A pair of newcomers to the Kansas Statehouse will encounter a changing landscape in state government.
Garden City's John Doll — the new Kansas House representative for District 123 covering most of Garden City — and Russ Jennings of Lakin, representative for the 122nd of Kearny, Hamilton and Greeley counties, much of rural Finney County and a small part of Garden City, will join a state legislature now tipped in favor of an ultra-conservative Republican faction headed by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Because of that shift, there's cause to wonder if more moderate GOP legislators — Doll and Jennings included — stand a chance of being heard.
They're entering the Statehouse at a complicated time thanks to risky, massive tax-cut legislation from the last session that threatens to plunge the state deep into debt, drive up property taxes and undermine funding for education, transportation and other vital services.
That plan made it to the governor's desk thanks to diabolical maneuvering by conservative GOP leadership. After the recent election saw many moderate Republicans ousted in favor of conservatives, Brownback will have an even easier time pushing through his agenda.
And that is a disturbing notion. Some Kansans may not mind giving control of state government to a single faction, but others understandably want balance in government. They expect their representatives to consider issues on their own merit, and support what's best for their districts.
We'd expect as much from Doll and Jennings.
Doll, a former educator and business owner, and Jennings, with a long run of public service centering on law enforcement and juvenile justice, both promise to be strong advocates for education and its potential to power economic growth and prosperity in southwest Kansas.
Even though it may seem efforts of moderates won't matter in a Legislature dominated by conservatives with their own agenda, a balance in discourse will be more important than ever.
There will be much to debate and question moving forward. Outnumbered as they may be, moderate voices must be heard.
We need Doll and Jennings to help contribute as much as they work to truly represent the interests of their districts.