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SPOTLIGHT
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The next governor

Published on -7/31/2014, 10:12 AM

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Campaign finance reports are usually worthless. The content is good, as it lists all a candidate's receipts and expenditures.

But the timing generally is awful. Laws dictate when the reports must be made public, and the most useful report -- the final one of a campaign -- doesn't come out until well after the election.

Interim reports that come out while the race is still going can be informative, however. The latest round from the Kansas gubernatorial contest might even offer a glimpse into the future.

The first item that grabs one's attention on the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission website is the filing from Robert Klingenberg. Hadn't heard of this candidate? Neither had we. The Secretary of State's Office doesn't have him listed on either the primary or general ballot. An Internet search doesn't reveal any website for him, nor offer any stories about him.

So we can't even tell you what party this Salina man belongs to -- if any. All the report shows is his treasurer, Robert Klingenberg, noted one $50 donation from Robert Klingenberg. No expenses of any kind between Jan. 1 and July 24, so his total cash on hand is $50.

The prediction? Klingenberg will not win whatever he is running for.

Republican candidate Jennifer Winn showed a little more activity. The Wichita longshot raised approximately $13,600 this year and spend approximately $13,300. Cash on hand as of July 24 was $337.55. While the dollar amount equals only 0.014 percent of what her primary opponent has on hand, we predict Tuesday's race won't be quite that lopsided. The result won't be close, but we don't believe even a well-liked, non-controversial incumbent GOP governor in Kansas can garner 98 percent of the vote. And the current occupant of Cedar Crest does not fit that description.

Before discussing Gov. Sam Brownback any further, we want to keep going in order of cash on hand.

Which brings us to Libertarian candidate Keen Umbehr. The gubernatorial hopeful from Alma has more than $11,000 in the bank. As he isn't facing a primary challenge, Umbehr will move straight on to the general election. His campaign attracted just less than $20,000 for the reporting period. We predict this serious candidate who can't attract serious dollars will finish a distant third in November's contest.

Another candidate unopposed in Tuesday's primary is Democrat Paul Davis. The Kansas House minority leader from Lawrence raised more than $1.1 million since Jan. 1, which is the largest total for the reporting period. The $1.3 million Davis has on hand, coupled with the fundraising momentum on his side, will make him a more-than-formidable contender for the seat he seeks.

Most polls show the Democrat leading the race, although we believe a lot will happen during the next three months that will affect the eventual outcome.

The lone remaining candidate is the man who runs the show. Brownback's campaign finance report shows he raised $1.2 million this year, which appears to contradict the earlier statement about Davis' $1.1 million. It does not. The governor's total includes a $500,000 loan from his running mate, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, that was made the day before the latest reporting period ended.

Such a ruse can work if nobody is paying attention. Such is not the case. Colyer has made the same loan before. On Dec. 31, 2013 -- not coincidentally the last day of the previous reporting cycle -- the Hays native loaned his boss $500,000. The loan was repaid Jan. 2.

It appears that loan was made solely to artificially inflate Brownback's fundraising total. Most likely the loan was done for the same reason, although voters won't know until well after the election when the next report is due.

Still, at this point, the Brownback-Colyer ticket has approximately $1 million more cash on hand than the Davis-Jill Docking team. Typically, that advantage would be enough to cruise into a second term.

But there are other numbers much more important that will determine the general election.

The first is the number of current and former aides of the governor who are being investigated by the FBI because of their fundraising techniques and lobbying. Any charges that result from the probe would have a devastating effect on the incumbent's aspirations.

The other number already is visible -- and growing. Brownback's scorched-earth income tax cuts already have state coffers some $338 million in the red for this fiscal year. As revenue reports come out monthly, there are four more opportunities for that number to decrease -- if the governor's hoped-for recovery begins. Alternately, there will be four more chances for the deficit to grow -- which means the economic guru Arthur Laffer is wrong once again.

High-profile moderate Republicans already are swinging their support to Davis and Docking. How many everyday party members defect by Nov. 4 will determine the outcome. Right now, it's too early to tell.

But hang on to your seats, Kansas. Once the formality of Tuesday's primary is concluded, the gubernatorial race will kick into high gear. It should be quite the ride.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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