Friday, October 15, 2010

Tax Dollars Being Used to Promote Chris Biggs

What do you do when polls have you down 15 points to your challenger?

Commission an ad, paid for by tax dollars, to promote yourself under the guise of promoting advanced voting in Kansas.

That's what Secretary of State Chris Biggs is doing, spending almost $160,000 of Help America Vote Act money in this recent ad on television across Kansas. Notably, the Kris Kobach campaign has objected, as covered by the Lawrence Journal World.

First of all, Biggs claims it is a public service announcement -- not quite, it's a paid TV ad. While it is paid for with federal dollars, tax dollars are tax dollars.

Second of all, if Biggs wanted to avoid any issues concerning promoting himself, the ad could have said "Brought to you by the Kansas Secretary of State's office" and eliminated the picture of him at the end, oddly surrounded by four people in his office, a picture which screams "look at me, I'm your Secretary of State and am hard at work giving commands to my minions!"

But no, the desperate Chris Biggs -- a Democratic Sebelius hack appointed when Ron Thornburgh bailed on Kansans and quit the job early under a Democratic Governor -- couldn't resist the temptation to have $159,000 in free advertising for his failing campaign.

What's even more pathetic is that this isn't the first time Chris Biggs has done this. As covered by the Kansas Watchdog, Biggs also did this in 2005 while he was the Kansas Securities Commissioner. Then, $400,000 of your tax dollars went to promote an ad promoting himself. While not an elected official at the time, the self-promotion was still hard to take, particularly from a complete gas-bag like Chris Biggs.

Another component of this that bothers us -- and perhaps not others -- is why the state should even be spending tax dollars to promote Advanced Voting anyway. Now, it makes sense for a political party -- or a political candidate (like Biggs!) -- to promote early voting from supporters so people lock in their vote for you before anything can change their mind. But why should the state care when people vote, as long as they do vote?

As anyone who has been to a polling place on election day in the last few cycles knows, there are no longer lines at polling places, due to advanced voting. So to use that as an excuse to promote advanced voting now is misleading. While we could see the justification of an ad to encourage people to vote period -- it is not as if the thousands of yard signs, phone calls, mailers, and television ads from candidates and political parties aren't giving people a clue that an election is around the corner, particularly given that almost every ad or mailer tells people when to vote, or how to vote early, if they wish.

This $159,000 is a perfect example of wasted tax dollars to promote something that doesn't need promotion -- advanced voting. And it certainly shouldn't be tolerable for an elected official to use tax dollars to promote himself within 30 days of an election.

The good news is that Kris Kobach is crushing Chris Biggs in the polls, and given that Steve Six and Dennis McKinney are also losing -- perhaps the Kathleen Sebeilus era can be put to bed once and for all in Kansas, if only so we can get their mugs off our televisions and we can all have some hope that our tax dollars are being spent wisely.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Conservatives +6 in Johnson County?

With all the talk nationally about conservative gains from coast to coast, including up to 10 or 11 seats in the United States Senate and as many as 100 in the United States House, our focus here at Kaw & Border is turning local and at the tremendous opportunity for conservative gains that will occur on November 2 right here in Johnson County.

There are currently 22 State Representative districts within Johnson County. Of those 22, only up to ten can be considered "right of center", otherwise known as individuals considered likely to vote conservative on both economic and social issues when in Topeka:

Lance Kinzer, Anthony Brown, Owen Donohoe, Ray Merrick, Scott Schwab, Kevin Yoder, Marvin Kleeb, Arlen Siegfreid, Mike Kiegerl and Rob Olson. How one lines these up from right to left is up to the eye of the beholder, but roughly speaking, Brown and Kinzer are on the right and Yoder and Kleeb are on the left, but all are reasonably conservative Republicans.

Of those 10 people, only one -- Kevin Yoder -- is not running, as he is the GOP nominee for Congress. What could have been a retreat back to the left was held by Rob Bruchman, widely considered someone out of the Yoder/Kleeb model of conservatism, so this is a hold for conservatives. Although some of the others have opponents, none are expected to be defeated in November, but certainly conservatives should make sure they donate and/or volunteer to those like Anthony Brown and Owen Donohoe.

Of the remaining 12, six are RINO's (Sheryl Spalding, Jill Quigley, Barbara Bollier, Ron Worley, Pat Colloton and Kay Wolf) and six are Democrats (Milack Talia, Cindy Neighbor, Gene Rardin, Dolores Furtado, Mike Slattery, and Lisa Benlon).

During the primaries, two of the RINO's were challenged -- Quigley and Spalding -- and Quigley was defeated by Kelly Meigs, who is likely to prevail in the fall against a no-name Democrat opponent. That's +1 for conservatives, so we're up to 11. Spalding only prevailed by 33 votes, setting up the prospect that conservatives could defeat her in 2012, and potentially putting the other four in jeopardy as well. Still, however, for the 2011-12 sessions, the moderate/liberal contingent will at least hold five seats.

However, the great news for conservatives is that out of the six Democratic-held seats, five are being challenged by those considered reasonably conservative, and all five are considered even money or likely to achieve victory on November 2. Here is how we handicap each:

District 16 -- Amanda Grosserode vs. Gene Rardin
Rardin and the Dems have put out some mailers hitting Grosserode on the Fair Tax, but this is way too little way too late for the Democrats against the hard-working, hard-charging, incredibly credible Grosserode, who has walked her district twice and has the money to answer whatever Rardin tries to throw her way. Frankly, we would be shocked if this race turned out to be less than 10 points in a Likely Victory for Amanda Grosserode.

District 18 -- John Rubin vs. Cindy Neighbor
Isn't it just hilarious that Cindy Neighbor actually used to claim to be a Republican? Neighbor, who nearly lost to Rubin in the year of Obama, 2008, which along with 2006 was perhaps the best year to be a Democrat in Kansas, is facing John Rubin again and this time, her fate will be the opposite. John Rubin, a former federal judge who fits the Kinzer mold of conservatism, has covered the district on foot and is already known by the voters due to his previous run. Again, the Democrats are trying hard to hold on here, but the chances of that happening are slim in 2010. We're calling this a 54-46 win in a Likely Victory for John Rubin.

District 19 -- Jim Denning vs. Dolores Furtado
You don't get any more liberal than Dolores Furtado, who would frankly fit right in if she was running in San Francisco. Furtado, herself a former Republican and a County Commissioner pre-Eilert, is always tough to beat but Denning is working his rear off to win this district back for Republicans, which is one of the two they lost in 2008 where the Republican won those who showed up on election day but lost overall due to underperforming with advanced voters. Denning, who is truth be told probably somewhere in the Yoder/Kleeb model of Republicans, will have to earn his stripes as a conserative in Topeka, but he is light years to the right of the socialist Furtado, and has the bucks to conduct a mail campaign as well as a door to door campaign. It is hard envisioning seeing Furtado holding on to this, so we're calling it a 54-46 win in a Likely Victory for Jim Denning.

District 22 -- Greg Smith vs. Lisa Benlon
District 22 has been the district the Democrats could count on for the last 16 years, even when Republicans held all the rest. Briefly held by Britt Nichols from 1995-1996, it has been held by Sue Storm and RINO-turned-Democrat Lisa Benlon since. Benlon drew a serious challenge from Joy Bourdess in 2008, but Joy, despite her strong grassroots campaign, was simply unable to overcome many of the advantages Democrats had in 2008, including the fact that District 22 has many Democrats in it. However, in 2010 the Republicans have their best chance since the mid 1990's in Greg Smith, father of Kelsey Smith, and Greg is on the cusp of victory here in the hard-to-win 22nd. Smith, a conservative by all stripes, has worked the district hard and has not only a compelling story to tell, but a compelling message as well. However, due to the political makeup of the district, this one will be tough and could go either way. While we feel it is a slight lean towards Smith, it is truly a Tossup.

District 23 -- Brett Hildabrand
Unlike the 22nd, where the Democrats have held it for 15 years, the 23rd is a District that until 2008, was held by conservative Republicans Judy Morrison and Cliff Franklin. Though the district is balanced politically -- a lot of Democrats live there -- conservative Republicans can win it as the number of moderate Republicans is quite small. Milack Talia won it in 2008 57-43, but that was against an opponent who was widely regarded as not working particularly hard, particularly on the ground, so the margin should not deceive anyone -- mainly because political newcomer and conservative Brett Hildabrand has taken the opposite approach, walking the district completely and doing what needs to be done to achieve victory -- for make no mistake, the 23rd is not a district that one can rely on mail to win. A conservative must work the grassroots and that is what Hildabrand is doing. Though some Democrats may think they can hold on here, the previous 15 years prior to Talia's win tell us that Hildabrand will win here, though it will be close. Our handicap is that this district is a Slight Lean For Brett Hildabrand.

Add those five districts up and add in Kelly Meigs win from the primary, and you've got a Net +5 conservatives already and if Greg Smith wins in the 22nd, a +6 for conservatives within Johnson County alone.

The other Democratic-held seat, the 24th, is being challenged by someone widely regarded as being quite liberal, Michael Foltz, so we are not handicapping that race, though it appears likely that Slattery will win.

Should the above scenario occur, the conservative numbers in Johnson County will go from a respectable 10/22 to 16/22, heading into redistricting, which will push the number of House seats past 25, perhaps as high as 27.

The moral of this story is that for the first time in recently political memory, conservatives have the opportunity to make significant gains in Kansas, including right here in Johnson County, previously regarded as a bastion for moderate Republicans, who either have switched parties or been defeated. And, considering the fact Spalding barely won her primary, no left-of-center politictian should consider themselves safe in Johnson County.