Republicans swept all statewide elections in Kansas Tuesday night, although some of them were hard fought victories. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, Governor Sam Brownback, Senator Pat Roberts and others took home wins.
At a GOP election night party in Topeka, a crowd of supporters was waiting for a speech from Republican Senator Pat Roberts. He survived both a tough primary challenge and a strong fight from independent candidate Greg Orman.
“We said for months that the road to a Republican majority in the United States Senate led through Kansas and we did it,” says Roberts.
Roberts credits his victory in part to that message that he would help take the Senate’s leadership. After winning, he repeated his claim that having Republicans in charge of the Senate will end gridlock.
“Thanks to you, your vote, your hard work, our conservative Republican solutions will now see the light and day and be put before the American people. And we will do great things,” says Roberts.
Democrats will still have the power to block some legislation, because Republicans won’t have the 60 vote majority needed to break filibusters. Independent Greg Orman told his supporters that while they lost the Senate race, they sent a message.
“Kansans and all of you sent them a very strong message, and that message couldn’t have been clearer. You can’t go to Washington and hide behind your party label, you’ve got to go there and get stuff done,” says Orman.
Back at the Republican watch party in Topeka, the crowd waited around following the victory speech from Senator Roberts. They made it clear who they wanted to hear next.
“We want Sam, we want Sam, we want Sam”
And when Governor Sam Brownback took the stage, he thanked his opponent Paul Davis for a good race. He told a crowd that his administration will continue what he calls the “Kansas comeback.”
“Ideas and direction do matter, and I think that’s what the state of Kansas, the people of Kansas and the American people have said tonight. Ideas and direction matter,” says Brownback.
Brownback beat Democrat Paul Davis by nearly 33,000 votes. But only 50% of voters in the race cast a ballot for the governor. The other half of the electorate voted in favor of Democrat Paul Davis or Libertarian Keen Umbehr.
But 50 percent of the vote was enough for Brownback to win, and now, he says he’ll focus on issues like the economy, education and poverty.
“These are key, key issues for us, but you had to do the hard ones, you had to get your budget in order, you had to get your pension system in order, you had to get your Medicaid system in order, you had to get your taxes down to where you could grow. We’ve done the hard things,” says Brownback.
Davis had impressive fundraising for a Democrat in Kansas, but Brownback had the backing, and money, of the Republican Governors Association. Davis told a crowd in Lawrence that while they fell short he would run the race all over again if he had the chance.
“We have very real challenges to face as a state and the only way that we can overcome these challenges is to face them together,” says Davis
Further down the ballot were more Republican victories. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Treasurer Ron Estes were reelected. Secretary of State Kris Kobach also fought off a challenge from Democrat Jean Schodorf.
“I think in my case, the election was largely a referendum on whether people want to continue to have the toughest election security laws in America, and we have them in Kansas,” says Kobach.
Republican candidate for Kansas insurance commissioner, Ken Selzer, bested the Democrat on the ballot.
All four Kansas seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will remain in Republican hands. In eastern Kansas, both Lynn Jenkins and Kevin Yoder won reelection. Tim Huelskamp won his district in central and western Kansas and Mike Pompeo earned another term representing the Wichita area and south-central Kansas.