A vote for being informed
Still confused over how to vote in Tuesday’s election? Here’s an attempt to make the best case possible for each of the main candidates in contested races on the ballot in Marion County:
U.S. Senate — Rarely will you see a race with such clear delineation between liberal (challenger Mark Holland) and conservative (incumbent Jerry Moran) . Perhaps because of the freedom and independence that seniority gives him, Moran seems more likely than Holland to put pragmatic interests of Kansans above generic positions of his party. But if you want a clear choice, you have it in this race.
Governor — If you believe TV, you might think Joe Biden is running against Sam Brownback. Those aren’t the names on the ballot. Incumbent Laura Kelly, far less liberal than Holland, talks about bipartisan accomplishments. Challenger Derek Schmidt, a bit more conservative than Moran, toes a more general party line that can veer toward hot-button issues. How well any governor deals with a legislature likely to be controlled by extreme Republicans may be a key issue. If you favor a rock ’em, sock ’em Donald Trump style of agenda, Schmidt might be your choice. If you prefer compromise, Kelly has proven adept at preventing Kansas from becoming mired in deadlock despite political divisions.
Congress — Thanks to gerrymandering, we’re now the westernmost county in a misshapen district that resembles a Rorschach ink blot. Seniority doesn’t apply, as incumbent Jake LaTurner is completing just his first term. Challenger Patrick Schmidt stresses his military record and makes health care a central issue of his campaign. LaTurner seems to ally himself with the Trump wing of his party but occasionally hints at making the economy a higher priority than hot-button issues.
Secretary of state — Incumbent Scott Schwab may hold positions appreciated by Trump Republicans but seems to understand that, despite being in charge of elections, he won’t encounter most of them in this office. Instead, he has focused on organizational improvement. Challenger Jenna Repass appears to be a doctrinaire supporter of liberal Democratic attempts — perilous, according to Republicans — to expand the electorate and ease voting.
State treasurer — It’s a hard to find significant differences between stances of incumbent Lynn Rogers and challenger Steven Johnson. Both reject “woke” strategies to invest state money only with companies that make social and environmental objectives priorities. Until 2015, both were Republicans. Rogers appears to be more interested in the job as an end while Johnson may see it more as a stepping stone.
Attorney general — After multiple failed attempts at other offices, Kris Kobach brings his unbridled support for the most extreme of Republican positions to yet another election. Opponent Chris Mann seems to be less a career politician and more a respected career prosecutor.
Legislative oversight amendment — Legislators often give administrative agencies latitude to write technical rules. This amendment focuses on what happens when legislators don’t like those rules. A “yes” vote would prevent governors from vetoing any legislative attempt to void a rule. A “no” vote would mean that, unless legislators provide otherwise, if they give an agency power to write rules, the only way they can change those rules is the way they granted them in the first place — with regular legislation, subject to gubernatorial veto. Supporters say legislators, not bureaucrats, should have control. Opponents say this is little more than an attempt by Republicans to spite a Democratic governor and would merely muddy the state’s constitution.
Elected sheriff amendment — There appears to be more agreement than disagreement on whether sheriffs should be elected. Disagreement focuses on whether a constitutional amendment is needed, given that regular legislation can control on a case-by-case basis whether unified city-county governments should be allowed to appoint countywide police chiefs.
Recreation district referendum — Unlike creating an extension district, creating a rec district doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in property taxes. A “yes” vote corrects a legal mistake the City of Marion made in unilaterally dissolving a previous rec commission. A “no” vote would either end rec or try — probably in vain — to force the city to admit its error and resume co-sponsoring rec.
But don’t take these capsule commentaries as gospel. Each of us still has most of a week to fulfill our civic duty, check out candidates, and cast informed votes.
— ERIC MEYER