Thursday, November 11, 2010

Winn, Lose, or Make Excuses

In the Kubler-Ross model of the "five strages of grief" after a devasting loss, the first stage is denial, followed by anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. In the case of long term Johnson County RINO's Dick Bond and Bob Vancrum, this model seems to be playing out true to form in their reaction to the devasting loss of one of their own -- Larry Winn -- to hard-working conservative Jason Osterhaus, who defeated Winn last week 53% - 47% in the race for the County Commission in the 4th District.

In an article entitled "Changes in store in county leadership" in the Johnson County Sun dated Wednesday, November 10, Bob Vancrum and Dick Bond, former legislators out of the 1980's and 1990's, were asked to explain by reporter Chuck Kurtz this giant political upset. Rather than give Osterhaus credit for his grassroots campaign or acknowledge that perhaps that so-called "moderates" are a dying breed in Johnson County, Vancrum and Bond were clearly neck-deep in the grief process when they gave their silly excuse for the defeat of their fellow RINO comrade -- blaming his loss on the fact the Shawnee Mission School Board redoing boundaries and closing schools. Larry Winn is currently President of the Shawnee Mission School Board.

In Vancrum's case, he seems to be in the first stage of simple denial:

"I think that loss was in part about people being upset about the school boundaries in the Shawnee Mission School District," he said, going on to say "That was not handled very well, and it came back to hurt him."

Bond, long time enemy of conservatives, seemed to be in a mix of all stages, including anger, depression, and perhaps a little barganing. Bond starts off by sharing Vancrum's sense of denial, though Bond's own quote refutes his ridiculous excuse:

"I was surprised, I was supporting him," he said. "But I think the school proposal got him a number of negative votes even though he had not announced his position in regard to the proposal by the superintendent."

It was Bond's second statement went a couples stages further in his grief process:

"He was (in the voters' eyes) guilty by association, and that's too bad. (depression) He would have been an excellent commissioner. (barganing) Osterhaus is far, far right and backed by (former state legislator and former Johnson County Community College Trustee) Ben Hodge." (anger)

I understand Bond's depression -- his long time friend lost an election, in the same geographic area where Bond himself represented when he was a State Senator, which must have doubly hard. We've all been there. All of us have once said after a losing campaign, "Candidate A would have made a great X". And we've all been known to spew a little venom towards the victor who defeated our hero candidate by exagerating the truth a bit. "Such and such is a communist."

So, Mr. Bond and Vancrum, I get it. Elections are tough and losses are tougher. The problem is that in their grief process, they're completely ignorant of the facts of the situation surrounding Winn's defeat -- or perhaps, even more likely, they're simply choosing to ignore them, out of fear of admitting what it means for their ever-shrinking portion of the political pie in Kansas.

Let's be clear about what happened last Tuesday. It had zero -- or, at the very most, extremely little -- to do with anything regarding the Shawnee Mission School Board. As Bond himself acknowledged, Larry Winn hadn't taken a position on the proposed changes. In fact, the Shawnee Mission School Board didn't redo the boundaries nor close any schools. In fact, just this week -- a full week after Winn's defeat -- they decided to not vote on the measure. All that had happened was a proposal by SM School Board Superintendent Gene Johnson -- a controversial one, indeed -- but one that Winn hadn't taken a position on, much less opposed. And, furthermore, the logic in Vancrum's and Bond's statement made no sense -- it's not as if voting against Bond for the County Commission was going to remove him from the Shawnee Mission School Board -- if anything, voting against him would have given him the political freedom to vote for closing the schools, if in fact that was his position in the first place.

What Bond and Vancrum are ignoring in their excuse making is not one, but several very large elephants in the room that led to to the Winn loss:

1. So-called moderates are a dying breed in Johnson County. If Bond and Vancrum would open their eyes, they'd realize that Winn was simply the latest one to go down. In 2008, State School Board Member and RINO Sue Gamble was crushed by Mary Pilcher Cook. In 2010, RINO Jill Quigley lost to Kelly Meigs in the Republican primary in a district dominated by "moderates" like Steve Cloud, Lisa Benlon, and Stephanie Sharp for more than 15 years. Former RINO-turned Democrat Cindy Neighbor was trounced by John Rubin 59% - 41%. Former RINO-turned Democrat Lisa Benlon lost to Greg Smith. RINO Sheryl Spalding nearly lost to Richard Downing in the primary. Owen Donohoe defeated public school-backed Joe Novak 62-38%. RINO-favorite Delores Furtado lost to Jim Denning. RINO "Enemy #1" Kris Kobach flew through the primary and the general. The fact is, while Vancrum and Bond, a well known king-maker for "moderates" going back more than two decades, may yearn for the days they were in power and conservatives were cast as stealthy nut-jobs who hated public education, those days are past and after 18+ years of lies and deception, the people aren't buying "Bonds" anymore. They're buying Kinzers, Grosserodes, Rubins, and yes, an Osterhaus.

2. Tuesday's result had really nothing to do with anything that happened on Tuesday - it started six months ago when Jason Osterhaus started walking, kept walking, and didn't stop walking until it got dark the night before the election, communicating his common sense, independent conservative message to the voters in a kind, straightforward, respectful way, earning their trust and respect over many months. When he didn't walk, he called, or he had friends drop literature for him. And while yes, some assistance from the Kansas Government Reform PAC clearly aided Osterhaus, the victory was in large part due to the fact Jason Osterhaus will go down as history as the hardest working candidate since Kay O'Connor.

Remember Kay? Well, if you don't, Bond and Vancrum should have, because Kay's election should have taught them a lesson. In 2000, then Rep. Kay O'Connor, known as the voucher lady at the time, ran against State Senator and three-term Lenexa Mayor Rich Becker, a popular and kind fellow who was nonetheless one of the RINO's in Bond's zoo.

O'Connor, much like Osterhaus, had no money. Becker had essentially unlimited funds and the backing of those who couldn't stand Kay and a name that few felt could be beat. Yet, much like Osterhaus, Kay walked. And she walked. And she walked. And she walked some more. She didn't hide how she felt nor was she stealthy. As someone once said, no one ever voted for Kay O'Connor by accident. Uncompromising in her principles, come election day, Kay won -- and much like in the Johnson County Sun article today, similar quotes of shock and dismay were given by Bond and Vancrum 10 years ago, rather than refusing to recognize that perhaps she had appeal, much like the refusal to recognize that Osterhaus had appeal this year.

The point here is this -- it is an absolute insult to Jason and the hard working volunteers who campaigned with him for Bond and Vancrum to insinuate that Jason Osterhaus merely represented some kind of protest vote over some line being redrawn or a middle school being closed. The fact is that due to his walking and actually talking to the voters over a 6 month period, there was perhaps no more well known candidate in history in that area of the county than Jason Osterhaus, and the people liked what they came to know and what he believed in, and they voted for him.

3. On the flip side of Osterhaus' hard work was Winn's lack thereof. While Osterhaus had yard signs throughout the district -- in yards, a sign of his real actual support -- there is little evidence Larry Winn ever appeared on someone's door step, instead relying upon Dick Bond's 1990's-era playbook -- large signs in front of shopping centers owned by their economic development buddies; large mailers full of quotes and endorsements from unknown Overland Park City Councilman and other members of the Johnson County oligarchy; and the arrogant-yet-all-too-apparent belief that no young right winger like Jason Osterhaus could come close to the son of a former Congressman.

Truth be told, given Winn's money advantage over Osterhaus, there was no excuse for his loss. Not the school board. Not voter confusion. Not Ben Hodge. It was Larry Winn's refusal, as is typically the case by the wine-and-cheese crowd, to get out and actually talk to the voters and find out what they really think.

See, if Larry Winn, Dick Bond, Bob Vancrum, Jill Quigley, Sheryl Spalding, Lisa Benlon, Cindy Neighbor and others like them would actually get out and talk to the people, they'd realize that perhaps that not only are people concerned with the potential of a few lines being redrawn or schools closing, perhaps they're also concerned about the fact their sales tax went up, the fact their property taxes are too high, the fact the state is in deep debt due to massive education spending, the fact that their liberty is being taken way by big government liberals -- and perhaps that they would like those trends to be reversed, and Jason Osterhaus, along with the other victors last Tuesday, had pledged to reverse them.

In fact, out of all the conservatives who ran for office in Johnson County on Tuesday night -- all of them won. Every. Single. One.

Perhaps the day will come when Bond and Vancrum, and surely others like them, reach that final stage of grief -- acceptance -- and they will accept the fact that the voters are becoming more conservative, that they voted FOR Jason Osterhaus, and that when challenged, RINOs are being rejected coast to coast, including right in the heart of the area once represented by Senator Bond himself.