By Gene Meyer | Kansas Reporter
TOPEKA – Your next Kansas Legislature will be more conservative than the last one, which just passed the largest package of tax cuts, welfare reform and business-friendly legislation in Kansas history, predicts Jeff Glendening, vice president for political affairs at the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.
Or at least, that is a good bet, said Glendening, whose job is to urge passage of the pro-business inclinations of the largest general-business state organization working in the capitol.
There are, of course, Aug. 7 primary elections and Nov. 6 general elections to hold first, to see who will be in that next State Legislature when it convenes Jan. 14. But looking at the more than 350 Kansans who filed for those offices when the deadline hit Monday, there appear to be more candidates with conservative credentials than not, Glendening said.
“It’s been a circus, “ Glendening said as the noon deadline passed at noon. “But at the end of the day, I’d rather be in our position than on the other side.”
According to a preliminary count posted on the Kansas Secretary of State’s website at mid day, 101 candidates filed for the 40 seats in the Kansas Senate that are up for election this year and 252 filed to compete for 125 seats in the Kansas House.
But that simple math masks some underlying complexities in the summer and fall campaigns. Kansas legislators are required by the Kansas Constitution to redraw the boundaries of their House and Senate districts, and the U.S. House and state board of education districts in Kansas after each 10-year U.S. Census to assure that the same number of voters are in each district.
But House and Senate members were unable to agree on redistricting plans this year and litigation put the decision in the hands of a special three-member panel of judges. The judges on Thursday, barely three days before the final filing deadline, issued their redistricting plan, which threw candidates in turmoil. Four dozen of the new districts included more than one incumbent legislator and 25 had no incumbents at all. And everyone had barely three days – from Friday when they learned of the decision to Monday noon – to adjust to the new, court-ordered reality.
“I know a lot (of what changed), but I still don’t know everything,” said Ronnie Metsker, chairman of the Johnson County Republican Party.
The new judicial maps put three new House districts and one new Senate district in Johnson County, where population in the sprawling Kansas City suburbs increased 20 percent in the last decade.
“I was on two phones for three solid days, making sure we had at least one candidate for each office,” Metsker said.
Even so, there were last-minute surprises. Kansas state Sen. Terrie Huntington, R-Fairway, declined to file for re-election Monday. Kansas state Rep. Kay Wolf, R- Prairie Village, filed for that Senate seat instead and will face David Harvey, a Johnson County business executive, in the August primary.
Other candidates made even bigger changes to adjust to the new maps. The judicially drawn maps put two northeastern Kansas conservatives – Rep. Anthony Brown, R- Eudora, and Rep. TerriLois Gregory, R- Baldwin City, in the same district. But over the weekend, Gregory rented an apartment in nearby Ottawa in order to file as a candidate in a different district. Brown, at the last minute Monday, filed for a seat in the Kansas Senate instead.
At least five other candidates also changed addresses to file for office from a different district, the Kansas Secretary of State’s office reported. State Rep. Jan Pauls, R-Hutchinson, moved across that town, into a former church that she and her husband had been rehabbing.
Kansas’ next legislators also may include many newcomers, such as Bob Booth, a retired broadcasting operations manager from Sterling. Booth said he was seeking office to continue the legacy of a longtime friend, the late state Rep. Bob Bethell, R- Alden, who died in traffic accident on the way home from the legislature May 20. His widow, Lorene Bethell, was chosen to fill his unexpired term.
“The judges put me in a different district than Bob’s,” Booth said. “I wouldn’t have filed otherwise.”
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