While the governor’s race in Kansas has garnered more attention, contests for seats in the Kansas House also are significant.
In 2016, voters changed the makeup of the Legislature. Ultraconservatives who had dominated the Statehouse saw their ranks shrink as Kansans opted for more moderate candidates — all part of a wave of discontent with then-Gov. Sam Brownback’s extreme-right agenda.
Brownback, after taking office in 2011, wasted no time turning the state hard right. He was a key player in the crusade to force numerous centrist lawmakers out of Topeka, to be replaced by ultraconservative alternatives who gladly rubber-stamped an agenda pushed by the Koch brothers and forces aligned with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a bill mill for major corporate interests.
The Kansas Chamber, Americans for Prosperity and Kansas Policy Institute pushed for legislative support of cookie-cutter bills from ALEC, with the goal of helping powerful corporations such as Koch Industries with “free market” legislation designed to improve their bottom lines.
ALEC influence in Kansas resulted in such counterproductive policies as reckless income-tax cuts that put the state deep in the hole, and the block-grant funding for K-12 public schools ruled unconstitutional.
Even though a good number of Brownback allies were sent packing in 2016, the ultraconservative influence hasn’t disappeared. The faction still sees an opportunity to bolster its ranks.
To block an ultraconservative surge, Kansas voters must be as eager as they were in 2016 to support more moderate, commonsense candidates.
While most southwest Kansas incumbents are uncontested in House races, the 124th District seat up for grabs should go to Republican Marty Long of Ulysses.
He’s a fourth-generation farmer, small business owner and Grant County commissioner — all meaningful experience for a state lawmaker.
Long would align with centrist lawmakers out to undo recent damage. He favors Medicaid expansion because it would help struggling rural hospitals, and would defend funding for public education, highways and other core services critical to southwest Kansas.
Above all, he’d embrace fiscal responsibility missing during the Brownback years, when Kansas was stuck with unprecedented debt due to the failed economic strategy of deep income-tax cuts.
Long has vowed to help Kansas recover, making him the choice for voters in Tuesday's GOP primary.