A conservative coalition led by Republican Governor Sam Brownback routed moderate incumbents in Kansas GOP Senate primary races on Tuesday, August 7, giving the Topeka State House a strong rightward tilt in one of the nation’s most solidly Republican states.
Senate President Steve Morris of Hugoton was among the eight moderates who fell to conservative opponents in an intra-party struggle marked by disputes over taxes, state employee benefits, health care, and other issues that have divided the party since the 2010 elections that swept Brownback into the governor’s office and left Republicans in control of both houses of the legislature. Morris, a 20-year veteran of the state senate, was defeated by conservative state Rep. Larry Powell. Just six moderate Republicans won renomination, while the only conservative senator unseated was Dick Kelsey of Goddard, who lost to another conservative, Dan Kerschen of Garden Plain. Republicans currently hold 27 of the 40 seats in the Kansas Senate.
Brownback took the unusual step of targeting several incumbents of his own party for defeat in a year that saw moderate Republicans joining Democrats in opposing the governor’s tax cut plan that will lower taxes on individuals and eliminate the income tax on businesses in the state to stimulate economic growth. Opponents argued the tax cuts favor the wealthy and will lead to budget shortfalls and cutbacks in funding for education and social services. The tax bill passed and will take effect next year, but a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans blocked efforts to give the governor more control over appellate court appointments and legislation that would put new public service employees on a private 401(k)-style pension plan instead of the state retirement system.
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Photo of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback: AP Images