Syndicated to Kansas newspapers June 26, 2017.
Martin HawverIt’s going to be an interesting year and a half for Kansas, as we either get a new governor…or don’t…and wait until November of 2018 to learn who is going to be leading the state for the next four years.
At this point, probably sometime around noon Monday, the 2017 legislative session will have ended.
And with Gov. Sam Brownback’s penchant for biennial budget bills, covering the fiscal years that start July 1 and run through June 30 of 2019, after today he essentially could be out of work for the remaining year and a half of his term.
Oh, there will be touch-ups next session of that budget, but in all likelihood unless the Kansas Supreme Court in July rejects the new K-12 school finance plan, most of the work of the Legislature and the governor will be done for the remainder of his term.
That ramps up the halltalk that Brownback might get a presidential appointment to something or other for the federal government. Ambassadorships and delegation to international organizations are rife and require a presidential appointment.
If that does happen, well, most Kansans—even those who aren’t Brownback fans—hope that an appointment is to something fairly substantial that would make good use of his history as a Kansas Secretary of Agriculture or U.S. House member or U.S. senator. Hate to see him get an appointment as a postmaster somewhere or other.
But, if Brownback stays, it’s going to be mostly cutting ribbons, taking that first shovel of dirt at a new highway project—if the Kansas Department of Transportation has any money to build anything—and stuff like that. Probably, we’re thinking, light enough work that he can make a clean shirt last two days…
And it is that all-but-over governorship that makes the upcoming gubernatorial race interesting, and getting an early start.
If Brownback gets a federal appointment, or just quits because he doesn’t want to spend his day doing crossword puzzles or watching soap operas on TV, the new governor is Republican Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer. Nice enough guy, but closely linked to Brownback, and by implication virtually everything Brownback has done that a majority of Kansans say they don’t care for.
So, a quick move-on by Brownback would give Colyer a chance to create his own gubernatorial identity, which will require some clever work because he has been just across the second-floor Statehouse hallway from Brownback for seven years.
While that’s going on, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former State Sen. Jim Barnett, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman, possibly former Rep. Ed O’Malley, and, well, several other Republicans can angle for the GOP primary victory. Remember, the highest vote total wins, and the more candidates in the race, the lower percentage needed to get the GOP nomination.
Democrats will at this point probably have to campaign against Brownback and what he has done to the state (or accomplished, you choose the word) and not until after the 2018 primary campaign against a single target.
In that race? Recent Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, former Kansas House member/Kansas Agriculture Secretary Josh Svaty and possibly House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita.
Don’t think that roster is closed, either, and again, their campaigns will be pretty much linked to Brownback, and whoever has ever been in a photograph smiling along with Brownback at anything.
So, what’s it going to be like between now and the 2018 elections?
Mostly politics. Look for Democrats to assert that just fixing the tax system so LLCs pay taxes again didn’t solve the state’s budget problems, and look for Republicans to say that the state is again on a sound financial footing after a noble experiment that just didn’t work.
Oh, and there are still going to be bridges and highways to be named after politically popular figures that might just win some votes.
Just not seeing the Sam Brownback Highway going far, though…