Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories featuring The Telegram’s top 10 news stories for 2014.
Election season in Garden City brought with it a flurry of activity. Several candidates for different state offices passed through on campaign stops, and the voters had many chances to speak their minds.
There were moments when it seemed the status quo in Garden City and the whole of Kansas could change dramatically.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback ran against Democratic challenger Paul Davis, who attracted the endorsement of some 100 longtime Republicans, something that was unprecedented in Kansas political history.
Pat Roberts, a longtime incumbent, faced a more difficult challenge against Independent Greg Orman, who ran as an independent, than he’d expected and the national party brought in such party darlings as Sarah Palin, Bob Dole, Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush to campaign for him on the ground.
Orman dubbed his trip through southwestern Kansas a “Problem Solving Tour,” holding a meet and greet at the Clarion Inn.
“We need to secure the border, and we are making progress in that direction. What we also need to do is make these mothers in these countries understand that it is futile for them to send their children because in any case they will be taken back,” he told those attending the meeting.
Roberts also visited Garden City, along with his wife Franki, who urged voters to support her husband. “He is my champion, and he is your champion,” she told voters.
“The road to a Republican majority is gonna run, and is running, right through Kansas,” Pat Roberts said. “And this race is so much more than about me and electing Pat Roberts than you can imagine.”
The First District representative race with Congressman Tim Huelskamp against Air Force veteran and former mayor of Manhattan, Jim Sherow turned heads when Conestoga CEO Tom Willis claimed Huelskamp had threatened him. Meanwhile, Huelskamp was endorsed by the likes of political stars like former governor Mike Hucakbee.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt was another of the candidates to pass through Garden City. He was running for re-election against Democrat Anthony John Kotich while Secretary of State Kris Kobach was up for re-election running against Jean Schodorf.
While here, he pledged to embark on introducing new ways to fight identity theft after re-election.
Schmidt also addressed gang crime. Referring to the Gang-Free Kansas initiative introduced two years ago, he said the Attorney General’s goal was to provide a useful forum where local authorities and local people work on their local gang problems by coming together to share ideas.
Dennis Anderson and Ken Selzer faced off in the race for new Kansas Commissioner for Insurance.
Despite such interesting developments in the state races, however, incumbents held onto their seats, though it all did serve to bring issues to the forefront that many felt had been ignored by the administration. Moderate Republicans were seen as having lashed out at the state’s conservative leadership, especially Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts.
Garden City residents came out in big numbers to vote in the mid-term election and speak their minds. Many voters admitted they were mainly watching the state races, which had attracted more attention than usual on the national stage.
On voting day at many stations, officials reported that voters had been waiting before 7 a.m., the start time for voting, with lines of patient residents forming in the chilly weather.
The Finney County Fairgrounds hosted the most stations with eight. The election activity was all in the 4-H building. Many churches and public buildings had booths set up in an exercise that was described as smooth by election officials.
The issues that brought out the different voters were as varied as the people, but education stood out.
“I think it’s going to be a really tight election,” Kyle Korf, a resident said. “I think that’s why voting this year is going to be more important than most years going by the different issues that have been brought up, not only in the state of Kansas but in the U.S.”
Voters for the different mid-term election races turned out in big numbers across southwest Kansas, with many area counties registering more than 20 percent turnout by the end of early voting Monday.
In Finney County, officials were upbeat about the turnout, saying it was “pretty good.”
Finney County had 16,977 registered voters, according to Finney County clerk Elsa Ulrich.
Most of the counties in the coverage area of the Garden City Telegram reported turnouts of more than 40% of registered voters in the early voting process.