board.” Hear that, Arpke! Tree Advisory Board (this actually is important in central KS where there aren’t a lot of trees, btw). Who would you rather District 69 with now, eh Salina voters? Rating: Tossup
Horst Vs. Arpke – Salina Journal
KS-HR-71: 46.5R/23.5D/29U : District Map : (R) Charles Roth survived a double teabagging in the Republican primary, and his moderate reputation will serve him well in the general election. In his two previous runs since his 2005 appointment, he scored 59.4% (2006) and 62.6% (2008). Still, Democrats have a credible opponent in Salina School Board member and Dean of Academic Affairs at Brown Mackie College Phil Black. Roth’s moderate reputation should be enough. Rating: Likely Republican
KS-HR-72: 45R/27D/28U : District Map : (R) Amy Schumacher faces off against incumbent Mark Rhoades, who won in 2008 by just 40 votes (after a similarly-skimpy win to defeat an incumbent Democrat in 2006), among the closest margins in the state. She’ll be helped by a new local campaign office and the strong Goyle campaign. Schumacher is definitely a-runnin’ and getting good local press: Source Rating: Tossup
KS-HR-75: 46R/26D/27.4U : District Map : (R) John Grange is in the hunt for a fourth term after winning his previous ones with around 54-55% of the vote. He’ll face Glenda Reynolds, whose husband is the vice-chair of the Butler County Democrats. She’s a solid candidate, with good community links, a solid website (http://www.reynolds4house.com/), a smart platform (ending tax breaks for non-KS companies, citing specific examples) and a lovely family. Grange is certainly favored, but Reynolds will make it a race, thanks to both institutional support from local Dems and being named after the good witch from The Wizard of Oz. Rating: Lean Republican
KS-HR-80: 47.5R/26.6D/25.5U : District Map : (D) Vincent Wetta – Wetta, a retired railroad engineer, won in 2006 with 57% of the vote over incumbent Bill McCreary, went unchallenged in 2008, and faces the little-known Ellen Hathaway in 2010. Rating: Likely Democrat
Join me next week for the final installment of this series along with a final tally of seat projections and more insight into Kansas politics.