Recent Kansas Editorials

September 24, 2019 GMT

The Kansas City Star, Sept. 19

As poll shows Kobach losing Senate race to Democrat, running mate says he may jump in

A bombshell poll and an explosive declaration detonated Wednesday in the middle of the Republican race to succeed U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas next year.

A newly leaked internal GOP poll shows Republican Kris Kobach losing to his most prominent Democratic rival in the state’s 2020 Senate race, an inconclusive but troubling warning sign that the controversial former secretary of state could be a repeat loser for Kansas Republicans.

Meantime, Kobach’s own 2018 running mate, Wink Hartman, told The Star Editorial Board that he’s considering joining a growing Republican chorus running for the Senate. Stunningly, against Kobach, with whom he shared a ticket last year.


Clearly, Republicans haven’t settled on a nominee, but they should be increasingly unsettled by the thought that it might be Kobach.

For his part Hartman, a Wichita businessman, maintains his mulling a Senate bid has nothing to do with Kobach or what others would argue are his disastrous qualities as a candidate, which undoubtedly led to the Kobach-Hartman ticket losing the governor’s race to the Democrats last year. Hartman said he just feels a businessman who’s made difficult decisions in that realm is particularly well-suited to the powerful, deliberative Senate.

Perhaps. Still, most will see Hartman’s potential run as a statement — along with the poll — of Kobach’s well-earned vulnerability.

And in Kansas, of all places, where Democrats have held a U.S. Senate seat for all of 16 years in the state’s 158-year history. And where the Democratic Senate field, led by the highly flawed former U.S. attorney Barry Grissom, is currently as barren as the Flint Hills after a seasonal burn.

Yes, it’s awfully early to be sampling political waters that have a lot of flowing to do between now and November 2020. But consider: The GOP’s June poll, leaked this week and reported on by The Wall Street Journal, features a Democrat in Grissom who is largely unknown across the state beating the well-known Kobach handily in a general election matchup. And that’s before Democrats have spent a dollar against him.

Having such an internal poll land in the hands of a national newspaper confirms what many Republicans have long feared: that as a nominee for a U.S. Senate seat the party has held in a vise-grip, Kobach might lose it the way he lost the governorship in 2018.


The poll gives added urgency to those yearning for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to get in the race, which he could very well command if he enters and which he still maintains he will not.

With the filing deadline next June, Pompeo can afford to sit on the sidelines while he tackles the world’s problems. But can the GOP afford it?

Perhaps its most prominent primary challenger to Kobach so far, Roger Marshall,who represents Kansas’ expansive 1st Congressional District, is scurrying to introduce himself to the eastern part of the state. Marshall, though, can expect a searing campaign against him by the limited-government Club for Growth’s Super PAC, which the club’s president, David McIntosh, said could reach “well into the seven figures.”

“We’re very interested in the Kansas Senate race and view it as an opportunity to get a real economic conservative in there,” McIntosh told CNN. “Our view on Marshall is that he’s not one.”

Control of the Senate is at stake next year. And Republicans will be trying to protect a seat — they have held for nearly a century. And while it’s early, a poll showing the announced GOP frontrunner losing head-to-head will rightly delight Democrats, and should utterly petrify Republicans.

Even former running mates.


The Manhattan Mercury, Sept. 22

K-State’s enrollment struggle needs our attention

More sobering indications from campus: Enrollment is down again.

Official numbers won’t be available for a little while, but the university provost told the Manhattan Rotary Club this past week that enrollment has dropped this fall. It’s been down now for five straight years; it was already off by 10 percent since the 2014-15 school year, when it peaked at just under 25,000.

We’ve said this before, and we’ll say it again: That is the biggest problem in our area.

This is a college town, and the region depends on K-State and Fort Riley to serve as pillars of the economy. Fort Riley’s level of employment wobbles from time to time, and sometimes there’s the threat of closure or major cutbacks. We all get pretty worked up; there are commissions and big public meetings, as there should be. We have to always remain aware of its importance and work to strengthen it.

The same needs to be said of K-State. It’s easy to take for granted that the college in our college town will always be there. We aren’t going to hold a big rally to support continued enrollment, unless you consider a home football game essentially the same thing, and we might agree with you to an extent.

But we shouldn’t take it for granted. Enrollment is leaking away, and it will take sustained effort to turn that around. A consultant’s report in late 2017 proposed a plan, but at this point there are no results to point to. The provost this week indicated that it would take three years to see substantial change.

K-State itself, and the state Board of Regents and the state government, are responsible for fixing the problem. But we can all help, both by thinking about it, coming up with suggestions and taking action in whatever way we can. Manhattan is a great college town, partly because of the actions we all take every day. So let’s just continue, and keep the issue front-and-center.

Let’s also encourage state and local leaders to put student enrollment near the top of their priorities. There really aren’t any more important issues for us.


The Lawrence Journal-World, Sept. 23

In both Kansas and the nation, it’s the cities vs. the country, and we all are going to lose

Live in Kansas long enough and you’ll hear a conversation about the split between rural and urban places in the state.

A recent one went like this: An individual from one of Kansas’ larger cities was griping about how he felt his child’s school district was being treated unfairly in a matter related to athletics, of course. Another individual noted that it could be worse, highlighting some of the challenges of 1A schools, which are the smallest in the state.

The response: They should just feel lucky they have a school at all.

Really? Perhaps all the residents who live in the thousands of square miles of rural Kansas also ought to bow a bit when speaking to their city neighbors.

Of course not. An appropriate response: You should just feel lucky that there is someone who wants to grow your food for you.

Think about that. Cities aren’t doing much to produce the commodities that are turned into food that feeds the world. Nor should they. The production of commodities requires large amounts of open space, which cities don’t have. It makes sense to have both urban and rural spaces, and it makes sense that they be valued more equally than they are today.

But conversations like the one above indicate that, instead, tensions between the two important places are growing. A new report by the Brookings Institute and The Wall Street Journal indicates it is happening on a national scale. Go to brookings.edu to see the interesting report in full. But here are some highlights of how America is dividing into two separate places:

. In 2008, U.S. House districts that voted Democratic comprised 39% of the total land area of the U.S., while Republican House districts totaled 61%. That is a sharp divide showing Democrats are stronger in urban areas while Republicans are stronger in rural areas. But by 2018, the divide became much deeper. Democratic U.S. House districts comprised just 20% of the land area, while Republican districts made up 80%. That’s not a map of a country. It is a map of a battleground.

. 70% of the nation’s digital and professional services economy takes place in Democratic House districts, while 60% of the nation’s agriculture economy takes place in Republican House districts.

. In 2008, the median household income of Republican House districts was $55,000 vs. $54,000 for Democratic House districts. In 2018, the median income for Republican districts was $53,000 and $61,000 for Democratic districts.

I can almost hear Democrats making their speeches about how this is so unfair to them. We are representing the part of America that is growing in success, yet the declining part of America has outsized influence to elect a president because of the Electoral College, they say. Get rid of the Electoral College, they say.

Such a response would only show why our country is so divided. America is made up of both population and places. They are both important. Democrats have won over more of the population. Republicans have won over more of the places.

The correct response is to come up with ways to make more places more prosperous. Introducing a plan to eliminate the Electoral College, and thus marginalize those places even more, will never be a winning strategy to heal the divide. Instead, start by recognizing the value some of these shrinking places have to America’s overall prosperity.

These places are home to a vital American industry: agriculture. It is an industry that needs a sparsity of population to be successful. But does that mean those who work in such an industry should be punished by losing their community’s school because it never will be as big or as efficient as some urban school? Of course not.

All the places in America have roles to play. Urban places like Silicon Valley and Wall Street have produced great innovation and great wealth. They should be revered in their own right. But so too should our rural areas. They would be much more prosperous places if food were priced as the life-essential product that it is. But instead, food is relatively cheap and abundant in America. Surely we are all glad for that.

There’s much that needs to be done to make America a more united place, but putting more value on all of our places — whether they are red or blue, shrinking or growing — would be a good first step.