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Copyright 2010-2016 by Richard Harris*

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SPECIAL NOTICE:
The Sedgwick County Election Office is eagerly seeking election workers.

Volunteers (who will be paid) are needed for Election Day, and possibly for other days (early voting, etc.). For more information,
call (316) 660-7119 or 660-7100,
or see this official poster

(opens in a new window).


NOTE: For the official map of polling sites for the 2020 General Election, in Wichita & Sedgwick County, CLICK HERE.
(Red sites also offer early voting)
Press the "+" symbol on the screen, or on your keyboard, to zoom in for more detail.

WICHITA POLITICS


NOTE: Except as noted, these comments are the opinions, perspectives or recollections of the author.
No guarantee of accuracy is made;
However, a reasonable effort has been made to realistically reflect the author's understandings from a life-long familiarity and involvement with the community.




POLITICS:
A Basic Wichita Overview:

In and around Wichita, local politics are distinctly conservative (Republican or Libertarian, dominated by the Wichita-bred Koch brothers, by various land-development interests, and by various conservative religious factions) -- but liberals (Democrats and others) have much more influence in Wichita than in most other parts of Kansas.

And Wichita has repeatedly earned national recognition for exceptional citizen participation in local government and politics, overall community involvement in civic affairs, and civic volunteering. Many Wichitans (on the left, right, and center) are passionate about politics, and find ample opportunity to "get involved."

For an official list of ALL ELECTED OFFICIALS in and superior to Sedgwick County, Kansas (Wichita and surroundings), from the Sedgwick County Election Commissioner's office, CLICK HERE.

  • ELECTION & VOTER INFORMATION:
      Sedgwick County Election Commlssioner's Office:
          (316) 660-7100

    Return to page menu


    ELECTIONS & CAMPAIGNS:


    2020 ELECTION:
      U.S. President, U.S. Senator, U.S. Congress
        State Legislature & Judges; County Commission.


    2020 OVERVIEW:

    The chief battles in the 2020 Wichita elections centered on the Democratic presidential nomination, and U.S. Senate races.

    (Although a few prominent national pundits had initially suggested that Kansas might be "in play" for Democrats in the national races, conventional wisdom remains that staunchly-Republican Kansas will not change its pro-Republican habits when selecting U.S. President and U.S. Senator).

    For final results, see:

  • November 3, 2020 (and updated subsequently):

    PRESIDENT   (2020):

    This year, the Democratic campaign for presidential nominee found Kansas Democrats picking Joe Biden, the eventual national nominee. Republicans offered no real challenge to incumbent President Donald Trump. Because Kansas, state-wide, is overwhelmingly Republican, and hasn't voted for a Democrat for President since World War II, there was no significant campaigning for the presidency in Kansas. Despite the traditional presumption of solid victory for Trump, Kansas only went for Trump by one of the narrowest margins in recent decades.
    DONALD TRUMP Republican 738,858 votes 56.8%
    JOE BIDEN Democrat 534,478 votes 41.1%
    JO JORGENSEN Libertarian 28,375 votes 2.2%



    CONGRESS   (2020):
    U.S. Senate 2020:
    The Kansas battle for U.S. Senator was for the seat of retiring longtime U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (Republican).

    U.S. Senate primary election 2020:


    Republican Senate primary race 2020:

    The Republican contest for the nomination to that seat was the fiercest and ugliest battle among Kansas Republicans in recent memory. It mainly pitted two prominent candidates against each other:

    • 1st District Congressman Roger Marshall, a former physician, was the eventual winner, by a minority of voters. Marshall commanded an early and sustained lead with $1 million in campaign cash stored up from his previous Congressional campaign fund, and gained major endorsements from Bob Dole (former U.S. Senate Majority Leader & Republican V.Pres. nominee), Kansans for Life (the state's main anti-abortion organization), Kansas Farm Bureau, and others.
        Opponents cited Marshall's dismissive views of some of Trump's policies and claims, and his having taken money from opiod manufacturers in the pharmaceutical industry. A personal controversy, over an alleged vehicular battery by Marshall, also factored in. Nevertheless, Marshall won the primary with around 40% of the vote.

    • former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a populist arch-conservative, (famous -- some would say "infamous" -- for his national role in both voter-suppression and anti-immigrant politics).
        In the early months of the contest, amid the crowded field of candidates, Kobach's name-recognition helped him take the lead. However, a candidate shake-out, pushed by the state GOP chairman, helped winnow the race down to mainly Marshall-vs.-Kobach, elevating Marshall's visibility.
        Kobach's critics noted his failed nomination in the previous race for Governor (he was beaten by Democrat Laura Kelly -- the only Democrat to win a state-wide office, amid the pro-Trump Republican voting in Kansas in 2016). They also noted his ejection from his leadership of President Trump's failed "voter fraud" investigating commission, and his attempt to get a government jet assigned to him as part of that job.
        Particular attention was drawn to the role of a white-nationalist who played a pivotal role in his campaign.
        Democrats were disappointed at Kobach's defeat, having judged him the easier Republican to beat. Kobach came in second place with about 25% of the vote.

    • Various others:

      • Mike Pompeo -- though never a declared candidate, Pompeo -- formerly the Kanasas 4th District Congressman (Wichita area), and now the U.S. Secretary of State under President Trump -- was always considered the most powerful potential candidate, if he were to quit as Secretary of State and run for the U.S. Senate seat. For several months, Pompeo denied plans to run, but danced around ruling out any chance that he would -- even returning to Wichita for a private visit with the nation's leading Republican campaign funder, Wichita billionaire Charles Koch -- rattling the Kansas Republican Party.

      • Susan Wagle, a State Senator from east Wichita suburbia, the powerful President of the Kansas Senate, who -- nevertheless -- lacked sufficient connections and funding (half of her $500,000 campaign fund was a loan from her own pocket).
          However, Wagle's campaign was also undermined by her responsibility as President of the Kansas Senate -- in session throughout the crucial first three months of the campaign year -- capped by the March death of her daughter. Emphasizing her anti-abortion politics failed to bring her the important endorsement of Kansans for Life, who backed Marshall, instead.
          In April 2020, the state GOP chairman asked Wagle to leave the race to help simplify it as a race between the two front-runners -- angering her. When Wagle finally withdrew from the race, in May, Kris Kobach finally registered his own name for the ballot.

      • Bob Hamilton, a Kansas City plumbing businessman, who flooded the airways with ads presenting himself as a "plumber" and "regular guy," with ads that were very bluntly populist-conservative. Hamilton stayed throughout the race, pumping about $2 million of his own money into the effort, ending up in third place with about 20% of the vote.

      • Dave Lindstrom, former Johnson County Commissioner from Overland Park (in Kansas City's wealthy suburbs), previously an NFL pro-football player for the Kansas City Chiefs. He raised about $250,000 in campaign funds, but -- like Wagle -- about half of it was a personal loan he made to his own campaign. Like Wagle, Lindstrom was asked to leave the race by the state GOP chairman; unlike Wagle, he remained in the race.

      • four other minor Republican candidates.
    The Republicans battled chiefly over immigration and other populist issues, and each others' political records (particularly their competing claims of allegiance to President Trump). The battle, most intense of any Republican primary contest in recent Kansas memory, was long, bitter and brutal -- with mudslinging and ridicule throughout -- at great expense (financial and otherwise) to the Republicans.

    Democratic Senate primary race 2020:

    By comparison, with comparatively little drama, Kansas Democrats picked Republican-turned-Democrat State Senator Barbara Bollier, of Johnson County (Kansas City suburbs), also a physician, to challenge Marshall. In the first three months of 2020, she raised $2.4 million -- a record for either party in Kansas.

    There were, however, other Democratic candidates, including:

    • Former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom, a former U.S. attorney, who had never been a successful candidate for any elected public office. Grissom raised nearly $470,000 after launching his campaign in July, ending the July-September 2019 quarter with over $366,000 cash on hand.

    • Manhattan Mayor Pro Tem Usha Reddi, also sought the Democrats' Senate nomination, and raised over $61,000. But it was not enough.

    U.S. Senate general election 2020:


    In the Kansas 2020 general election for U.S. Senator,
    • Roger Marshall,
      Republican 1st District Congressman
      (western Kansas)
      ...faced off against...
    • Barbara Bollier,
      Democratic state senator
      (northeast Kansas)
    -- both of them medical doctors -- in what quickly became the most expensive U.S. Senate campaign in modern Kansas history.

    Bollier -- a Republican-turned-Democrat moderate from politically powerful northeast Kansas (Kansas City & suburbs, Lawrence and Topeka), with a large "war chest" of campaign money -- was widely seen by Democrats as their first real hope of taking a Kansas seat in the U.S. Senate in decades (Kansas Democrats had not won a U.S. Senate seat since 1932).

    So the national Democratic Party and its supporters flooded in money from throughout the nation, to bolster Bollier's run -- largely in hopes of gaining one of the four seats Democrats needed to gain majority control of the U.S. Senate.

    Kansas Republicans and national Republicans, however, countered with vast sums of their own -- around $40,000,000 -- on top of Marshall's own $15,000,000 war chest.

    Though Marshall's attack ads painted Bollier as a "Pelosi liberal" who "votes with her party 90% of the time," Bollier's advertising featured Republicans who had served with her in the state legislature, assuring fellow Republicans that Bollier was "independent" and reasonable and fair, and would not simply be a tool of the Senate's Democrat leader Chuck Shumer (D-NY).

    Both campaigns touted their candidate's expertise in -- and commitment to -- healthcare. Marshall ads implied that Bollier would push for socialized medicine, and portrayed her as voting for later-term abortions. Bollier, ads though, painted Marshall as a ruthless medical entrepreneur, siding with pharmaceutical companies and hospital chains, and "making money off the pandemic."

    Both campaigns accused the other of threatening rural hospitals with closure -- and Bollier's campaign cited Marshall as having forced the closure of his hometown public hospital by opening a competing private hospital of his own. Marshall claimed his offered better care.

    Bollier's rise in the polls was blunted by a pivotal Republican attack ad -- replaying a recording of Bollier enthusiastically extolling the virtues of a total ban on guns (citing Australia as an example) -- along with ads citing her "extreme" pro-abortion policies, and her lone opposition to a child-abuse reporting law.

    A last-minute airing of an attack ad from the primary race -- accusing Marshall of driving over someone with a car, and escaping punishment through personal "connections" -- failed to turn the tide for Bollier.

    After one of the closest, most intense, costly and noisy U.S. Senate battles in recent Kansas history -- and 1,297,818 total votes -- Marshall (with 54% of the vote) ulimately defeated Bollier (41%), and Libertarian Jason Buckley (5%).


    See:



    U.S. House of Representatives   (2020):


    Kansas 4th Congressional District 2020 race
    (Wichita & South-Central Kansas)

    The Wichita area is in the Kansas 4th Congressional District, which has been held by Republican Ron Estes, a longtime Kansas Republican political power-player, since a special election in 2017 to replace Congressman Mike Pompeo, who had quit to become the head of the Central Intelligence Agency (and ultimately U.S. Secretary of State) under President Trump. Repeating his 2018 victory over Democrat James Thompson, Estes thoroughy trounced his political-novice opponent, Democrat Laura Lombard -- 65% to 35%.


    Kansas 1st Congressional District 2020 race
    (Western Kansas)

    With Rep. Marshall the favored U.S. Senate candidate, various Republicans sought to win nomination to fill his U.S. House of Representatives seat, representing the stauchly-Republican Kansas 1st Congressional District (Western Kansas). Though the race was far outside of Wichita, its ads flooded Wichita TV stations, which also reached into the 1st District, in the western reaches of the state. Ultimately, Tracey Mann won the GOP nomination, and went on to defeat Democratic nominee, Kali Barnett, by a wide margin: 72%-28%.



    STATE LEGISLATURE   (2020):

    In the state legislative races, Democrats repeated their massive efforts at getting a candidate for every Legislative district, but this year were met by a comparable effort by Republicans.


    State Legislature 2020 primary election

    Prominent State Rep. Michael Capps, Republican of Wichita, notorious for various inflammatory statements and alleged "dirty tricks" against Democrats, lost the Republican nomination for his seat.

    (For more on Capps' involvement in the 2019 mayoral defamation scandal, and the 2020 fallout from it, see that "Defamation conspiracy" topic in "SEDGWICK COUNTY COMMISSION" section, immediately below)


    State Legislature 2020 general election:

    Following the general election, the state legislature remained essentially the same -- with the Republicans' "supermajority" ensuring their ability to override a veto by Democratic Governor Kelly.

    Two particularly notable events involved the defeat of prominent Democrats:

    • The victory of incumbent Republican state senator Mike Petersen, in a south-Wichita/south-Sedgwick-County district, over challenger state representative Jim Ward. Ward, once the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, gradually fell from power, losing a bid for the gubernatorial nomination in the previous election -- and opted to run for Petersen's Senate seat, instead -- to no avail.

    • Another was the pivotal defeat of longtime state senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, Topeka Democrat, who narrowly lost to his Republican challenger: 51%-49%.


    SEDGWICK COUNTY COMMISSSION   (2020):

    The contest for two Sedgwick County Commission seats -- 2nd and 3rd Districts (southwest and west Wichita, respectively) -- included a race marred by one of Wichta's most controversial politicians, and one of the city's most extreme political scandals in decades.


    County Commission 2nd District 2020 race:

    In the Sedgwick County Commission District 2 race (which includes Republican-leaning, blue-collar southwest Wichita, Haysville, Clearwater and southwest Sedgwick County), a controversy arose between incumbent Republican County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell and Democrat challenger Sarah Lopez -- amid another controversy about O'Donnell's involvement with a false attack ad against a Wichita mayoral candidate in the previous year's election.

    Residency battles:

    Following his primary victory, O'Donnell falsely claimed that Lopez was "a lifetime resident of north Wichita" and that she was living in someone else's "basement" to claim residency -- both allegations found to be false by investigative reporters. O'Donnell cliamed that "Democrats are... moving her into the district to steal our seat away from us."

    An O'Donnell campaigner (Republican precinct committeeman, KNSS radio personality, and former state legislator John Whitmer) filed an official complaint with election officials alleging that Lopez was not a resident of the district.

    Lopez had moved into her current southwest Wichita home in February (she had previously been living in northwest Sedgwick County, where she had been a precinct committeewoman for the suburb of Kechi). Also, Lopez told investigators that she had previously lived in the 2nd District for several years (7 out of the last 10 years) -- before moving out of the district for family reasons, then returning. She reported her children were enrolled in schools in Haysville (a suburb of southwest Wichita).

    On August 24th, in a hearing attended by Lopez, but neither Commissioner O'Donnell nor Whiitmer, the Republican-dominated County Objections Board (made up of the District Attorney, Sherriff and Deputy Election Commissioner) ruled unanimously that the allegation was completely false, and done without proper research -- fining Whitmer.

    (NOTE: The O'Donnell/Whitmer residency allegations against Lopez were particularly ironic, because...:

    • In 2007, authorities removed O'Donnell from the ballot in a Wichita City Council race, because he was not a proper resident of his claimed district.

    • In various legislative, city council, and county commission races, O'Donnell appeared to have moved into the district just prior to running for office there.

    • As for Whitmer, his 2014 legislative bid was marred by the discovery that his claimed residence was in a newly built house that was not yet completed, nor certified for occupancy.)

    Defamation conspiracy:

    As if the residency-allegations fiasco was not enough, O'Donnell's involvement in the city's largest political scandal in a decade emerged during his run for re-election.

    In 2019, during the Wichita City Council elections, a fraudulent attack ad had appeared on local TV and social media, with false accusations against Democratic mayoral candidate Brandon Whipple (who ultimately defeated incumbent Republican Jeff Longwell). The bogus ad accused Whipple of sexual harrassment of interns while a state legislator. The ad was soon debunked by investigative reporters, and disowned by the local Republican party establishment. However, the culprits in the defamation scandal remained hidden behind a screen of out-of-state shell organizations.

    Eventually, investigative journalists tracked the fraud to state representative Michael Capps (R-Wichita), already notorious for other mischief. But his henchmen remained unknown -- until a 2020 lawsuit by Whipple, and confession by one of the conspirators, revealed County Commissioner O'Donnell to be one of the trio of local Republican officials (O'Donnell, Capps, and Wichita City Council member James Clendenin) who conspired to develop, promote and cover-up the scheme. O'Donnell was revealed to have written the deceptive script for the ad.

    Nine days after O'Donnell (on camera) denied "on my father's grave" any involvement in the fraudulent video, one of his co-conspirators, the ad's producer, released a secret audio recording he'd made of the three Republican officials plotting their scheme. The recording was released to the local newspaper and television news media, who published it online. In it, O'Donnell is heard clearly stating:

      "Like I’ve always learned in politics, it’s always avoid the truth at all expense, right? And just go on the attack."

    Coming as early voting had already begun, the revelation brought fast and furious condemnation from leaders throughout the community, including O'Donnell's colleagues on the County Commission, the Sedgwick County Republican Party, the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce and the city's main newspaper, -- all calling for the three officials (including O'Donnell) to resign, and withdraw from the election. The Sedgwick County District Attorney (also Republican) announced a joint investigation of the matter by his office, the County Sheriff's office and the Wichita Police Department.

    As it became apparent that O'Donnell was losing ground to challenger Sarah Lopez, O'Donnell, three days before the election, announced that -- if he won the election -- he would not accept the new term, and would resign, allowing the Sedgwick County Republican Party leadership to select his replacement.

    Democrats loudly denounced the move as a deception, and the state's largest newspaper, and the Wichita Eagle, added its suspicions in an editorial calling for O'Donnell's ouster at the polls.

    However, in early returns Election Night, Nov. 3rd, it appeared that O'Donnell had narrowly won over Lopez -- 51% to 49% (576 votes separating them). But not all ballots had yet been counted. Lopez refused to concede the election until a certified count was completed, and possibly a recount. As additional remaining ballots were counted over the next two days, O'Donnell's lead began to evaporate. By the early evening of the next day, Nov. 4th, his lead had dwindled down to 400 votes, and by 10pm the next night, he was ahead by only 32 votes -- with many more ballots remaining to be counted. A day later, the lead had flipped -- with Lopez gaining a 125-vote lead over O'Donnell.

    Under threat of ouster, O'Donnell resigns

    Friday, Nov. 13th -- following the joint investigation (by the offices of the Sedgwick County District Attorney , the Sedgwick County Sheriff, and the Wichita Police Dept. -- Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett (Republican) advised O'Donnell's attorney that they had found grounds to begin ouster proceedings against O'Donnell, and would start them the very next week.

    Afterwards, that afternoon, without explanation, O'Donnell advised the DA, and his fellow County Commissioners, by e-mail, that he was resigning from his seat on the County Commission, apparently effective immediately.

    A county press release shared the information publicly, and noted that two-and-a-half months remain in O'Donnell's unexpired term. Local Republican party officials will be obliged to name a successor to complete O'Donnell's term.

    Friday, Nov. 13th, -- the 2020 election for District 2 County Commissioner (to take office January, 2021) was still not decided, as the official canvassing of votes began.

    [Visit this webpage in coming days for more details.]

    See:

  • August 5, 2020: Residency battles:

  • August 21, 2020:

  • August 24, 2020: Defamation conspiracy:

  • October 14, 2020:

  • October 23, 2020:

  • October 24, 2020:

  • October 26, 2020: Threat of ouster, resignation:

  • November 13, 2020
    County Commission 3rd District 2020 race:

    Incumbent Republican County Commissioner David Dennis won re-election to represent the county's District 3, in heavily Republican west Wichita and western Sedgwick County -- handily defeating Democrat challenger Mike Iuen, a longtime local TV reporter/anchor: 66%-34%.







    2019 ELECTION:
      Mayor, City Council & School Board
        & State Constitutional Referendum

  • NOTE:
    For broad, general information
    on City elections not specific to this 2019 election,
    see: City Elections (Council & Mayor).


    2019 ELECTION OVERVIEW:

    UPDATE, WITH RETURNS:
    PRELIMINARY 2019 RETURNS:
      Source: Sedgwick Co. Election Commissioner's preliminary returns, Election Night, Nov.5, with 100% of precincts reporting.
    CANDIDATES VOTES % PERCENTAGE of VOTES

    CAST

    Wichita Mayor
    Brandon Whipple 22,256 46% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    Jeff Longwell 17,516 36% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    write-in * 8,516 18% |||||||||||||||||
    * probably mostly for Lyndy Wells
    City Council District 2
    Becky Tuttle 5,905 61% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    Joseph Brian Scapa 2,895 30% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    Rodney Wren 846 9% ||||||||
    write-in 60 1%
    City Council District 4
    Jeff Blubaugh 3,505 58% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    Beckie Jenek 2,091 35% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    Christopher Parisho 427 7% |||||||
    write-in 21 1%
    City Council District 5
    Bryan Frye 6,433 68% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    Mike Magness 2,969 31% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    write-in 71 1%
    USD 259 – At Large
    Sheril Logan 17,127 53% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    Joseph Shepard 15,059 47% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    write-in 186 1%
    USD 259 District 3
    Ernestine Krehbiel 26,634 98% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    write-in 671 3% ||
    USD 259 District 4
    Stan Reeser 14,940 50% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    James Kilpatrick, Jr 14,631 49% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    write-in 251 1%
    Kansas Constitutional Amendment – Census Apportionment
    - Sedgwick Co. vote
    YES 33,166 64% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    NO 19,086 37% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    - Kansas overall vote
    YES 196,539 60% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
    NO 132,803 40% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Return to 2019 Election menu



    SPECIFIC 2019 RACES:

  • SCHOOL BOARD
  • CITY COUNCIL

    (NOTE: Only Districts 2, 4 & 5 are up for election this year. In two more years, elections will be held for the other districts. Council members are elected for 4-year terms.)

    Here’s who’s running for:
    Wichita City Council:...


  • MAYOR







  • REFERENDUM

    Return to 2019 Election menu




    2018 ELECTION:
      County, State & Congressional



    2018 ELECTION UPDATE:
      (with geneal election results):

    Kansas 2018 Mid-Term Election Results

    per KAKE-TV Nov. 5, 2018
    with at least 98% of votes counted




    1

    RED = REPUBLICAN


    BLUE = DEMOCRAT


    * = incumbent







    CANDIDATES VOTES % PERCENTAGE of VOTES


    cast


    STATE-WIDE OFFICES:






    Governor

    Laura Kelly 487,804 48% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Kris Kobach 441,446 43% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Greg Orman 65,754 6% ||||||

    Jeff Caldwell 18,288 2% ||

    Rick Kloos 6,200 1% |






    Secretary of State

    Scott Schwab 534,172 53% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Brian McClendon 439,978 44% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Hodgkinson 35,369 4% ||||






    Attorney General

    Derek Schmidt* 597,000 59% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Sarah Swain 409,609 41% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||






    Treasurer

    Jake LaTurner* 581,382 58% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Marci Francisco 420,000 41% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||






    Insurance Commissioner

    Vicki Schmidt 625,882 63% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Nathaniel McLaughlin 364,308 47% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||











    CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS:






    FIRST

    Roger Marshall* 149708 68% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Alan Lapolice 69076 32% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||






    SECOND

    Steve Watkins 124895 48% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Paul Davis 120421 46% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||






    THIRD

    Sharice Davids 164253 53% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Kevin Yoder 136104 44% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Chris Clemons 7643 2% ||






    FOURTH

    Ron Estes* 136,281 60% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    James Thompson 92,029 40% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||











    SEDGWICK COUNTY COMMISSION:






    District 1

    Pete Mietzner 19364 53% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Renee Duxler 16975 47% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||






    District 2

    Lacey Cruse 16138 55% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    RichardRanzau* 13024 45% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||






    District 5

    Jim Howell* 14688 56% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

    Jim Skelton 11537 44% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||








    Return to 2018 Election menu


    OVERVIEW of 2018 ELECTION:

      In 2018, Kansas politicians were campaigning for local, state and federal office.

      In the Wichita area, most races pit well-funded establishment incumbents (mostly Republican) -- against less-experienced politicians or complete novices (mostly Democrats).

      In fact, in several races, the principal challengers have had no prior political expierence at all, and no political track record on which to judge them.

      However, most of the incumbents have been attached to exceptional controversy, and are vulnerable accordingly.

      For voters in the Wichita area, these races include, principally:


  • LOCAL contests:

    Return to 2018 Election menu


  • STATE contests:

      The principal state races, in this overwhelmingly "Red" (Republican) state, are for:
      • Governor:
      • Secretary of State
      • Attorney General
      • State Treasurer
      • Commissioner of Insurance
      • several State House District races
      • several judges
      • State Board of Education
      • The first two positions --

      • Governor:
      • Secretary of State
      • are the most hotly contested state races, on the Wichita ballots this year
        -- along with the hotly contested federal race for
      • 4th District Congressman
      • -- and each are described below.

        Return to 2018 Election menu

      • Governor:

            This race initially was a huge battle among several leading Republicans and Democrats, vying for their party's nomination -- but quickly settted down to a tight race between two conservative Republicans, incumbent Governor Jeff Colyer and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach barely won -- by less than half a percent (the tightest gubernatory primary in state history).

        Republican Secretary Kobach faces a liberal Democrat State Senator Laura Kelly, and an independent candidate, businessman Greg Orman. As of late October, 2018, Republican Kobach is narrowly leading Democrat Kelly, as independent Orman trails far behind both.

        Chief among Republican Kobach's arguments are his anti-immigrant and voter-suppression credentials, and an in-person endorsement from President Trump, whom he briefly served in a minor political post (see below), and his commitment to revive the controversial tax-cuts of Colyer's predecessor, Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback's controversial extreme tax-cuts had wrought havoc with the state's finances, education and economy, and resulted in a msssive backlash from his own party.(see below).

        Democrat Kelly counters by framing the Kobach candidacy as a way back to the extreme policies of unpopular former Gov. Brownback, whom she opposed. And she particularly promises "adequate" funding to education (about half of the state budget) -- a topic that resonates across party lines in Kansas. (Conservative rural Kansas communities, dying out as farm automation drives their young to work in the cities, see their state-supported schools as the hub of community life, and the "last critical institution" that defines a rural community as a town.)

        Moderate political Independent Greg Orman -- a rich businessman who has never served in public office -- has found support from the state's largest trade organization, the Kansas Farm Bureau , and its former leader, the campaign manager for Gov. Colyer's unsuccessful re-election bid. And a prominent Western Kansas Republican legislator, Bernie Doll, joined as his running mate. However, Orman is expected to take more votes away from Democrat Kelly than from Republican Kobach, and Orman may serve as a "spoiler" for Kelly's gubernatorial attempt.

        However, as of late October, 2018, the race remains uncertain.

        UPDATE: Nov. 5, 2018:

        In the 2018 race for Kansas Governor,
        State Senator Laura Kelly (Democrat) won
        with 48% of the vote --
        defeating Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (Republican), who got 43% of the vote -- as well as three other candidates, who split 9% of the vote (6% to independent candidate and businessman Greg Orman, 2% to Jeff Caldwell, and 1% to Rick Kloos).
        (See graph below, per KAKE-TV Nov. 5, 2018, with at least 98% of votes counted:)

        Governor

        Laura Kelly 487,804 48% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

        Kris Kobach 441,446 43% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

        Greg Orman 65,754 6% ||||||

        Jeff Caldwell 18,288 2% ||

        Rick Kloos 6,200 1% |

        The victory promises sweeping reversal of the unusual and controversial "Kansas experiment" of the Brownback/Colyer administration.

        The Democrat candidate's victory -- the only state-wide Kansas office won by a Democrat in this election -- is widely described as a firm statewide repudiation of both...
        • arch-conservative fiscal and social policies of Governors Brownback & Colyer; and
        • Secretary Kobach's own controversial voter-suppression and anti-immigrant policies, and other controversial conduct, while Kansas Secretary of State.

        Return to 2018 Election menu


      • Secretary of State

        The battle for incumbent Kris Kobach's seat -- which he is leaving in his bid for Governor -- is hotly contested between Republican and Democrat. The Republican is an establishment member of the Kobach orbit. The Democrat is a former Kansan -- a California billionaire co-founder of computer collosus Google -- who has returned to the state for his first attempt at public office.

        The race is seen by analysts as extremely important, because its outcome is expected to determine the future of Kobach's extensive voter-suppression efforts, which have advantaged Republicans, and handicapped Democrats, throughout the state.

        The race is largely seen as a state-wide referendum on incumbent Kobach's voter-suppression policies.

        UPDATE: Nov. 5, 2018:

        In the 2018 race for Kansas Secretary of State -- the Republicans retained the office, with newcomer Scott Schwab winning 53% of the vote -- despite the incumbent Republican, Kris Kobach, losing his bid for Governor. Democrat Brian "Bam" McClendon -- a former Kansan, recently returned from a successful career as a computer industry tycoon in California's "Silicon Valley" -- received 44% of the vote. The remaining 4% went to independent candidate Hodgkinson.
        (See graph below, per KAKE-TV Nov. 5, 2018, with at least 98% of votes counted:)

        Secretary of State

        Scott Schwab 534,172 53% |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

        Brian McClendon 439,978 44% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

        Hodgkinson 35,369 4% ||||

        (NOTE: For more on the Kansas state government, see the STATE GOVERNMENT section, below)

      Return to 2018 Election menu


    • FEDERAL contest:

      • U.S. Representative:
        Kansas 4th Congressional District

            The Kansas 4th Congressional District includes Wichita, and surrouding Sedgwick County (which hold most of the District's voters) and several surrounding rural counties in South-Central Kansas. The District has been represented by a Republican since the defeat of longtime Democrat Congressman Dan Glickman in 1994.

        This lively race pits new Republican incumbent, former Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes, against Democrat political novice James Thompson, a civil rights lawyer -- in a rematch of their 2017 race for the seat (when it was vacated by resignation.) In that race, which was largely seen as a backlash against President Trump, Thompson nevertheless lost resoundingly, though by a narrower margin than any Democrat in decades.
            In the current race, Estes' incumbent duties have kept him in Washington for much of the campaign, and he has dismissed many attempts by Thompson to engage him in debates -- Thompson showing up at a remarkable number of community events and forums throughout the District, backed by a wildly enthusiastic cadre of supporters. Eventually, Estes debated Thompson at debates arranged by some of the Wichita's major TV stations.
            While Estes leads in the polls and fundraising, Thompson brags that he has gotten over 20,000 donations -- while Estes' campaign relys on a tiny fraction of that (largely from wealthy and powerful donors). Prevailing wisdom among Kansas pundits expects the race to go to Estes, but not easily, and not with any certainty.

        UPDATE: Nov. 5, 2018:

        In the 2018 race for Kansas 4th District Congressman, incumbent Republican Congressman Ron Estes retained his seat, with 60% of the vote -- against a repeat competition from Wichita attorney James Thompson (Democrat). who got the remaining 40% of the vote.
        (See graph below, per KAKE-TV Nov. 5, 2018, with at least 98% of votes counted:)

        FOURTH

        Ron Estes 136,281 60% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

        James Thompson 92,029 40% ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||


        UPDATE: mid-2019:

        Former 4th District Congressional candidate, James Thompson -- the Democratic party nominee in the last two 4th District congressional races -- announced he will not be a candidate in the next Congressional race, nor in any forseeable election for any office, owing to his battle with cancer, now in an advanced stage. Thompson, however, remained a vigorous participant in Democratic Party politics, and was a popular leading speaker at "DemoFest 2019" (the 2019 State Convention of the Kansas Democratic Party).


      Return to 2018 Election menu


    • KEY INFORMATION SOURCE:

    Return to 2018 Election menu



    LOCAL GOVERNMENT:



    Local Elections

    Shifting scheduling & polls,
    Official & Media Silence
    & Low-and-Declining Voter Turnout:

    Originally, local elections were held in the spring of "off years" (the odd-numbered years when no state or federal elections were held), but the Kansas Legislature passed legislation setting local elections on the same summer/fall schedule as state & federal elections, while still keeping them separate from state/federal races by holding local elections on odd-numbered years. It was ostensibly done to improve voter turnout.

    However, the 2019 local primary election in Wichita suffered the lowest turnout in years, with only about 10% of eligible voters turning up. The 2019 local primary was almost completely ignored by local media (broadcasters preoccupied with shallow, easy cops-and-crooks stories; newspaper dwindling to insignificance), and the Sedgwick County Election Commissioner's office apparently failed to make any substantial effort at notifying the public of the event, let alone promoting participation.

    With apparent increasing frequency, Sedgwick County polling places (especially in the inner city) are moved about -- resulting in voters, on Election Day, going to the same polling place as the previous election, only to find that it is closed, with no obvious notice posted to tell them where their new polling place is. Critics have alleged that it is a common practice, by Republican election commissioners nationwide, to suppress voting, particularly in Democrat-leaning neighborhoods.

    Under the current Sedgwick County Election Commissioner, Republican Tabitha Lehman, and her two Republican predecessors, polling places have been consolidated, relocated, moved or under-identified (with little or no signage to indicate their location) far more often than in the previous 30 years, under Democrat and Republican Election Commissioners.


    Return to LOCAL GOVERNMENT menu


    Developer Influence:

    A fundamental defining characteristic of Wichita-area local government -- city, county and school board -- is the dominance of the land-development industry. It is the absolute overwhelming dominating factor in city and (to a slightly lesser extent) county government. (This is a nationwide phenomenon, not unique to Wichita.) While the school board is only partially affected by this, it is a costly effect there, too.

    With the notable local exception of occassional local elections that the Koch family decides to intervene in, the campaigns of most successful candidates for city and county office (and some school board members) are funded by people in the land-development / property-management industry, because -- for them -- it is the cost of doing business. Local government has a more direct and financial impact on the development/property industry than on any other local industry, because it is local government that:

    • Authorizes and restricts land developments (through zoning, plat approvals, inspection standards, demolition permits, historic preservation policy, imminent domain acquisitions, etc.)
    • Accommodates land developments, with millions of dollars ( through:
      • expansion of the city (by annexation),
      • development of supporting infrastructure (streets, bridges, drainage, sidewalks, water and sewer lines, etc.)
      • authorization of access to those infrastructure elements (such as curb cuts for driveways)
      • expansion of public safety services (police & fire),
      • provision of affordable waste-disposal sites (city dumps) largely used for bulky construction and demolition waste.
      • tax and finance accommodations -- ranging from revenue bonds, to TIF (tax-increment financing), to tax abatements and exemptions.
    • Directly funds the development community (particularly construction companies) -- through major civic and public works projects (e.g.: roads, streets, highways and bridges, drainage, sewage and water service projects, stadiums, arenas, convention centers, libraries, schools, park facilities, etc.).
    • Directly underwrites risk for the development community -- by providing bailouts for unsuccessful development projects, through free or cheap added public infrastructure and public investment, tax reductions and exemptions, after-development TIF re-financing, and even outright purchase of failed properties (for instance, in recent years, the City purchased the failed Hyatt Hotel).
    • Directly sacrifices public property to private developers
      -- often at bargain prices --
      such as recent public-to-private property-handouts and land-grabs of numerous major city-owned buildings downtown, broad sections of the scenic riverbank, portions of Planeview, and recent proposals to commercially exploit public parks (for instance, Clapp golf course). While some of these properties are charged for, developers are almost never charged at the property's actual (often irreplaceable) long-term value to the public.
    Consequently, local developers have a huge, direct financial stake in the behavior of local government, and -- as "the cost of doing business" -- developers finance candidates who they expect will be most supportive of their developments. The development community provides most of the campaign donations to successful city and county candidates. It also funds some school board candidates (to promote expensive school-construction projects).

    The "development community" includes:

    • Land speculators, investors & developers
    • Landlords & property managers
    • Real estate brokers and their support companies (banks, S&Ls, Credit unions, mortgage brokers, land-title companies, etc.)
    • Architects & civil engineering firms
    • Construction companies ("general contractors")
      and subcontractors (mechanical, electrical, plumbing contractors, etc.)
    • ...and their support industries:
      • Material suppliers (lumber yards, steel & concrete suppliers, etc.)
      • Equipment suppliers & operators (bulldozers, cranes, dump trucks, etc.)
      • Financiers (Banks, S&Ls, Credit Unions, venture capitalists)
      • Commercial Insurors (Construction is their chief market)
      • Labor unions for the Trades (carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc.)
      • Developers' attorneys & accounting firms
    Careful scrutiny of the campaign finance reports of local candidates finds that those industries dominate local campaign funding -- and are rewarded accordingly.

    In fact, often, local candidates are, themselves, members of the development community (or members of their family are).

    This causes all other local factions, industries, and individuals, to become comparatively insignificant in the development of local government policy and operations.

    It also leads to reckless development, urban sprawl, and great demands on the taxpayer -- directly or indirectly -- to fund the projects and profits of developers and their colleagues.

    Of Wichita's three principal business organizations....

    • The Chamber [of Commerce] (principal export industries, like manufacturing, transportation, bankers, retailers, and large consumer-service enterprises, such as hospitals)
    • WIBA (Wichita Independent Business Assn.) (small/medium sized businesses)
    • WABA (Wichita Area Builders Assn.) (the development community)
    ...WABA absolutely exerts pre-eminent influence at City Hall (and some would say at the County Commission as well).

    Rightly or wrongly, for local politicians, success in local politics depends upon good relations with WABA and the development community.

    See:




    City of Wichita

    The City of Wichita has a "Council-Manager" form of government. City government is presided over by the City Council, elected from individual districts, and headed by a Mayor elected by the voters of the City at-large.

    The Council sets policy and resolves disputes with the public, but day-to-day operations of City government are handled by an appointed City Manager.


    City Elections (Council & Mayor)

    Officially the city elections are "non-partisan," and officials do not publicly declare a party affiliation, -- though moderate Republicans (especially those connected to land-development interests) tend to dominate.

    Council elections are staggered -- held in the summer/fall of odd-numbered years -- with about half the council elected one year (for four-year terms), then, two years later, the reamining council members and mayor are elected (again, for four-year terms). These staggered elections help provide some stability and continuity to the City Council, and avoid the chaos and mistakes that would result if all of the Council members were newcomers, all arriving at the same time.

    UPDATE: Summer 2019:

    Following years of low turnout, the 2019 local primary election in Wichita suffered the lowest recent turnout, with only about 10% of eligible voters casting ballots. The 2019 local primary was almost completely ignored by local media, and the Sedgwick County Election Commissioner's office failed to make any substantial effort at notifying the public of the event. (For more on Local Elections & their problems, see the LOCAL ELECTIONS section, above.)

    The key race in that 2019 local primary was for Wichita Mayor. The primary whittled down a field of several mayoral candidates (including a prominent corporate leader and education activist) to the two finalists:

  • incumbent Mayor Jeff Longwell (a prominent Republican); and
  • challenger State Rep. Brandon Whipple (a prominent Democrat).

    The runnoff (general election) will be held in November, 2019.

    For details on the latest City election, see:


    City Council Meetings

    The Council meets Tuesday mornings, most weeks, for anywhere from an hour to several hours, depending upon the agenda. Meetings are open to the public, and held in the City Council Meeting Room on the south end of the ground floor of City Hall (described below).
    Council meetings are often broadcast live on the City of Wichita's cable TV channel, and videos of them are available on the City's website.

    The meeting agenda -- published and available at the City Council office in City Hall, on the Thursday before the meeting -- is divided into five parts:

    • Council Agenda
      (issues raised by individual council members, which can be literally anything -- from complaints about noisy neighborhoods to proposals to drastically change key city ordinances to, very often, simply making ceremonial gestures, like declarations of special days, or handing out awards),

    • Public Agenda
      (issues raised by the public):
      Any citizen of the city can ask to be on the agenda, and allowed to address the Council (politely), on any topic, for five minutes. The Public input though these apearances is tolerated by the Council, generally, but seldom has any substantial effect. To request being on the agenda, contact the City Council office at 268-4331, at least a week in advance (two or three is strongly recommended).
        NOTE: Citizens are expected to limit their attempts to be on the agenda to only a very few times in a year, if at all (if every one of the 300,000 citizens of Wichita wanted a single 5-minute appearance on the agenda, every year, council meetings would consume 25,000 hours a year -- 68 hours a day, seven days a week.).

    • Manager's Agenda
      (issues raised by the City Manager and other city officials, generally about city government administration and operations, but also about ordinances, budget and taxes, and other topics. Typical items could include approving city tax increases, reorganization of a city department, staff pay raises, purchasing new squad cars for the police, authorizing a new ordinance against smoking in public places, approving the city manager's plan to sue a non-performing vendor, funding for a new community health program, etc.)

    • Planning Agenda
      (issues having to do with land management: land development and zoning, infrastructure development and maintenance -- particularly streets and utilities -- and related topics). This agenda generally governs more city tax money, and far more private expenditures, than just about any other part of the weekly council meeting, and its results can affect the city significantly for decades.
        Normally, this is the most tedious, boring part of the meeting (sometimes lasting hours) -- as architects and city inspectors and engineers and land developers get up and ramble on about the importance of adding an extra lane to a half-mile of roadway, or deciding how much to charge residents of a neighborhood for a new sewer line, or reviewing a businessman's request to rezone a small plot of residential land to build a convenience store.
        It should be noted tha the Council usually just rubber-stamps (approves) the proposals, because they've already been approved by other entities -- particularly the joint City-County "Metropolitan Planning Commission" or MPC.
        HOWEVER... because these issues can have great impact on specific individuals (often bankrupting them, or forcing them to move), and can radically change (even destroy) a neighborhood (a faulty drainage ditch can cause repeated flooding of the homes of hundreds of people), and can involve millions of dollars (adding just a mile of divided four-lane street can cost over 5 million dollars, which someone has to pay for), these agenda topics sometimes attract intense community participation at the council meetings. On rare occasions, some of the wildest council meetings erupt over items on the Planning Agenda.

    • Consent Agenda
      (minor, non-controversial technical administrative issues, like approving the minutes of the prior meeting, voting to "recieve and file" routine reports of various agencies and officials, authorizing a vendor bid approval according to standard criteria; approving minor adjustments to accounting protocols; authorizing minor name changes to city agencies, etc.)

    • Executive Session
      State law (KOMA - Kansas Open Meetings Act) requires most deliberations of the City Council to happen in open meetings, open to the public. However, KOMA allows certain issues to be discussed in secret, closed-door sessions. Those include:
      • personnel matters
        (such as debating whether to fire a city employee),
      • pending litigation
        (keeping the city's discussions of lawsuits, with the City Attorney, confidential),
      • commercial negotiations
        (with vendors, with prospective new companies being invited to the city, salary negotiations with labor unions, etc.),
      • and a handful of other sensitive matters.
      Executive sesssions happen during the course of the regular meeting. The law requires the council to announce, in vague terms, why they're going into executive session, and when they'll return. It does not allow them to vote on a decision about the matter until they return to the public meeting. Most executive sessions are only 10-30 minutes per meeting, though rarely some can last for hours.

    City Finances

    In July, 2016, Wichita's City Manager proposed a 2016-2017 city budget plan of over $572 million -- a 3% increase over the previous year.

    The city property tax rate ("mill levy") -- long one of the lowest among the 50 largest towns and cities in this anti-tax state -- remained fixed (as it had for 22 years), protecting the property-owning class — while the proposed budget increase would come from the city's regressive sales tax, expected to generate an additional 3% from increased commerce in the improving economy and the growing city.

    City Hall

    City government is headquartered in City Hall, at a ten-story black-glass building at the southwest corner of Central Ave. and Main Street, across from the Sedgwick County Courthouse.


    For official summary information about Wichita — its land, history, population, economy and infrastructure — and details about Wichita city government's administrative and fiscal matters, see this
    City of Wichita "Finance" web page
    which contains the City Manager's "2017-2018 Recommended Budget" (the 2017 proposed budget and 2018 projected budget), plus extensive charts, graphs, demographic & economic data, and city government organization information. Earlier budgets can also be found on this page.

    Return to LOCAL GOVERNMENT menu


    Sedgwick County:

    Wichita (with its adjoining suburbs) occupies about a quarter of Sedgwick County, a large, rural-and-urban county (1,008 square miles, and about 500,000 people) with many small towns (see map below).

    Most of the towns — notably Haysville, Derby, Mulvane, Goddard, Maize, Valley Center, Park City Kechi and Bel Aire — are chiefly "bedroom community" suburbs of Wichita, mostly home to Wichita-area workers. (Also, in adjacent Butler County, to the east, are three towns closely tied to Wichita: the bedroom community of Andover, straight east of Wichita, just over the county line; and immediately south of Andover, about 5 miles, is Rose Hill; Augusta is 15 miles east of Andover. And, in adjacent Harvey County, to the north, is Newton, about 20 miles north of Wichita).

    But several other towns, farther away — notably, to the west of Wichita: Sedgwick, Andale, Mount Hope, Garden Plain, Cheney, Clearwater, and Viola — are more connected to Sedgwick County's many farms.

    Sedgwick County map, showing County Commisison Districts


    County Officials & Government Structure:

    Sedgwick County is ruled by a Commission-Manager form of government.

    Five County Commissioners are elected, each from a distinct geographic district (see District map above), for four-year terms, in biennial, partisan, public elections. County Commission elections are in even-numbered years, combined with state-and-federal elections, and are staggered -- three seats in one year, two seats in another (two years later), to avoid the destabilizing possibility of a wholly new and inexperienced County Commission.

    The Commissioners, in turn, annually elect the Commission's Chairman, who guides meetings, but has little exceptional authority.

      (For details of the November 2018 County Commision elections,
        see the: 2018 ELECTION section, at the top of this page -- including both
      • the UPDATE subsection (outcomes), and
      • the LOCAL subsection (overview of races).)

    Like the Wichita City Council, the Sedgwick County Commission sets policy and resolves public disputes, but day-to-day operations of County government are handled by an appointed County Manager.

    However, several other County executives are elected -- though these elected officials' departmental budgets are chiefly set by the County Commission. These include:

    • County Treasurer -- responsible for administration of the County's finances.

    • County Election Commissioner -- responsible for voter registration and election administration -- who answers to both the Kansas Secretary of State and the County Commission.

    To enforce state statutes and county ordinances, Sedgwick County voters also elect:

    • District Court Judges,
      (who, as the state judges for for Kansas' 18th Judicial District -- Sedgwick County -- adjudicate cases under state laws)

    • District Attorney for Sedgwick County
      (who, as the District Attorney for Kansas' 18th Judicial District -- Sedgwick County -- enforces state laws); and the

    • County Sheriff
      (who supervises both the sheriff's deputies and the County Jail, which adjoins the west side of the County Courthouse) His office chiefly handles cases under state law (particularly criminal cases), but also cases under county ordinances, and District Court orders (such as evictions, seizures & impoundments, tax sales, commitments and child-custody seizures).
       
      However, the voters do not elect the
    • County Counselor
      — an attorney appointed by the County Commission to serve as their legal counsel, but also to serve as the county prosecutor enforcing county ordinances.

    County Offices & Buildings:

    County government is headquartered in the Sedgwick County Courthouse, a 13-story blue-and-tan building (shown at left) at the northwest corner of Central Ave. and Main Street, across from the Wichita City Hall. The tan, five-story County Jail (also used by the City), adjoins the west side of the Courthouse.

    The "historic" original county courthouse, a stately limestone palace (shown at right), is on the northeast corner, across the street from the current courthouse, and is used for many county functions, as well -- most notably the Election Commissioner's office.


    County Commission Meetings:

    County Commission meetings -- open to the public -- are held in the County Commission Meeting Room in the newer County Courthouse, on Wednesday mornings... occasionally lasting into the afternoon. The meetings are very similar to Wichita's City Council meetings (see their description in City of Wichita section, above).
      County Commission meetings are often broadcast live on KPTS-TV Channel 8 (the local public televsision station), though the broadcast contract is dropped in some years.


    County Budget:

    Hovering just over $400 million, the County budget has remained fairly constant in recent years, despite increases in County population, housing, commerce and traffic. With a majority of County Commissioners holding strong anti-tax, anti-government views, the current Commission has resisted tax and budget increases for several years, despite dwindling state aid and deteriorating infrastructure. However, in his 2017 proposed budget, the County Manager stated...

    "The 2017 County Manager’s recommended budget was developed after six consecutive tight budget years. Since 2010, total County spending, including the Fire District, has decreased 1 percent. In the same period, demand for County services has increased in most areas. Departments are no longer able to do more with less."
    ...proposing a budget of slightly over $424 million, a $10 million increase (about 2.4%).
    County Politics:

    The current (2017) County Commission is dominated by Libertarian-Republicans, backed by the Koch Brothers (see "The Koch Effect," below) -- but the Commission is usually dominated by commissioners allied to the land-development industry or other commercial interests. At least one Democrat is usually elected, typically from the south-central district dominated by blue-collar factory workers.

    Currently (early 2016), the County Commission has an antagonistic relationship with the Wichita City Council -- driven by a philosophical divide: Most County Commissioners are anti-government Libertarian Republicans, opposed to government subsidy of community development and commercial enterprises. Wichita's City Council, however, is largely enthusiastic about such government activity (particularly for local "economic development"), and has -- in the past -- relied upon the County as a cost-sharing partner in such efforts. Extreme hostility to that tradition, by the current (2016) County Commission, however, has strained City-County relations extremely.

    UPDATE 2018: In the 2018 elections. the Sedgwick County Commission's principal Libertarian, Richard Ranzau, was defeated by a liberal Democrat, Lacey Cruse -- likely providing a substantial shift away from the extraordinarily libertarian pressures on the Commission, and likely lessening tensions in City/County intergovernmental relations.

    For DETAILS & UPDATES on the
    most recent County Commission election, see:


    NOTE: For official, more-detailed, summary facts and data on Sedgwick County, see this PDF:
    the official Sedgwick County "County Profile".
    which contains maps, graphs, demographic & economic data, and county government organization information.

    NOTE: For more detailed maps of Sedgwick County Commission districts, naming individual Commissioners, by district, see:
    this official Sedgwick County map site.

    For more a copy of detailed demographic maps and data on Sedgwick County people, by age, incomes, race and neighborhoods, with trends for Sedgwick County and the other neighboring counties, see this slide show by Wichita State University economist Jeremy Hill:
    "Demographic Shifts" . (Note that the U.S. Bureau of the Census primarily groups and reports most census data by county rather than by city, so this is a major source of the demographic analysis of both Wichita and the rest of the county, including individual Census tracts within the area.)


    For additional Sedgwick County government administrative, fiscal and economic information, see the
    Sedgwick County "Recommended 2017 Budget" .


    Return to LOCAL GOVERNMENT menu


    City/County Shared Functions:

    City and County government, for practical reasons, share many functions -- most overseen by County Government.

    These include city/county planning (through the Metorpolitan Planning Commission, appointed by the City Council and County Commission), Emergency Services Dispatch (9-1-1), which dispatches Sheriff, Wichita Police Dept. (WPD), City and County Fire Departments (WFD & SCFD) and county-wide ambulance service (Sedgwick County Emergency Medical Service - EMS). They also share the County Jail, the Health Department. and the official local historical museum.

    Though City-County cooperation has a long history in Wichita, it is often fraught with political stress, as the two governments feud over who has control, and who pays what.

    Because of the frequent overlap of services, it has often been suggested that City of Wichita and Sedgwick County should merge into one large "Metropolitan" government. However, self-protective council members and commissioners -- and rural/small-town county residents fearful of being overpowered by Wichita's inevitable clout in a unified government -- have long fought against unification, quite successfully.

    Return to LOCAL GOVERNMENT menu


    School District:

    Unlike most cities its size or larger, all of Wichita's public schools are part of one "Unified School District" - USD 259 (one of hundreds throughout Kansas). Also officially known as the "Wichita Public Schools," the District is one of the largest single school districts in the nation, with a $650 million budget, employing over 9,000 workers, to serve 51,000 students.

    The District operates...

    •   9 - High schools
    • 15 - Middle schools
    •   3 - "K-8" schools (combined Elementary/Middle school)
    • 54 - Elementary schools
    • 12 - Special program sites
    (Among all these schools, 24 are "magnet" schools offering specialized curriculums).

    The District is ruled over by an elected School Board, who, in turn, elects their own Chairman from the Board.

    Officially, in Kansas, school board elections are "non-partisan," and officials do not publicly declare a party affiliation. Membership is diverse on the 9-member board, and typically ranges from retired educators, to interested middle-class and upper-class parents of students, to local neighborhood, business and church leaders, to ambitious young politicos working their way to higher office.

    An appointed school Superintendent manages the school system on a day-to-day basis. The Wichita District's headquarters have changed multiple times in recent years, and it is unwise to predict their next location.

    Perhaps more than the City or County governments, the School Board is rigidly limited in their authority and actions by extensive state and federal laws governing public schools, and by the District's dependence upon state funding.


    For official summary information about the Wichita Public Schools / USD 259, see this:
    official "District Snapshot"
    which includes extensive summary data, key facts and factors, and District organization information.


    Funding Fights & Flights

    Overwhelmingly, Wichita (and other Kansas) public schools are dependent upon funding by the Kansas State Legislature (who spends rougly half the state budget on education), and even local taxes for school funding (chiefly property taxes) are tightly restricted by the Legislature.

    In recent years, a tight-fisted Governor and Legislature (largely beholden to, and guided by, the Libertarian Koch brothers), have created a growing crisis in Kansas public school funding, resulting in education cuts, statewide, and political upheaval.

    As exemplified by the current state school-funding crisis, Kansas public schools (and particularly Wichita's) have struggled against various conservative movements intent on crippling, segregating or eliminating public schools — and determined to shift power and funding to private schools (particularly conservative religious schools), or to independent home-schooling.

    Wichita is home to several private schools, from pre-school to high-school, populated largely by the descendants of city's most powerful citizens and religious denominations.

    Also, like many American cities, Wichita is plagued by "white-flight" to the suburbs by parents intent on removing their children from the city's mixed-race public schools, and enrolling them in white suburban communities (particularly Derby and Haysville, to the south, Maize and Goddard to the west, and Andover to the east).

    This leaves Wichita's public schools populated by the most disadvantaged students, children of the area's poorest, least-powerful people. Consequently, Wichita has the students who cost the most to educate, while doing so with an education funding base that is arguably the weakest in the county, and the state.

    Add in the hostility to Wichita and its minority students from Wichita's white suburbs, and from other Kansans in general, and the Wichita public schools find themselves constantly struggling to get an "adequate" -- let alone "equitable" -- share of funding from the State of Kansas, or even from their own community, despite a state constitution that requires both.

    (NOTE: In mid-2016, state funding of Kansas public schools was in crisis. In recent years, under the administration of Governor Sam Brownback, and a right-wing legislature beholden to the libertarian Koch family, state funding of Kansas schools was dramatically cut, and resulted in severe and growing hardship for Kansas public schools.

    By 2016, one-fifth of the state's education leaders -- school board members, superintendents and principals -- had left their jobs in disgust. Public schools were experiencing a near-record turnover of teachers, as veterans quit in despair or were cut from tightening budgets. A shortage of teachers has developed, and several schools were being closed around the state.

    In early 2016, in an unprecedented move, the Kansas Supreme Court threatened a Summer 2016 shutdown of all public schools, statewide, unless the Legislature complied with the Kansas Constitution's requirement that public schools be "adequately and equitably" funded by the state. An emergency session of the Legislature, and grudging concessions by them and the Governor, have averted the shutdown, temporarily.)

    During the 2016 election campaign, Brownback backers and other conservatives funded a lavish and unprecedented campaign to unseat Kansas Supreme Court justices, who had ruled against Brownback on the pivotal and costly school finance issue.

    However, the effort failed, completely and overwhelmingly, due in part to opposition from both law enforcement supporters and all four still-living previously elected Kansas governors (two of each party) who called the effort a "power grab" by unpopular Gov. Brownback.

    Furthermore, aggressive campaigns by moderate Republicans, and by Democrats -- largely over the school finance issue -- resulted in the unseating of 40 of the radical-right legislators who had backed Brownback, replacing them with either moderate Republicans, or with Democrats, shifting power in the Kansas Legislature away from the radical-right Republicans, towards moderate Republicans.

    (For details of the outcome, see analysis and opinion essay by WSU Public Administration Prof. Ed Flentje, former Kansas Secretary of Administration to Republican Governor Mike Hayden, at:
    "Kansas voters rebuke Brownback, tax plan" November 12, 2016, Wichita Eagle.)

    Also see:
    "Conservative Lawmakers Ousted in Kansas Primary Election: GOP races seen as referendum on Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax-cut policy" Aug. 3, 2016, Wall Street Journal

    (For more, see "The Koch Effect," below.)


    UPDATE: Summer 2019:

    The defeat of Koch-backed Republicans in 2016 and 2018 elections -- and the Nov. 2018 election of a Democrat as Governor -- resulted in a sharp reversal of state fiscal policy, particularly towards public school funding.

    By the Summer of 2019, the school-funding crisis and controversy was largely brought to an end, and the Kansas Supreme Court accepted the Legislature's enactment of new school-funding policy (and funds) as adequate to satisfy the Court's demand that state government comply with the Kansas constitutional requirement for "full and fair" funding of Kansas public schools.

    However, the Court decided to keep the decade-old case open, for the time being -- in case the Legislature, or Governor, might renege on their commitment to the settlement.



    For official financial and budget information about Wichita Public Schools,, see this
    Wichita Public Schools "Finance" web page
    which contains the District's "2017-2018 Proposed Budget," 2016 approved budget, and other related documents. Earlier budgets can also be found on this page.


    Performance

    The District, in 2016, reported a 75.3% graduation rate -- one of the lowest in the state (though the District reported that this was a 19% increase over the rate 6 years earlier). This reflected three key problems facing the district, as well as others:

    • An urban population (largest in the state), with disproportionate percentages of poor and minority students, and immigrants.

    • White-flight and wealth-retreat into suburban and private schools — leaving the least-powerful parent-constituents, and the most disadvantaged students, for the Wichita public schools to serve.

    • Inequitable school funding by the Kansas Legislature, denying Wichita its "fair share" of state school funding (the main source of funds for Kansas public schools). NOTE: This factor has been repeatedly identified and verified, by findings and rulings of the Kansas Supreme Court (see above).

    Teacher Power

    Wichita public school teachers are largely represented by the K-NEA -- Kansas Chapter of the National Education Association (NEA), the nation's leading teachers' union. However, in this right-to-work state, where union membership cannot be made mandatory — and where public education is under constant (and growing) political attack — K-NEA has had relatively little success in maintaining any security for Wichita's teachers, let alone advances.

    The real power for Wichita educators comes from the extraordinary political activism of individual teachers -- who play a major role in state and local politics. Current and retired educators are among the chief occupational groups in the Kansas Legislature, and -- far out of proportion to their numbers in the population -- teachers are activists and leaders in Kansas' state and local political organizations.


    (For more on Wichita's schools and colleges, see the "EDUCATION" section of this website's LIVING page.)

    Return to LOCAL GOVERNMENT menu



    STATE GOVERNMENT
    CLICK to ENLARGE
    Kansas state government has profound impact upon the affairs of Wichita. Kansas state laws largely govern Wichita business and finance, criminal justice and law-enforcement, civil rights, and the financing and operation of all local government.

    The radical transformation of Kansas government, in recent years, though the efforts of Wichita's Koch brothers, and the candidates they generously, decisively fund (directly and indirectly), has brought a shock to government and society throughout the state -- particularly in Wichita. Understanding these extraordinary changes, in the state capital, Topeka, is critical to understanding Wichita politics and government, today.

     
      This section summarizes:

    Return to page menu


    Kansas Politics & Elections
    Kansas Politics - Partisan Divides

    Kansas has traditionally been viewed as "the most Republican state in the nation" — having voted for only two Democrats for U.S. President (Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, in their respective national landslides) in the last hundred years.

    (NOTE: That reputation has softened somewhat in recent decades, as white American Southerners have dumped the Democratic party over the issue of civil rights, and switched, passionately, to the Republican party -- making America's South even more firmly Republican than Kansas.)
    Though Kansas frequently votes for Democrats for governor, it does so less than half of the time -- more often choosing a Republican governor.

    However, the Kansas Legislature has long been solidly in the control of the Republicans, who have held a majority in both the Kansas House of Representataives and the Kansas Senate for nearly all of the last half-century (a notable exception occurred when Democrats took the House for a couple of years in the 1990s).

    However, this does not make Kansas politics so simple. As shown in this 2010 graph of Kansas voters, Kansas has a high percentage of unaffiliated voters, who can -- and often do -- swing to the left, and give Democrats, or very moderate Republicans, seats normally held by more-conservative Republicans.

    Recent national and regional trends, however, have seen a rise in populist Republicans, loosely allied under the label "Tea Party." Their politics have been more Libertarian than Republican, often dismissing Republicans' traditional fuss over personal morals, while campaigning passionately against taxes, regulations, ethnic minorities, and foreigners. Kansas has been among those heavily affected by that trend.

    In Kansas, perhaps more than any other state, the unorganized Tea Party has arguably been largely co-opted by the state's (and Wichita's) most famous billionaires, the Koch brothers, whose well-funded Libertarian politics have had a sweeping effect on the state.

    With the repeated failure of the Libertarian Party to gain a significant number of votes -- locally, state-wide or nationally (as shown in the above 2010 graph of Kansas voters) -- the Libertarian Kochs helped Libertarian Party candidates to "re-brand" themselves as "Republicans," (especially "Tea Party" Republicans).

    The Kochs then used their wealth to ensure dominance of their "Tea Party" candidates in Republican primary elections -- gradually making Libertarian-minded politicians the leaders of the rival Republican Party, at least in Kansas.

    UPDATE: November 2016:

    In the 2016 primary and general elections, voters voted a backlash against Governor Sam Brownback and his Libertarian-style "Kansas Experiment" (extreme tax cuts -- favoring the wealthy and businesses -- and resulting drastically reduced state services and crumbling state finances), which was blamed (directly or indirectly) for much of Kansas's conspicuously underperforming economy and deteriorating standard of living.

    While Brownback, himself, was not up for re-election, his key supporters -- like-minded Tea Party conservatives in the Kansas Legislature -- suffered exceptional losses. The outcome led to a reversal of fortune of the Koch-backed Republicans -- with many of them being ousted, leaving Governor Brownback facing a Legislature no longer dominated by like-minded Libertarian-Republicans, but rather by moderate Republicans and Democrats, determined to roll back much of his "experiment" in the coming 2017 Legislative Session, starting in January.

    UPDATE: June 2017:
    LEGISLATURE KILLS GOVERNOR'S "KANSAS EXPERIMENT"

    Governor Sam Brownback's "Kansas Experiment" is officially over. The Kansas Legislature, after years of battling with him over drastic tax cuts the Governor promoted in 2012, finally succeeded in mustering enough votes to override the Governor's constant vetoes of bills to restore the taxes that the state was failing to function without.

    After 6 years of protracted battle over the state's radical 2012 income-tax cuts (the main legislative program pushed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback as his "Kansas Experiment"), and the resulting state fiscal crisis -- with the Kansas economy still consistently lagging surrounding states (despite the Governor's assurances that drastic tax cuts would boost the economy) -- the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature (tempered by recent elections that cost Brownback's supporters dearly, and added new Democrats to the Legislature) finally had enough, and voted to override the Governor's threatened veto of a $1.2 billion tax hike that even the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Jim Denning (R-Overland Park), conceded was long overdue.

    The 2012 tax cuts, which Brownback described as the "March to Zero" were initially planned to be the start of a move to eliminate state income taxes completely. But they initially gave large tax breaks chiefly to those in higher income brackets, and particular exemptions for small businesses (LLC companies -- making Kansas the only state to fully exempt them) and farmers (the state's chief industry).

    Brownback assured the public that the drastic tax cuts would stimulate the Kansas economy, resulting in sufficiently greater income to the state from a rising economy. Just the opposite happened. Though the Kansas economy slowly improved, slightly, Kansas fell far behind surrounding states, and the nation, in its rate of recovery from the Great Recession.

    The cuts created major fiscal headaches for the state -- and attempts to cut spending enough to offset the tax losses proved intolerable to the public, and the Legislature. And to the Kansas courts, which ruled, time and again, that the Legislature was failing to meet its largest financial obligation: the funding of public education, mandated by the Kansas Constitution.

    The state, according to Rep. Larry Hibbard (R-Toronto) had become a national laughing stock, with employees sometimes paying taxes while their employer didn't.

    Backing Senate Bill 30, Tuesday, just after midnight, the Senate voted 27-13, and the House voted 88-31, to override the veto. Both houses are controlled by Republicans. Not only moderate Republicans, but several conservative Republicans, voted for the override.

    At present, however, it is unclear if the Kansas Supreme Court will validate, as adequate, the recently increased funding allotment for schools planned by the Legislature.


    (See: THE KOCH EFFECT , below).


    Kansas Elections - State vs. Voters

    Until the last few decades, Kansas (and Wichita-area) voters have enjoyed a functionally impartial election system, reliable polls, and trusted outcomes from elections.

    However, starting in the Reagan/Bush presidencies in the 1980s, Republican strategists realized, with alarm, that changing demographics and politics, nationwide, was forshadowing the end of electoral victories for the Republican party.

    To hold on to power, and forestall the inevitable shift, Republican leaders and operatives began an aggressive focus on capturing the seats of the state and local officials (typically Secretaries of State and local Election Commissioners) controlling the nation's elections.

    Emboldened with initial success in this effort, the GOP strategists and analysts began prescribing and encouraging various alterations to the voting rules and practices of the nation's electoral systems. Though ostensibly intended to make elections "more fair" or "easier" or "more secure," or to "prevent voter fraud," the measures were rather transparently designed to disadvantage the Democratic party and its candidates.

    The new Secretaries of State, and new Election Commissioners, began to alter the turnout at the polls by making it harder to register to vote (and stay registered), harder to find one's polling place, harder to get in, or longer waits to vote (especially in Democrat-leaning districts), and various other schemes to improve the odds for Republican candidates — with disturbingly effective results.

    One of the states to most aggressively enact such measures was Kansas, initially under Secretary of State Ron Thornburg, and then — quite dramatically — under Secretary of State Kris Kobach (pronounced "KO-bock").

    Kobach began establishing elaborate, cumbersome procedures for voter registration and voting — procedures that he claimed would prevent "massive voter fraud" — without any evidence that any significant amount of fraud had been happening.

    The real effect, of course, was to make it more difficult for young, poor and minority voters — disproportionately Democrats — to get, and stay, registered to vote... and then get their vote correctly cast and recorded.

    Despite testimony and evidence (and common-sense awareness) that such voters were more-likely than other voters to change addresses, requiring re-registration, and less likely to have affordable and ready access to the required documents (particularly birth certificates) — and over the vocal protests of minority representatives — the Republican majority in the Kansas Senate voted to approve Kobach's "red-tape" complications to voting in Kansas — a move conspicuously reminiscent of anti-black, voter-suppression laws in America's segregation-era Deep South.

    Kobach managed to get the Republicans in the Legislature to enact extensive state statutes, establishing complex and demanding voter-identification procedures, and authorizing Kobach broad powers to investigate, arrest and prosecute anyone "suspected" of "voter fraud."

    Kobach's voter-suppression efforts seemed successful (for instance, in Wichita's 2015 city elections only 16% of registered voters voted), and Kobach has since spent much of his time traveling the U.S. (often by official state aircraft), consulting with the Republican leaders in other states on how to enact such measures in their states, as well. Georgia, in particular, adopted most of his programs, with similar outcomes.

    A string of lawsuits followed, — chiefly sponsored by the Democratic establishment, and the U.S. Department of Justice under Democratic President, Barack Obama. Their victories, mostly in federal court, weakened — but did not completely curtail — the extensive Kobach voter-suppression effort.

    See: "Kobach gets Supreme Court setback on voter citizenship law, vows to fight on,"
    June 29, 2015,
    The Wichita Eagle

    The strongest ruling came in 2016, from the Republican-dominated U.S. Supreme Court, ruling that a Kobach bill to restrict voter registration in state elections — by requiring voters to fill out a different state voter registration form, to vote on state officials, than for federal elections — was mostly illegal.

    However, the Kobach election system remains at least partially intact, and Kansas elections are arguably showing the results. Only a second-term blow-back against his extremely unpopular colleague, Governor Sam Brownback, seems able to reverse the electoral progress made by Kobach's Democrat-suppression system.

    See:

    "From suppression to fraud: Voting obstacles of 2018" 2018 election season - Wichita Eagle

    UPDATE: 2017:

    Kobach's nationally noted voter-suppression programs attracted the attention of President Donald Trump, who had complained that his own loss of the popular vote (he won the presidency by the technicalities of the Electoral College, while over 3 million more voters voted for Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton) was because "three million votes" were "illegal" -- largely from illegal aliens, Trump claimed.

    Looking for evidence to support his "voter fraud" claim, Trump created a commission to "investigate" the U.S. electoral process, and appointed Kobach to head it (while Kobach remained Kansas Secretary of State).

    As head of the Presidential commission, Kobach initiated some controversial actions, including asking all states to provide detailed information on their registered voters -- information that, ironically, was illegal to divulge even in Kobach's own state. Most states refused or failed to respond, and Kobach's commission, despite various efforts, failed to find evidence of the "widespread" voter fraud that Kobach and Trump had loudly claimed existed.

    Trump quietly closed the commmission, and Kobach returned to Kansas to finish his term as Secretary of State -- and run for Governor.

    UPDATE: October 2018:

    In the 2018 race for the Republican nomination for Kansas Governor, Secretary Kobach (by a margin of one-third of one percent) narrowly defeated Gov. Brownback's successor, interim Governor (former Lieutenant Governor) Jeff Colyer, who is finishing out Gov. Brownback's unexpired term. (Gov. Brownback resigned to join the Trump administration in Washington, D.C.). Secretary Kobach is (as of Autumn 2018) in a close race against Democratic legislator Laura Kelly, for the Governor's office. An independent candidate, businessman Ron Orman, is running also.

    See: "Kobach is Republican nominee for Kansas governor after Colyer concedes."
    Aug.14, 2018, Kansas City Star

    "Brownback's political limbo puts Kansas in 'awkward' situation"
    2017-11-26 Kansas City Star

    UPDATE: Nov. 5, 2018:

    In the 2018 race for Kansas Governor, State Senator Laura Kelly (Democrat) won with 48% of the vote -- defeating Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (Republican), who got 43% of the vote -- as well as three other candidates, who split 9% of the vote (6% to independent candidate and businessman Greg Orman, 2% to Jeff Caldwell, and 1% to Rick Kloos).
    (See "Kansas Governor & Administration" section, below.)

    For more information on the Kansas 2018 election campaign & results, see:


    Kansas Politics - Other Factors

    For information on a peculiar Kansas factor shaping Kansas electoral politics, see the section below, titled: "ONE MAN -- MANY VOTES" — then return here for more on Kansas government & politics.



    Kansas Governor & Administration

    In Kansas, the Governor is the Chief Executive of the State, and the official manager of the state government administration -- with very broad and deep powers.

    Kansas elects a Governor for a four-year term (maximum of two terms) on the even-numbered years between U.S. presidential elections. He/she cannot be recalled, normally, but can be impeached and convicted of crimes by the Legislature.

    Kansas usually elects a Republican governor, but almost as often chooses a Democrat -- an irony in a state that is overwhelmingly Republican in almost every other level of office.

    The last few governors -- Republican (R) or Democrat (D) -- (in reverse order, from most recent) have been:




  • (D) Laura Kelly (Former Democrat state senator (former music-therapy schoolteacher) with strong pro-education and pro-social-worker orientation, elected in 2018.

    Kelly election, a state-wide revolt:

    Kelly's election -- the only state-wide Kansas office taken by a Democrat in 2018 -- was a watershed moment for Kansas. With her 48%-43% victory over opponent Kris Kobach, the voters firmly repudiated both her Republican opponent and the policies of the previous (Republican) administration.

    Although Kelly was a relative unknown, her Republican opponent -- controversial anti-immigrant Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of the nation's principal architects of voter-suppression legislation -- was very well known, even nationally, having even served as the head of President Trump's failed commission to "investigate [alleged] voter fraud" in the 2016 presidental election.

    And she was running to replace the unsuccessful and extremely unpopular administration of Governor Sam Brownback and Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer. (Colyer had recently become Governor, when Brownback left office to become a U.S. ambassador.) Brownback's extremely conservative / libertarian fiscal policies (see Brownback section, below) had devastated state government and school systems state-wide, and crippled the state economy (compared to neighboring states). His religion-driven social policies infuriated liberals, and his belligerent attitude towards many issues offended even his own party leaders -- with 100 top Republicans openly campaigning for his liberal-Democrat rival in a previous election).

    Kelly administration, first term, starting out:

    At this writing (mid-2019), Kelly is only into her first term, but has already teamed with the state legislature to sharply reverse the tax and fiscal policies of the Brownback/Colyer administration -- particularly reversing many of the cuts in state funding of education (mandated by the state constitution, and consuming about half the state government budget), resolving a decade-long battle with the courts over school funding.

    Religion-driven social and administrative policies of the Brownback/Colyer years (such as removal of the protections for LGBTQ people, abortion funding, etc.) have been largely reversed, where she can do so with administrative fiat. Legislation on those matters, however, faces an increasingly conservative Republican majority in the state legislature.

    Also bucking the Legislature, Kelly has set her sights on passing liberal health care reforms -- particularly Medicaid expansion.

    However, on matters of people in state custody, she has taken a more authoritarian posture. To resolve prison overcrowding and violence -- rather than releasing prisoners or commuting sentences -- she has contracted with a private prison company to exile some 600 Kansas prisoners to private, commercial prisons in Arizona, pending the expansion of Kansas prisons. (Kansas remains one of the states most likely to lock up its adults and children).

    She has also announced plans to add dozens of social workers to the child-protection system, largely as investigators, increasing rates of early state coercive intervention in family life. (Kelly's career includes background as social worker / therapist / music educator).
      


  • (R) Jeff Colyer (Immediately previous governor -- originally the lieutenant governor -- now filling out his predecessor's unexpired second term, after his predecessor, Gov. Brownback, resigned to join the Trump administration). Conservative Republican who has sought to undo some of the catastrophic damage caused by his predecessor's even-more-conservative fiscal, regulatory and political policies.

    Colyer, as lieutenant governor (a former surgeon-turned-politician), gradually transitioned into the role of governor -- developing the state budget and managing major personnel decisions -- as his predecessor, Gov. Brownback, remained in office, awaiting U.S. Senate confirmation of his appointement to an ambassadorial post in the Trump administration.

    Colyer, in his first address to the Kansas Legislature, committed to a more inclusive and moderate political conduct than Brownback, and later accommodated legislators' repeal of his predecessor's tax-cut "experiment" which nearly had nearly bankrupted the state, and had resulted in Kansas lagging the region in recovery from the Great Recession. The result has been Kansas now outpacing the region in growth (though largely just catching up with its neighbors after lagging throughout the Brownback administration).

    A former surgeon, Colyer has narrowly lost his bid to become the Republican nominee for governor in the 2018 election -- losing to Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Brownback policy advocate (Kobach's extremely controversial role as Secretary of State is noted elsewhere on this page.)


  • (R) Sam Brownback (previous governor, who left during his second term, to take a position in the Trump administration). Arch-conservative Republican, with Libertarian fiscal policies. Previously, junior U.S. Senator for Kansas and former Republican presidential candidate.)

    Brownback attracted national notoriety for a massive tax-cut "experiment" that backfired, catastrophically, nearly bankrupting his state government -- with ripple effects that severely crippled Kansas' economy, the state's physical infrastructure and social welfare systems -- while pursuing stridently divisive politics. The outcomes led to Brownback's reputation (backed in various national surveys) as "the nation's most unpopular governor" (see news articles listed and linked below).

    Once known as "the Koch's boy" in Congress, Gov. Sam Brownback relied heavily upon the Koch brothers support, in his rise to power in Kansas. He has returned their favors by implementing Koch doctrine in the fiscal affairs of Kansas government -- revolutionizing Kansas government -- for better or worse. He also began accommodating Koch demands for the reduction or elimination of state environmental-protection efforts.

    Brownback initiated his administration by declaring he would begin "The Kansas Experiment" — sweeping libertarian reforms to Kansas government, including extreme tax, regulatory and government cuts (as crafted by a Koch employee who became Brownback's budget director).

    Wichita Recovery Graph, compared to other Midwest cities, BLS data graphed by City of Wichita - CLICK to ENLARGE The venture has brought fiscal disaster to state government, and financial calamity to the whole state, by the admission of almost everyone in state politics, Democrat or Republican, except the Governor and his staff. (Click on the above graph for an enlargement, showing Wichita and Kansas City lagging the main cities in neighboring states, in the rate of recovery from the recession, since Brownback became Governor).

    Hardest hit have been:

    The overall disaster made Brownback the most unpopular governor in the United States (as of mid-2016) — with a public-approval rating of only 15%, the lowest of any governor in recorded state history.

    As a result, in 2014, Brownback endured a bruising re-election fight unlike that faced by any sitting Kansas governor in living memory, in this increasingly Republican state. In fact, in an unprecedented revolt, over 100 of his own party's leaders — including former state Republican Party Chairmen, and former Kansas Senate Presdents — broke ranks to endorse Brownback's liberal Democratic rival, Paul Davis.

    Finally, after 6 years of lagging other states in the region in the recovery from the Great Recession — and chaos in the state and local government resulting from Koch influence in state government — the July 2016 Kansas primary election saw a take-back of many key Republican seats in the Legislature, unseating Koch-backed Libertarian-Republicans.

    The result of this election is a projected shift of power, in the Kansas Legislature, away from the Brownback administration and the Kochs' politics.

    (For details of the outcome, see analysis and opinion essay by WSU Public Administration Prof. Ed Flentje, former Kansas Secretary of Administration to Republican Governor Mike Hayden, at:
    "Kansas voters rebuke Brownback, tax plan" November 12, 2016, Wichita Eagle.)

    Also see:
    "Conservative Lawmakers Ousted in Kansas Primary Election: GOP races seen as referendum on Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax-cut policy" Aug. 3, 2016, Wall Street Journal

    "Kansas Republicans Sour on Their Tax-Cut Experiment: Legislature nearly reversed Gov. Brownback’s signature policy after voter rebellion. His economic legacy, a GOP lawmaker says, 'is going down in flames.'" Feb 24, 2017, The Atlantic


    UPDATE: June 2017:
    LEGISLATURE KILLS GOVERNOR'S "KANSAS EXPERIMENT"

    Governor Sam Brownback's "Kansas Experiment" is officially over. The Kansas Legislature, after years of battling with him over drastic tax cuts the Governor promoted in 2012, finally succeeded in mustering enough votes to override the Governor's constant vetoes of bills to restore the taxes that the state was failing to function without.

    After 6 years of protracted battle over the state's radical 2012 income-tax cuts (the main legislative program pushed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback as his "Kansas Experiment"), and the resulting state fiscal crisis -- with the Kansas economy still consistently lagging surrounding states (despite the Governor's assurances that drastic tax cuts would boost the economy) -- the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature (tempered by recent elections that cost Brownback's supporters dearly, and added new Democrats to the Legislature) finally had enough, and voted to override the Governor's threatened veto of a $1.2 billion tax hike that even the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Jim Denning (R-Overland Park), conceded was long overdue.

    The 2012 tax cuts, which Brownback described as the "March to Zero" were initially planned to be the start of a move to eliminate state income taxes completely. But they initially gave large tax breaks chiefly to those in higher income brackets, and particular exemptions for small businesses (LLC companies -- making Kansas the only state to fully exempt them) and farmers (the state's chief industry).

    Brownback assured the public that the drastic tax cuts would stimulate the Kansas economy, resulting in sufficiently greater income to the state from a rising economy. Just the opposite happened. Though the Kansas economy slowly improved, slightly, Kansas fell far behind surrounding states, and the nation, in its rate of recovery from the Great Recession.

    The cuts created major fiscal headaches for the state -- and attempts to cut spending enough to offset the tax losses proved intolerable to the public, and the Legislature. And to the Kansas courts, which ruled, time and again, that the Legislature was failing to meet its largest financial obligation: the funding of public education, mandated by the Kansas Constitution.

    The state, according to Rep. Larry Hibbard (R-Toronto) had become a national laughing stock, with employees sometimes paying taxes while their employer didn't.

    Backing Senate Bill 30, Tuesday, just after midnight, the Senate voted 27-13, and the House voted 88-31, to override the veto. Both houses are controlled by Republicans. Not only moderate Republicans, but several conservative Republicans, voted for the override.

    At present, however, it is unclear if the Kansas Supreme Court will validate, as adequate, the recently increased funding allotment for schools planned by the Legislature. UPDATE: Autumn 2017 Gov. Brownback accepted nomination to a post in President Trump's administration, as "Ambassador for Religious Freedom" (when in the U.S. Senate, and as Governor, Brownback had been a leading conservative religious figure). However, during delays in his U.S. Senate confirmation to the ambassadorship, Brownback, for months, continued to hold onto his tltle as Kansas governor, while handing off most of the actual work to his lieutenant governor, Jeff Colyer. When Brownback was confirmed by the Senate, he resigned as Kansas Governor, and Colyer automatically became Governor in his place. See: "Brownback's political limbo puts Kansas in 'awkward' situation"
    2017-11-26 Kansas City Star


    For more on Governor Sam Brownback, and his politics — and their effects on Kansas and Wichita, see these articles in this website:


    Before Brownback, were these less-controversial governors, listed in order from most-recent to farthest-past:

    • (R/D) Mark Parkinson (Republican legislator, who turned Democrat to be the running mate of his predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius (see next). When she resigned, he completed her unexpired term, but he did not run for re-election.
         Undid some of her key environmental protections, but held the line on other acts. Widely regarded as problem-solver, and a "healing" influence in Kansas politics, working out agreements between fractious factions.
         Particularly credited with resolving the Legislature's heated budget impasse, and also credited with "saving" two Wichita aircraft manufacturers -- Hawker-Beechcraft and Bombardier/Learjet -- from leaving the state or going under.)
    • (D) Kathleen Sebelius (Former moderate Democrat legislator, with strong pro-social-worker orientation, and former state Insurance Commissioner. Succeeded in passing exceptionally progressive (for Kansas) health care reforms. Resigned post of Governor to become the U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services, overseeing the bungled implementation of Obamacare, which led to her forced federal resignation.
         While Governor, she raised the ire of the Koch brothers through the actions of her Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), whose Secretary Brenby, on environmental-protection grounds, ruled against out-of-state investors' plans to build massive coal-fired powerplants in Western Kansas, to provide electricity to other states, while consuming vast percentages of precious Western Kansas water. Sebelius' KDHE secretary Brenby forbade them.
         More threatening to the Kochs, Brenby's exceptionally forceful environmentalism also appeared to be a threat to the Keystone/XL pipeline — a nationally controversial, massive pipeline intended to move tar-sands oil from Canada to ports on the U.S. Gulf Coast — in which the Kochs developed a substantial commercial stake.
         The pipeline, already known for leaks, was to be routed over the Ogalalla Aquifer, the natural underground reservoir that holds the water essential to the agriculture and city water supplies of half of Kansas, and other states. Sebelius' administration seemed poised to prevent that.)
    • (R) Bill Graves (Moderate Republican. Trucking magnate; brought all Kansas gov't business to a halt until Legislature gave him the sweeping, unprecedented, debt-inducing, highway-improvement program that he demanded. After 2nd term, became chief of the nation's trucking-industry lobbying group.
         Worked with Legislature to enact effective school-funding program and formula, which remained effective until Gov. Brownback's "Kansas Experiment" sought to radically cut government aid to public schools.
         Also, under the guidance of his campaign manager -- State Senate President Dick Bond (a banker who oversaw the state's largest private foster care agency) -- Graves instituted the nation's first-ever "privatization" of foster care, as a "cost-cutting measure," with catastrophic results that doubled costs of the child-protection system, worsened care, and radically increased the numbers of children taken from their homes and families. After 6 years of tragedy, his head of child-protection admitted they'd over-reached, taking at least 1,500 Kansas children from their homes unnecessarily. She would later head the campaign of his successor, Sebelius.)
    • (D) Joan Finney (former reputable State Treasurer, blindly endorsed by woman-oriented feminists, and by fellow Democrat leaders — particularly the National Organization for Women in Kansas — and voted in over her Republican opponent. Turned out to be of dubious judgement in numerous matters, and an abortion opponent (to the embarrassment of Kansas feminists who'd aggressively pushed her candidacy). One-term.
    • (R) Mike Hayden (former legislator and Army Special Forces Vietnam-era veteran, initially very conservative Republican — campaigning on enacting a death penalty — but softened after his post-election town-hall meetings revealed that the public had different priorities. Switched his focus to cleaning up nursing homes and mental health facilities around the state (instituting exceptionally progressive and effective state-inspection programs), and improving parks and recreation opportunities. Otherwise, administration generally well-regarded and respected by both parties. Later served as head of the Kansas Wildlife & Parks division.).
    • (R) Bob Bennett (moderate Republican, lawyer/legislator).
    • (D) John Carlin (moderate Democrat, farmer/legislator, well-regarded as practical-but-sensitive government administrator and consensus-builder. Addressed budget difficulties by enacting a controversial "Severance Tax" on oil and gas wells throughout the state, using it to fund education, in particular.).

    NOTE:  NONE OF THESE GOVERNORS WERE FROM THE WICHITA AREA (except, partially, Mark Parkinson?).

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    Kansas Legislature

    The Kansas Legislature is a bicameral (two house) legislature -- a House of Representatives and a Senate -- fairly similar in design, function and operation to the U.S. Congress and many other state legislatures.

    Kansas legislators convene in the state capital, Topeka, in the State Capitol Building, in separate chambers on opposite ends of the Capitol. Officially, the Legislature is only supposed to operate for about three months at the start of each year (early January to early April), though extended sessions are common — particularly to resolve budgetary battles.

    The Governor can order the Legislature to return to Topeka, and to reconvene a session, under certain circumstances. And Governor Colyer had to do that, recently (mid-2016), to resolve a school-funding crisis of his own making, which resulted in a Kansas Supreme Court threat to shut down all public schools.

    Historically, over the last several decades, the Legislature has been divided into three roughly-equal factions in the House:

    • Moderate Republicans (typically older, weathy businessmen and their heirs)

    • Conservative Republicans (typically younger, more religious)

    • Democrats (wide-ranging, but disproportionately current or former lawyers, teachers, healthcare professionals, and union leaders)

      (This has somtimes led to unusual-but-victorious coalitions of House Democrats siding with one House Republican faction against the other.)

    ...and two main factions in the Senate:

    • 60%-80% Moderate Republicans (typically older, weathy businessmen and their heirs)

    • 20%- 40% Democrats (wide-ranging, but disproportionately current or former lawyers, teachers, healthcare professionals, and union leaders)

    Recent shakeups in politics, statewide and nationwide, have altered this long-standing balance-of-power (or imbalance), creating chaos in the state legislature.

    Of particular significance are the impact of the "Tea Party" movement, and Koch-funded political candidates with Libertarian fiscal views -- the two factors often overlapping.

    Coinciding with the rise to power of Governor Sam Brownback, these new Legislators have rocked the Capitol, seizing power from the traditional legislative leaders, and steering the Legislature towards priorities set by Brownback and by his foremost backers, the Koch brothers.

    However, the Kansas government, unraveling under their Libertarian fiscal revolution, has generated the greatest resistance to a sitting legislature in recent memory, with the pro-Brownback radical Republicans largely being voted out in their own party's primary election in the 2016 mid-term elections.

    See: "Internal poll shows Kansas Republicans think state is on the wrong track,"
    Sept. 2, 2016,
    KWCH-TV News, Wichita

    A major shift in power, and in direction, is widely expected for the next (2017) Legislative session.

    UPDATE, Nov.2016:
    During the 2016 election campaign, Governor Brownback suffered a serious Legislative defeat.

    Aggressive campaigns by moderate Republicans, and by Democrats -- largely over the school finance issue, but also largely opposing Brownback's tax cuts and the resulting state fiscal calamity -- resulted in the unseating of 40 of the radical-right legislators who had backed Brownback. They were defeated either by moderate Republicans, or by Democrats, shifting power in the Kansas Legislature away from the radical-right Republicans, towards moderate Republicans, with Democrats having slightly more influence than before. The changed Legislature is generally seen as a broad public repudiation of Brownback's policies.

    (For details of the outcome, see analysis and opinion essay by WSU Public Administration Prof. Ed Flentje, former Kansas Secretary of Administration to Republican Governor Mike Hayden, at:
    "Kansas voters rebuke Brownback, tax plan" November 12, 2016, Wichita Eagle.)

    (For more, see "The Koch Effect," below.)

    UPDATE: June 2017:
    LEGISLATURE KILLS GOVERNOR'S "KANSAS EXPERIMENT"

    Governor Sam Brownback's "Kansas Experiment" is officially over. The Kansas Legislature, after years of battling with him over drastic tax cuts the Governor promoted in 2012, finally succeeded in mustering enough votes to override the Governor's constant vetoes of bills to restore the taxes that the state was failing to function without.

    After 6 years of protracted battle over the state's radical 2012 income-tax cuts (the main legislative program pushed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback as his "Kansas Experiment"), and the resulting state fiscal crisis -- with the Kansas economy still consistently lagging surrounding states (despite the Governor's assurances that drastic tax cuts would boost the economy) -- the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature (tempered by recent elections that cost Brownback's supporters dearly, and added new Democrats to the Legislature) finally had enough, and voted to override the Governor's threatened veto of a $1.2 billion tax hike that even the Republican Senate Majority Leader, Jim Denning (R-Overland Park), conceded was long overdue.

    The 2012 tax cuts, which Brownback described as the "March to Zero" were initially planned to be the start of a move to eliminate state income taxes completely. But they initially gave large tax breaks chiefly to those in higher income brackets, and particular exemptions for small businesses (LLC companies -- making Kansas the only state to fully exempt them) and farmers (the state's chief industry).

    Brownback assured the public that the drastic tax cuts would stimulate the Kansas economy, resulting in sufficiently greater income to the state from a rising economy. Just the opposite happened. Though the Kansas economy slowly improved, slightly, Kansas fell far behind surrounding states, and the nation, in its rate of recovery from the Great Recession.

    The cuts created major fiscal headaches for the state -- and attempts to cut spending enough to offset the tax losses proved intolerable to the public, and the Legislature. And to the Kansas courts, which ruled, time and again, that the Legislature was failing to meet its largest financial obligation: the funding of public education, mandated by the Kansas Constitution.

    The state, according to Rep. Larry Hibbard (R-Toronto) had become a national laughing stock, with employees sometimes paying taxes while their employer didn't.

    Backing Senate Bill 30, Tuesday, just after midnight, the Senate voted 27-13, and the House voted 88-31, to override the veto. Both houses are controlled by Republicans. Not only moderate Republicans, but several conservative Republicans, voted for the override.

    At present, however, it is unclear if the Kansas Supreme Court will validate, as adequate, the recently increased funding allotment for schools planned by the Legislature.


    Legislative Geographic Factions:

    Wichita-area legislators are a very diverse mix, representing the diversity of the city and its broader metropolitan area. The House and Senate Districts for Wichita and Sedgwick County are shown in the maps below. Click to enarge either map.

    Wichita-area legislators represent about one-fifth of the state's population, which is a considerable amout of clout in the Legislature -- wielded by a very loose coalition of area legislators, of both parties, named the "South-Central Kansas Delegation" (SCKD)

    However, three key factors undermine the delegation's power in the state legislature:

    • The extreme diversity of the delegation, representing moderate and conservative Republicans, Libertarians and Democrats of every stripe. It is challenging for the SCKD to agree, internally, on anything, making it difficult to build a consensus that allows a unified and effective front when working at the Capitol.

    • Conservative rural members of Kansas Legislature, naturally at odds with the comparatively liberal elements of the largely-urban/suburban Delegation who make up about a third of the Legislature.

    • The overwhelming clout of the state's most heavily populated region — Northeast Kansas — particularly from the Johnson County (Kansas City suburbs) delegation.

      Johnson County has long held the bulk of power in the Kansas Legislature, occasionally backed by legislators from the states' two other most liberal-urban communities: nearby Topeka and — between them — Lawrence (a college town). The geographic proximity between the Northeast Kansas communities, and their proximity to the state capital, give further great advantage to them.

    Often marginalized by both rural and Northeast Kansas factions, the Wichita-area legislators frequently grumble about their exclusion from power -- especially by the bitterly resented Johnson County forces.

    Recent shakeups in the Legislature, as noted above, particularly those driven by Wichita's Koch family, have destablized the balance-of-power in Topeka, and Wichita legislators attached to the Kochs have seen some increase in their personal power. But those Wichita-area legislators not pledging allegiance to the Kochs' values find themselves even more marginalized than before.


    Kansas SENATE Districts in Sedgwick County:

      ( CLICK to POP-UP ENLARGEMENT )

    Sedgwick County map, showing KANSAS SENATE DISTRICTS:


    Kansas HOUSE Districts in Sedgwick County:

      ( CLICK to POP-UP ENLARGEMENT )

    Sedgwick County map, KANSAS HOUSE DISTRICTS


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    Kansas Courts & Law

    The Kansas legal system has undergone some radical upsets in recent years, during the Brownback/Koch/TeaParty "Kansas Experiment."

    Among those have been unprecedented battles between the Kansas Courts and the Kansas Governor (and his supporters in the Legislature) -- threatening to alter the state's judicial system, and nearly posing a constitutional crisis for the state.

    This topic section summarizes the basic structure of Kansas law, and provides an overview of the state's recent judicial issues and battles.


    Kansas Law - Basics

    Kansas state laws are "statutes," "regulations," and "case law.":

    • STATUTES
      ...are created by an Act of the Legislature (originating as Bills, without any legal authority, until approved by both houses of the Legislature, and signed into law by Governor -- or approved by two-thirds of both houses of the Legislature, if the Governor chooses to "veto" -- refuses to sign -- the bill.)

      Like many midwestern states, starting in the 1800s, Kansas statutes are traditionally based, in part, on the legal patterns of the state of Illinois, the most populous state in the Midwest, with a mix of urban and rural midwestern cultures originally roughly comparable to the rest of the Midwest, in the early years of Kansas law.

      Some highly-technical statutes are derived from a "uniform code" widely used, nationwide, in that field of law. For instance, to regulate business, Kansas generally has traditionally conformed its business-regulation statutes to the nationally popular "Uniform Commercial Code," though it does so with Kansas statutes that copy the Code into Kansas statutory law, while making allowances for some variations preferred by Kansas Legislators and Governors.

      Statutes are commonly enforced by law-enforcement agencies, such as local police, county sheriff's departments, the Kansas State Police (including Kansas Highway Patrol - KHP) or the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI). Some are enforced by other agencies whose primary role is other than law-enforcement — such as the game wardens of the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks, or health inspectors of the Kansas Department of Health & Environment (or local health departments).

    • REGULATIONS
      ...are established by an elected official, or an official appointed by an elected official -- normally the Governor or a member of his administration. Often, statutes are general in their wording, and authorize a state agency to establish the details of the law with specific regulations.

      Commonly, regulations are issued and enforced by administrative agencies. For instance, state health and environmental regulations are issued by the Kansas Department of Health & Environment (KDHE) (or local health departments), which also act to enforce the regulations, and to adjudicate disputes (typically through fines, restrictions or license revocations).

      Defendants may appeal an agency's decision to a court of suitable ("competent") jurisdiction. Agencies may force compliance by suing in state court, or obtaining a court injunction.

    • CASE LAW
      ...results from court rulings interpreting the statutes and the Constitution of Kansas, or federal law and the United States Constitution. Court rulings may be by any jurisdiction, though the U.S. Supreme Court has ultimate jurisdiction, and the Kansas Supreme Court has the highest authority in Kansas, except in cases before the federal (U.S.) courts.

      State law usually overrides local ordinances, and Federal law usually overrides state and local law, but U.S. Constitutional arguments can be made to the contrary, to the U.S. Supreme Court, in some cases (the "states' rights" doctrine).


    Kansas Courts - Recent Controversy

    Between 2012 and 2016, the state's then-governor, Gov. Sam Brownback, and the Republicans leading the Kansas Legislature, were repeatedly frustrated by state court rulings contrary to their desires to radically alter Kansas government -- primarily to Libertarian models, but also to conservative Republican standards as well, on a wide range of issues, including:

    • Consolidation of political power in the state government and its current leaders,
       
    • Limiting and complicating the public's access to voting,
       
    • Reducing taxes more than spending
      (resulting in an un-balanced budget),
       
    • Cutting government and regulation -- specifically: elimination, de-funding, constraint or neglect of many Kansas government functions, agencies, regulations and statutes,
       
    • Greater restrictions on Kansans' personal liberties, and
       
    • Establishment of government accommodations or support for specific religious communities or beliefs.

    In particular, their efforts were stymied by the Kansas Supreme Court, which has frequently ruled their efforts to be violations of the Kansas law — especially the Kansas Constitution — or violations of the U.S. Constitution.

    Issues that were especially contentious between the Kansas courts on the one hand, and the state's Republican/Libertarian Governor (Brownback) and Legislature on the other, included:

    • School-Funding Cuts, by the Governor and Legislature, in defiance of the Kansas Constitution's requirements that public schools in Kansas be "adequately and equitably" funded by the state government (about half the state budget, traditionally).
          (This is a matter of special concern to Wichitans, as their school district has generally suffered the greatest percentage of the resulting cuts.)
       
    • Voter Registration and Voting Limitations, developed ostensibly "to prevent voter fraud," but rather obviously developed to disadvantage the minorty major party in Kansas (Democrats).
          (This is a matter of special concern in Wichita, which — though predominantly Republican — is one of the principal refuges of the Democrats in Kansas.)
       
    • Gender Equality issues, particularly Same-Sex Marriage, but also other equality issues for the "LGBT" (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Trans-gender) citizens -- where the Governor Brownback and the Legislature have pushed an agenda hostile to such citizens and their claimed rights.
          (This is a matter of greater concern in Wichita than to most of Kansas, because Wichita has one of Kansas' highest rates of LGBT citizens per capita.)

    In response, the current Kansas governor and legislative leaders have launched an unprecedented attack upon the Kansas courts, attempting to:

    • Strip the courts of some authority;
       
    • Strip the courts of some funding, if they rule against the Legislature and Governor on certain specific issues (specifically: attempting to pass a statute that says if the courts rule against the Governor in the recent school-funding controversy, then normal funding for the courts will be withheld);
       
    • Strip voters of the right to vote on the retention of Kansas judges and Kansas Supreme Court justices;  and
       
    • Completely turn over the process of selecting judges and justices to the Governor and Legislature, in the manner in which U.S. federal judges and U.S. Supreme Court justices are nominated and appointed.
      (NOTE: While this proposed method seems reasonable, given its traditional acceptance in selecting federal judges, critics note that Congress and the President are subject to far more public scrutiny, and more variability, than the state governors and legislatures -- and thus less likely to use such appointing powers as a tool for tyrannical control of government.

      State, leaders, however, are far less carefully scrutinized. So the opportunity for them to consolidate power, ruthlessly, is much greater if they select their state's judges, than if their state's judges are elected by the voters, or initially selected (or subsequently confirmed) by some other party than the Governor and Legislature.

        (In the traditional Kansas process, a slate of "qualified" judge candidates are initially selected by a panel of their peers (attorneys from the Kansas Bar Association), with the Governor nominating one candidate from that group for each judgeship, subject to Legislative confirmation. Thereafter, that judge must be periodically "retained" by a vote of the people).

      Critics and advocates, alike, argue that the proposed change would remove judges from any sense of accountability to the public — arguably both a positive and negative factor in the administration of justice.

    Strong push-back from other Legislators, even in the Republican Party — and threats of a judicial response — kept Governor Brownback and Republican/Libertarian legislators from succeeding in their attacks on the Kansas courts. But it was breathtakingly close at times, and near precipitating a Constitutional crisis in Kansas, unlike any seen in modern times.

    In some cases, the standoff between the factions has been settled by federal courts, particularly the U.S. Supreme Court (especially in a 2016 ruling effectively dissolving part of the Kansas voter-registration statutes).

    UPDATE, Nov.2016:

    During the 2016 election campaign, Brownback backers funded a lavish and unprecedented campaign to unseat Kansas Supreme Court justices, who had ruled against Brownback on the pivotal and costly school finance issue, and taken other decisions offending certain factions.

    However, the effort failed, completely and overwhelmingly, due in part to opposition from both law enforcement supporters and a "retain them" campaign by all four still-living previously-elected Kansas governors (Republicans Mike Hayden and Bill Graves, and Democrats Kathleen Sebelius and John Carlin) -- who dismissed the power grab by Brownback, declaring that "there should not be political influence over the decisions of the court."

    (For details of the outcome, see analysis and opinion essay by WSU Public Administration Prof. Ed Flentje, former Kansas Secretary of Administration to Republican Governor Mike Hayden, at:
    "Kansas voters rebuke Brownback, tax plan" November 12, 2016, Wichita Eagle.)

    (For more, see "The Koch Effect," below.)


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    Sources on Kansas Government & Politics:

    A note about sources:
    The principal credible online references on Kansas government are
    • The state's offiicial website: Kansas.gov
      (often edited to the pleasures of the sitting Governor and his staff, or to the pleasures of the Legislators in their respective pages on the site)
      — and —
    • The state's major newspapers most-closely connected to the state capital:
    • Additionally, the state's two leading newspapers... ...also provide substantial coverage of state issues.
    • Wichita's public radio station, at Wichita State University: ...also provides above-average coverage of state government.
    Wichita-area television stations, and most other radio stations, (nearly all Republican-owned, and with conspicuous conservative bias), provide very little substantive coverage of state government and politics — with one notable exception:
    • Kansas Week, the half-hour, Wichita-based pundit show on Kansas politics, which features some of the state's leading politicians and political spokesmen, and academic and media pundits. Aired initially on local public television station KPTS-TV (Channel 8, PBS affiliate), for decades, it was dropped during the recent years of exceptional tumult in Kansas politics -- and was carried on commercial TV, by KAKE-TV (Ch.10/ABC affiliate). Now that the long, dramatic, and controversial "Kansas Experiment" by Kansas Governor Brownback has been overruled by the Legislature, and his unusually contentious reign is nearly over, KPTS is bringing the program back to local public television... now hosted by one of the region's most professional journalists: KWCH-TV (Ch.12/CBS) reporter Pilar Pedraza. The weekly program airs on KPTS-TV (Channel 8), Friday evening (7:30 p.m.) and is repeated Sunday afternoon around (2:30 p.m.).

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    "ONE MAN -- MANY VOTES"
    CLICK to ENLARGE An odd paradox complicates Kansas politics (Wichita politics included), which might best be described as: "One Man - Many Votes."

    Though Kansans profess to be largely "anti-government" (Libertarian-style, regardless of actual party affiliation), Kansas has more individual governments than almost any other state of remotely comparable size:

    • 105 county commisisons,
    • thousands of city/town councils and commissions, and townships,
    • hundreds of school districts,
    and numerous...
    • rural water districts,
    • fire districts,
    • drainage districts (for flood-plain management),
    • conservation districts (for land management),
    • ...and more...
    plus...
    • state and
    • federal
      government
    -- over 10,000 individual units of government in all, in a state with only about 3,000,000 citizens; (yes, that's one unit of government for every 300 citizens).

    Additionally, far more than most U.S. states, Kansans elect an extraordinary number of their public officials -- rather than allowing them to be appointed by other elected officials. For instance, Kansans vote for their

  • State Attorney General
  • Secretary of State
  • State Treasurer
  • State Insurance Commissioner
  • State Board of Education
  • Judges (State Supreme Court, Appeals Court, and District Court),
  • County Prosecutor ("District Attorney")
  • County Sheriff
  • County Treasurer
  • County Clerk
  • County Election Commissioner
  • County Register of Deeds
    ...and various other minor posts, many of which are appointed posts in other states.

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    CITIZEN PARTICIPATION
      in Wichita City Government
    - The Short Story

    (For the long story, with references, CLICK HERE.)



    Citizen Participation in City Government
    Overview:

      A consequence of Wichita's enthusiasm for the "One Man -- Many Votes" idea is the city's once-pioneering flirtation with "neighborhood government," which gained national notoriety in the 1970s and early 1980s, with Wichita's CAA and CPO "neighborhood councils" of elected neighborhood representatives . A faint echo of that remains today in Wichita's "District Advisory Boards," appointed by the City Council, and in independent "neighborhood associations." Here's a quick history for context:

    Citizen-participation organizations largely provide a counter-balance to the grossly disproportionate influence of developers on City government -- allowing the general public to weigh in on matters of community development, often with "NIMBY" ("Not In My Back Yard") reactions to proposed developments. Consequently, over the decades, the development community has sought to discourage, discredit and destroy citizen particpation organizations, or co-opt them (by having developers and their cronies become dominant members of the citizen organizations, or by undermining the groups' independence from the City Council, who are generally developer-dominated.)


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    CAA (Community Action Agency)
    & CPO (Citizen Participation Organization)
    Neighborhood Councils

    During the late-1960s to late-1970s, the rise of federal "revenue-sharing" -- returning federal tax money to states and localities -- became formalized through various federal programs: Most of these programs were meant to serve the most needy areas and neighborhoods in America. Among those were the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) funds.

    To ensure that citizens in poor neighborhoods had an audible voice in the spending of the CDBG money on their behalf, the Congress required state and local governments to establish elected councils of ordinary citizens, from the targeted neighborhoods, and give them a voice in how the money was spent.

    In Wichita, these neighborhoods were served by a federally-funded, locally operated "Community Action Agency" (CAA), which, in turn, was at least partially guided by an elected "Citizen Particpation Organization" (CPO) "neighborhood council," (citizens elected from that neighborhood by their neighbors). The CAA-CPO neighborhood councils, in turn, would also advise the Wichita City Commission (forerunner of today's City Council) on neighborhood needs and concerns, including how to spend federal CDBG money on the community, and express public concerns over land-development, property regulation, law enforcement, taxes, housing, infrastructure, transportation, recreation and city services in their neighborhoods.

    The neighborhood council meetings became "lightning rods," attracting passionate citizen cries for help, angry complaints, insistent demands and intense debates.

    But -- in a city normally dominated by wealthy interests (especially land developers) -- the CPOs brought poor and working-class Wichita neighborhoods a real voice in community affairs that they had never had before. CPOs enjoyed several years of enthusiastic public participation in Wichita.

    However, in the late-1970s / early-1980s, as a conservative movement swept the nation -- ushering in the "Reagan Revolution" and a conservative Wichita City Commission (mostly developers and their cronies) -- things began to change radically. The Reagan admininstration stripped support for anti-poverty programs like the CAA. Wichita initially responded by making the CAA's CPO councils now a regular part of City government, and expanding them to include CPO councils for all neighborhoods in Wichita.

    But, over time, the developer-oriented City Commissioners began to ignore input from the CPO councils regardless of neighborhood concerns expressed through the CPO councils. CPO councils were reduced in size and number. The public participation faded, but grumbling remained.


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    DAB - District Advisory Boards

    Finally, in late-1999 / early-2000 -- after a quarter-century of elected CPO councils "meddling" in city affairs -- the City Council decided to eliminate the publicly elected CPO councils by "re-organizing" them into "District Advisory Boards" (DABs) -- one for each City Council District.

    The key difference? The members would no longer be elected by the public. Instead, they would be appointed by the City Council members from their respective districts.

    In essence, then, the public now has no direct vote in whom their "neighborhood representatives" are. The DAB "repesentatives" while pretending to "represent" their neighborhood, actually represent the City Council member who appointed them.

    Though many former CPO members were intially appointed to the few DAB seats, eventually a decisive percentage of DAB "Representatives" would be people who were (for the most part) simply friends, business colleagues, and supporters (personal cronies) of the Commissioners, themselves. Development and business representatives began to replace the ordinary poor and middle-class citizens who had previously made up the CAA/CPO councils.

    Further, the DAB system provided far fewer "neighborhood" councils -- officially representing vast sections of the city rather than individual neighborhoods (stripping poor and working-class neighborhoods of their own distinct councils) -- and they would have fewer members, reducing the councils' true connection to the whole community.

    Today, while some ordinary citizens still manage to find their way onto the DABs, they don't get their memberships renewed by any City Council members unhappy with them -- so they cannot be effective voices of dissent to represent the under-represented elements of Wichita society... nor even the vast majority of the population. The business interests (mostly developers), who fund the costly City Council elections, are the powers deciding almost everything, now.

    The DABs, then, effectvely put an end to effective citizen input -- particularly from poor and working-class voters -- at City Hall... just as the development community intended. And so it remains, to this day. But at least one partial substitute emerged...


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    Neighborhood Associations

    "Neighborhood Associations" -- unofficial organizations made up of passionate members of certain neighborhoods -- rose to carry on much of the organized citizen-input activism of the CAA and CPO councils. However, they each represent smaller districts than the CAA/CPO councils, often less than a square mile, with -- at most -- a few thousand residents.

    An important distinction, however, influences neighborhood associations: They remain mostly the turf of home-owners and landlords. Those neighborhood residents who are, instead, renters -- disproportionately the city's young, poor and working class -- have much less voice on these councils than on the prior CAA and CPO councils.

    In fact, absentee landords are often welcome at the meetings, even made members (and, in some cases, officers) of assocations for neighborhoods in which they don't even live, but have property.

    This leaves their renters daring not to speak about abuses by the landlords, nor about land-use decisions where the renters' priorities are often at extreme odds with the interests of their landlords. "Trouble-making" renters could find themselves evicted if they attempt to battle with their landlords at the neighborhood association meetings.

    (In fact, the quarter of Wichita's population who are renters are at a distinct disadvantage, compared to land-owners. Wichita's -- and Kansas' -- very conservative "property rights" politics leave renters with literally nowhere to turn for representation or political support.

    In Wichita, renters have very few rights. Evictions can be ordered with just 3 days' notice. Rented property is not subject to routine pre-rental city inspections, and city inspectors don't do any significant amount of routine spot-checks of rental properties.

    Tenants who complain about illegally unsafe apartments are commonly evicted if they complain -- especially if they complain to the authorities -- ironically with their deposits commonly withheld.

    A network of landlord information-sharing on tenants can result in an evicted tenant being effectively "blackballed" everywhere, with no recourse, and no access to their file to challenge false information. Consumer complaints have nowhere to go but to expensive litigation -- normally affordable by landlords, but not by renters.

    And these strong, anti-renter policies are stringently upheld by Wichita's City Council, the County Commission, and state government -- in cooperation with local business interests and landowner-dominated neighborhood associations).

    In any case, with the loss of neighborhood-elected CPOs, the rise of these non-governmental "neighborhood associations" have partially substituted for the CPOs' neighborhood-voice role -- though the young, the poor and the working class no longer have effective representation.

    To some extent, Wichita's neighborhood associations have become federated under an umbrella organization -- Wichita Independent Neighborhoods (WIN) -- which provides very limited administrative support, and helps resolve differences between neighborhoods, and coordinates such issues as neighborhood association boundaries, newsletter publishing and special events.

    For detailed maps of neighborhood association boundaries, see these maps:
    Wichita Council District, Neighborhood & Homeowner Association Maps
    ...and specifically this large PDF map:
    ...AND...
    this large JPEG map, indicating neighborhood association names & boundaries, and economic level.
    ...AND...
    ...this large PDF map identifying associations by numbers on a map corresponding to name listings in the margin

    Neighborhood Associations:
      Monthly Meeting Calendars & Contacts

    grouped by City Council Districts
        (from the City of Wichita website)

  • District I
  • District II (2019)
  • District III
  • District IV (2019)
  • District V
  • District VI (2019)
          ...also... (2018)

    (For the long story about citizen-participation
    in Wichita government,
    with references, CLICK HERE.)


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    THE KOCH EFFECT:
    A controversial, extraordinary, unique and key feature of Wichita politics is the presence of the world headquarters of oil-industry leader Koch Industries (generally regarded as America's largest privately-held company), and its leader, politically domineering Charles Koch -- by far, Wichita's very richest person (and one of America's top billionaires and foremost political powers).

    As one of the area's largest employers, and with accumulated wealth far exceeding the budget of the City of Wichita, the Kochs wield enormous clout — in Wichita, in Sedgwick County, and in the State of Kansas — and are increasingly using it to reshape those governments around the Kochs' own Libertarian ideas and values.

    Charles and brother David (all four Koch brothers were reared in Wichita) -- a duo well known in national political circles as simply "The Koch Brothers" -- have been THE dominant national figures in the largely anti-government Libertarian movement. In fact, David was once the Libertarian Party's nominee for U.S. Vice President.

    During the "Red Scare" era of "McCarthyism" in the 1950s, the Koch family founded the nation's leading anti-Communist political organization, the right-wing John Birch Society -- notorious for branding liberal politicians as "Communist." As that group faded into disrepute in the 1960s, they co-founded the nation's two chief libertarian-business "think-tanks," the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute.

    In the 1990s, the Kochs took over the remains of a Wichita tax-protest organization — HomeOwners' Trust (HOT) — that had been left leaderless by the death of its local billionaire-landlord founder Willard Garvey. Reorganized as the Kansas Taxpayers Network (KTN), it served as the Libertarian front organization for Koch family meddling in local and state politics. KTN evolved into Kansans for Prosperity (KFP), which then became the prototype for the Kochs' current main national front organization, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) -- one of the chief forces in U.S. politics today.

    Becoming notorious for wielding billionaire political power on the sly — through AFP and numerous other front organizations, nationwide — the Kochs have aggressively campaigned for Libertarian reforms to the Republican party, and to American politics, and for Libertarian and Republican candidates.

    However, in 2014-2015, Charles Koch became increasingly open about plans to dominate spending in the 2016 Presidential, Congressional and state elections -- pledging to donate more money to political candidates, nationwide, than the Republican party's own Republican National Committee had in the previous presidential election (over $400 million).

    The Kochs' political power-obsession has local ramifications, as well. Together, along with other family and business colleagues, the elder Koch brothers have increasingly sought to dominate and control Wichita-area politics -- using wealth and corporate leverage far beyond anything opponents can muster -- to force Libertarianism upon their hometown, Wichita, and the surrounding county, state and nation.

    Though not always successful, their influence has begun to dampen the general public's normal influence in Wichita's affairs -- and led to significant changes in the Wichita City Council, and a Libertarian revolution in the governments of Sedgwick County and State of Kansas -- with startling results... all having profound impact upon Wichita.

    UPDATE: Summer 2016

    Koch-guided Kansas state government has faltered under Koch-sponsored Governor Sam Brownback, whose libertarian "Kansas Experiment" — extreme tax, regulatory and government cuts (fashioned by a Koch employee who became Brownback's budget director) — brought financial calamity to the state.

    The disaster has made Brownback the most unpopular governor in the United States (as of mid-2016) — with a public-approval rating of only 15%, the lowest of any governor in recorded state history.

    As a result — after 6 years of lagging other states in the region in the recovery from the Great Recession, and chaos in the state and local government resulting from Koch influence in state government — the July 2016 Kansas primary election saw a take-back of many key Republican seats in the Legislature, unseating Koch-backed Libertarian-Republicans.

    The result of this election is a projected shift of power, in the Kansas Legislature, away from the Brownback administration and the Kochs' politics.


    UPDATE, Summer, 2017:

    Following a reversal of fortune in the Kansas legislative election of 2016, Koch influence waned in the Kansas Legislature, and many Republicans joined Democrats to roll back the tax cuts and other measures that had defined the the Brownback/Colyer administration's controversial Koch-guided fiscal policy, known as the "Kansas Experiment."

    (For details of the outcome, see analysis and opinion essay by WSU Public Administration Prof. Ed Flentje, former Kansas Secretary of Administration to Republican Governor Mike Hayden, at:
    "Kansas voters rebuke Brownback, tax plan" November 12, 2016, Wichita Eagle.)

    Also see:
    "Conservative Lawmakers Ousted in Kansas Primary Election: GOP races seen as referendum on Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax-cut policy" Aug. 3, 2016, Wall Street Journal

    "Kansas' economic outlook shifting with reversal of Brownback tax policy" June 11, 2017, Topeka Capital-Journal


    UPDATE, August 23, 2019:

    In the November, 2018 election -- though some legislative seats were regained by Koch allies -- the race for Kansas governor was won by a Democrat, Laura Kelly. Her election was generally seen as a state-wide backlash against the Brownback/Colyer administration, and a firm, statewide repudiation of their controversial Koch-guided fiscal policies (known as the "Kansas Experiment").

    David Koch -- the "Koch brother" who oversaw the Kochs' various political organizations -- announced his withdrawal from the leadership of their political activity.

    Several months later, August 23, 2019, David died -- leaving his eldest brother, Charles (who leads the family business, Koch Industries), to oversee their political programs, as well.

    For more on "The KOCH EFFECT" see this article.



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