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Conservative Republicans set to control Senate, possibly House

8/9/2012

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

Joe Aistrup humorously sees Tuesday's election as something of an earthquake.

"A big fissure opened up and swallowed up all of the moderates," he said.

He sees Tuesday's primary election as a referendum on Gov. Sam Brownback.

"He made it a referendum," said Aistrup, a political science professor at Kansas State University. "He and his strong advocates."

Those advocates, he said, include Americans for Prosperity and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.

While he expected a shift in the structure of the Senate, he still was a bit startled by the depth of the changes -- notably in the loss felt by Senate President Steve Morris to Republican conservative Rep. Larry Powell.

By his count, at least six moderate Republicans got the boot.

"There were 14 to begin the session," Aistrup said of the makeup of the Senate.

Four still are up in the air, he said.

"Sam Brownback won," Aistrup said of the referendum.

And that's going to mean changes in the upcoming legislative session.

"You can expect a change in the school finance formula," he said.

He expects greater changes in the pension plan for teachers and state employees toward something closer to a 401(k) retirement program widely available in the private sector.

Aistrup also expects a shift in how appellate judges are selected, away from lawyers picking a panel.

"The governor wants it to be a situation where he appoints someone and they're confirmed by the Senate," he said.

With the changes as a result of the primary, he's expecting to see a minimum of 23 conservative Republicans in the Senate -- two more than the 21-vote majority needed to pass most bills.

The majority could increase depending on what happens in the general election.

Aistrup expects Democrats to lose a seat, returning only seven to the Senate.

"I think Ralph is going to beat Allen," he said of the upcoming race between Sens. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, and Allen Schmidt, D-Hays.

It's the House makeup Aistrup isn't sure of.

"It will depend on how many Democrats will be able to win," he said.

He's expecting anywhere from 20 to 25 moderate Republicans to return to the House with as many as 40 Democrats taking seats.

If that happens, a moderate Republican-Democrat coalition could form -- mirroring last session's Senate scenario.

"It's a slight possibility of that," he said. "And by that, I do mean slight."

If that happens, a second conservative referendum might take place.

"The Senate is pretty much decided," Aistrup said. "It's going to be conservative. The House, I think it will be conservative too."

Ideological shifts like these, Aistrup said, generally have a 20- to 30-year life span.