The Garden City Telegram
9/25/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

GOP clash

Brownback's radical agenda should draw new challenges.

Democrats in Kansas now have a challenger to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

Paul Davis, minority leader of the Kansas House and a Lawrence attorney, said he will wage a campaign focusing on such priorities as educating children, rewarding hard work, building a strong middle class and cooperating with one another.

While such ideas should resonate with all Kansans, Davis faces an uphill battle in attempting to unseat a Republican governor in a state where registered Republicans greatly outnumber Democrats — even at a time the sitting governor has pursued strategies and policies too questionable and controversial for many in his own party to embrace.

The centerpiece of Brownback's ultraconservative agenda has been a massive income tax-cut plan. As a result, lost revenue promises to undermine state funding for public schools, social services and other essential services.

Davis' supporters believe he has a shot because he would appeal to Democrats, independents and moderate Republicans alienated by the Brownback administration.

And while Kansans should indeed have a choice on Election Day, the question is whether someone else in the GOP will run against Brownback in the Republican primary.

Kansans deserve competitive, spirited races in primary and general elections. Contested races deliver the public debate over key issues that voters need to evaluate candidates.

Kansans also need to hear Brownback defend his agenda, especially with many Kansas Republicans troubled by the direction of their party and governor. A primary challenge and exchanges between Republicans would help voters better understand how the state landed on a path coveted by the governor and his allies.

That said, any Republican challenger should expect to be targeted with the same relentless campaign of misinformation that swept moderate Republicans out of the Legislature in 2012 — a movement fueled by the billionaire Koch brothers, and carried out by the Kansas Chamber and Americans for Prosperity.

Still, with many Republicans leery of another term for Brownback, someone in the GOP camp could mount a legitimate challenge.

Let's hope the state's more moderate Republicans — to include traditional conservatives not so extreme as ultraconservatives now in control — unveil a plan for as much.