Florence and Ted Metcalf, retired educators from the Hugoton USD 210 school district who now live near Liberal, are lifelong Republicans who voted for Sam Brownback in 2010.
But the governor’s policies on education have pushed them to cross party lines and support Democrat Paul Davis for governor this time around.
“We have watched the governor repeatedly cut the education budget. We’re very concerned about the ongoing consequences of this,” Florence Metcalf said. “We just don’t feel we can continue to support Gov. Brownback with his education policies and school finance policies.”
In their 70s now, the couple have served as party precinct people in the past and have been active in the Republican party. However, Florence said, it reached a point where hard decisions needed to be made about continuing to support a governor whose policies they question.
As a result, the Metcalfs joined with the Republicans for Kansas Values group in endorsing Davis.
During stops in Overland Park, Wichita and Topeka on Tuesday, Davis picked up the endorsement of an additional 75 current and former elected Republican leaders, and also added the endorsement of nearly 350 Republican community leaders and educators from across Kansas.
The group, Republicans for Kansas Values, now totals more than 540 Republicans who endorse Davis for governor over Brownback.
In July, Republicans for Kansas Values announced 103 current and former elected Republican leaders endorsed Davis.
The Metcalfs also are concerned about the state’s fiscal situation, but, as former educators, education policy is their main issue. They also don’t like the Republican party’s swing to the right.
“We’ve seen the party take a turn toward the Tea Party and the far, far right. We consider ourselves fairly moderate in our viewpoints,” she said.
Daniel Minde, a teacher in Liberal, also joined the group due to concerns about education.
“I do not believe the current administration values education, values teachers,” Minde said. “When Sam Brownback took away due process from all the teachers, that, to me, was a slap in the face to teachers. We can work all these hours — we work a lot harder than most people think we do — and yet we’re not going to have protection for trying to do our job.”
Minde, who has been a registered Republican since becoming old enough to vote, said he voted for Brownback four years ago.
“This is one of the very first times that I’m not going to vote a straight Republican ticket. I usually vote a straight ticket across the board,” he said.
Minde said both parties have issues, and he doesn’t support the extreme wings of either party.
“I would consider myself more of a moderate, more in the middle. I can see sides of both parties, and I respect opinions from both parties, however I do not think you can be ultra-conservative or ultra-liberal. There has to be a mix in between,” he said.
Minde and the Metcalfs are the type of moderate Republicans that the Republicans for Kansas Values group hopes to reach and convince to support Davis in November, according to Steve Morris, former state senate president from Hugoton.
Morris, part of the group of current and former officials who traveled to various events Tuesday with Davis, said in a phone interview that the group feels strongly that the future of the state is at risk if Brownback is re-elected.
“Paul Davis would be a young, incredible governor,” Morris said. “We hope with us speaking out it will tell people that even though they’re Republicans, it’s fine to vote for a Democratic governor. The last several decades, we’ve had Republican and Democratic governors, but things have gotten so partisan these days that we need to convince people it’s OK to cross party lines.”
Education is the top issue for many of the dissident Republicans, according to Morris.
“We’re all strong supporters of education, and we feel like the Brownback Administration could care less about education. For people in Kansas, that’s one of their top priorities, as it is ours,” he said.
During the group’s stop in Topeka, Dennis Jones, former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, reiterated dissatisfaction concerning Brownback’s education policy, according to a press release.
“I spent 30 years raising my family in Lakin, Kansas,” Jones said. “I know firsthand how the schools and communities of rural Kansas have been damaged by Gov. Sam Brownback’s failed policies. In rural Kansas, property taxes have skyrocketed due to Sam Brownback’s failed policies. Our schools are suffering, and the opportunities available to our children are being limited.”
Other issues include concerns about taking $1 billion out of transportation funding to try and solve the state’s revenue shortfall, and Brownback’s push to create a health care compact in which the state would take over Medicare.
“All those health care dollars for 450,000 Kansans would go to Brownback,” Morris said. “And he could decide who gets health care, or do something else with that money. He may want to try to fill his deficit up with those dollars. It would be a huge disaster.”