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SPOTLIGHT
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Do Dems have GOP right where they want?

Published on -6/11/2013, 9:12 AM

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Who would have thought with just eight senators and 33 House members, Kansas Democrats actually might have the Kansas Republican party just where they want it?

The "where" is simple: In charge of everything. If one day no Democrats showed up in either chamber, there still would be a quorum and business could continue.

Now, that doesn't sound exactly like a position of power, but it's a start. Yes, really.

It's like being able to truthfully tell your spouse you didn't eat that last piece of pie by the light of the open refrigerator door last night. Deniability doesn't get any better than that, does it?

Don't like the tax bill? Paring those income tax deductions for home mortgage interest, or for the property taxes you paid? No Democrat voted for that bill.

Don't like the budget which is likely to send college tuition rates higher? No Democratic fingerprints on that bill, either.

Practically, Kansas Democrats can claim if you don't like something the Legislature did and the governor signed into law, it probably was the fault of Republicans.

Now, the job of those minority Democrats is to let Republicans know it. And that's not going to be easy, because from the Democratic side of the aisle in both chambers there are Republicans, and then there are the new, meat-eating, hard-core conservative Republicans.

The difference? It's some moderate Republicans vote with Democrats on some issues, while conservative Republicans don't.

And making the voting public know which are which are which -- at Republican primary elections -- is a daunting task. Don't figure the Kansas Democratic Party wants to spend a dime campaigning for Republicans at the primary election.

Typically, Democrats don't wind up with serious, well-financed candidates for races where a moderate Republican is on the general election ballot. They can count moderate Republican as a sometimes-ally in their legislative plans.

It's still possible for lifelong Democrats to re-register as Republican to vote for moderate Republicans in those GOP primaries, but it's time-consuming, and look for next year's Legislature to make it even more difficult. Understandably, Republicans don't want Democrats messing around with their primaries.

So where does this "we didn't do it to you" strategy play out? That's the big question for Democrats, and a tough one.

Communicating with Republican voters that their general election candidate is too conservative for them, or votes against any of several issues important to those Republican voters, is a tough job for Democrats.

It's almost a brand name deal. Anyone want a "Democrat/moderate Republican" bumper sticker on your car? Put it on a T-shirt, and there's a chance readers might spend an uncomfortable amount of time looking at some Democrats' chests.

We'll see how this works out.

Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report. To learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit www.hawvernews.com.

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