There's a subtle but starting-to-get identifiable undertone to this year's elections that we really haven't seen in decades in Kansas politics this year.
It's creating a new voting bloc, not just Republicans, not just Democrats, not just unaffiliated voters, or even Libertarians who remain split on whether your meat should be inspected.
It's a fast-growing "I'm voting against" block that the U.S. Senate race, the governor's race and the Secretary of State race appear to be generating toward the top of the ballot.
Those are the races, or office-holders, which are getting all the press, and for good reason, we think, whether they generated the attention or whether they are the object of the controversy.
The Senate race, once a four-candidate contest has, by Kansas Supreme Court order to Secretary of State Kris Kobach to pull the name of Democrat Chad Taylor off the ballot, become a three-man race between three-termer U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., independent Greg Orman of Olathe and Libertarian Randall Batson, Wichita.
Kobach's unsuccessful battle to keep Taylor on the ballot has colored that race, made Roberts more vulnerable and splashed back for some voters onto Kobach himself. Most grown-ups have laughed off the Kobach/Kansas Republican Party lamentations that Democrats need their own candidate to prevent those Taylor voters from being disenfranchised -- even if they do have proof of citizenship.
But the effort to keep Taylor on the ballot made Roberts seem so vulnerable that he's suddenly more vulnerable than you'd expect a three-term member of the Senate to be, and independent Orman is the leading benefactor of the "I'm voting against" block.
In the governor's race between incumbent Republican Sam Brownback and Democrat Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the race is a little tougher, the "I'm voting against" cadre split between those who support more school funding, more social programs for the poor and such, and those who are voting against anyone who wants to take or delay their income tax exemptions.
Since everyone's taxes went down some -- ranging from money to pay for school and food to enough to create choice between those granite countertops or moving up to a Buick -- the voting-against crowd is split in this race.
And, the race for Secretary of State -- an office where most Kansans who aren't notaries don't interact with much -- gets split into the "I'm voting against" whoever made this Senate ballot a national, even international controversy (that'd be Republican Kobach) and Democrat Jean Schodorf, who so far is just taking pot shots at Kobach and wants more folks to be able to vote without proving citizenship -- just certifying it. And, so far, Kobach hasn't demanded voters reveal their weight.
Incumbent Republican Derek Schmidt has been careful to keep his fingerprints off the Senate race scrap; Republican State Treasurer Ron Estes, who most Kansans wouldn't recognize if he was sitting next to them at the bar, has gone nearly underground in his campaign. But for Democratic AG challenger A.J. Kotich and Democrat treasurer hopeful Carmen Alldritt, the "I'm voting against" clan might be working for them, obliquely.
Remember mom telling you to stay away from the kid down the block and his friends? That could happen again. "I'm voting against" could creep around until it alters some down-ballot races by political party.
Does that mean some down-ballot candidates, who a month ago were happy to be in the same photo as a candidate higher up on the ballot, will have second thought about putting it on Facebook? Will that association work for or against a candidate who is running for the Kansas House, or maybe AG or treasurer? And does any of this apply to the insurance commissioner's race?
We'll have to get back to you on that.
Syndicated by Hawver News Co.
of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report.