Someone once said that the only two things guaranteed in life are death and taxes. I’d like to add one: words that are short on truth.

In campaigns, candidates often say a lot of words and they’re taken at face value. But they need to be scrutinized, evaluated and the truth shared with the voters.    

Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. The hard-working press often try, but especially today the working reporters are too few and far between and often simply do not have the time to do the research. And then there is fake news and social media complicating things further. But, since the campaign season has officially begun, below are some messages that deserve some scrutiny from Kansans during this critical election year.   

What got me started down this path were a couple of communications that stood out as examples where pushback is needed to add some truth. The first is what I’m hearing from some outspoken far-right conservative Republican legislators. They were certainly no help in correcting the disastrous Brownback tax experiment in the 2017 Legislative session. Now they are attacking Gov. Sam Brownback as if they had never gone along with his plan.

Rep. J.R. Claeys, a Salina conservative, was quoted in The Topeka Capital-Journal calling the budget “shortsighted.” He accused Brownback of throwing all his allies under the bus. They want us to forget how they voted and simply buy the rhetoric that re-elects the incumbent. If you think for a moment these ultraconservatives criticizing Brownback have had a total conversion, please return to reality. Americans for Prosperity and the Koch Brothers do not change stripes. They just double-down.   

The second example comes from the message that Independent Greg Orman recently put out to jump-start his effort to be the next governor of Kansas. Let me say first, I admire and like Greg. He is a fine man who made a valiant effort to unseat U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in 2014. But this is 2018, and at best, all he can do is help elect Kris Kobach or soon-to-be Gov. Jeff Colyer. This would simply extend the Brownback misery for up to eight more years.   

Orman’s a spoiler, but what really gets me is the message he is putting out that both Kansas and Washington, D.C., are essentially political cesspools that only an independent can fix. I understand that has some fit with D.C., but to include Kansas with no effort to be fair or tell the whole story, I take serious exception.

Democratic and moderate Republican legislators, backed by four former governors of Kansas, made huge positive changes in the 2017 legislative session. As a word of advice, Greg, this only reinforces those who believe your real goal is a U.S. Senate seat, not serving as governor. Those invested in Kansas politics know that both our history and our recent success proved Kansas isn’t Washington, and bipartisanship can — and does — exist.   

Words used do matter, and the truth can make a real difference. I close with a personal experience to end on a softer note. When I was Speaker of the House and home for a weekend, I attended a Chamber legislative lunch. The death penalty was a frequent topic, and although I opposed it, I said little if anything. The Sunday Salina Journal really got my attention. Page 2 headline was “Carlin says the death penalty will only pass over his dead body.” With a tape of the lunchtime session, I was in the Journal office the next morning to share the record of what took place. In the Tuesday edition, I made the headlines again. “Carlin claims he did not say the death penalty would only pass over his dead body.” Clearly it was my personal lesson on not fighting with someone who buys printer’s ink by the barrel.

John Carlin, a Democrat who served two terms as governor of Kansas, now is a visiting professor/executive in residence at Kansas State University in the Staley School of Leadership Studies. Read his blog at