Kansas Leaders Downplay Expectations When It Comes to Social Legislation

Robin Marty

Party moderates seem to be trying to lower the expectations of those hoping 2011 will be a year of conservative social reform in the state.

We’ve already begun pondering the idea that Governor-elect Sam Brownback actually might end up disappointing his new legislative colleagues when it comes to championing social issues in Kansas. Now it seems that even leaders in the Republican party are working to lower expectations of the governor when it comes to pushing bills against abortion, reproductive health and other rightwing redmeat items.

Via KansasCity.com:

“This election was not about social issues. It was about economic issues,” said Andy Wollen, a Lenexa marketing consultant who’s chairman of the moderate Kansas Traditional Republican Majority. “If Republicans dash down the path of social issues — making our culture more conservative — then they’re heading in the wrong direction.”

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The Legislature will open its annual session, also on Jan. 10, with GOP majorities of 31-9 in the Senate and 92-33 in the House.

Republicans picked up 16 seats in the House, and legislators of all philosophies concede it has moved to the right on issues such as abortion, stem cell research and gun rights.

But legislators also don’t see a big philosophical shift in the Senate, where only two seats were filled in special elections and all 40 seats won’t be on the ballot until 2012. While it’s likely to pass some abortion legislation, key leadership jobs will still be held by GOP senators who resist social issues.

As governor and the real leader of the state GOP, Brownback will have to mediate conflicts among Republicans.

It could be tricky. As a U.S. senator, he was a strong opponent of abortion and gay marriage, and his identification with religious conservatives in the past has built expectations that he’ll help them achieve their goals as governor. Yet, as a candidate and governor-elect, he’s warned publicly against overreaching and has made it clear that he’ll emphasize economic issues.

“His No. 1 priority is going to be getting the economy growing again,” said Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag. “The governor-elect isn’t worried about being distracted from his No. 1 priority.”

Steve Cloud, a former Kansas House member from Lenexa who served on the GOP National Committee, said Republicans prospered this year because voters were unhappy with how President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats handled the economy and sense that government spending and the federal debt are out of control.

He said centrist voters supported Obama in ’08 because they were tired of the GOP’s “right-wing” agenda, then switched back to the Republican Party when Obama and his fellow Democrats proved too liberal for them on issues such as health care and the federal economic stimulus.

“If the Republicans in Kansas don’t learn from that and they come back with an avalanche of right-wing issues, then they’re going to push all of the independent and centrist voters back to the Democrats,” Cloud said.

Although there may not be a “big philosophical shift” in the Senate, a big shift may not be entirely necessary to push through legislation once it has been brought to the floor.  The only thing to stop some anti-choice legislation during the last session was a lack of enough votes in the senate to override the governor’s veto.  With a Republican governor in the driver’s seat, a majority is all that is needed, and Brownback could then continue his moderate stance untouched by appearing to champion rightwing social causes.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article included a typo that misidentified Sen. Tim Kaine as a Republican. We regret this error.

News Politics

Former Klan Leader on Senate Run: My Views Are Now the ‘GOP Mainstream’

Teddy Wilson

David Duke has been a fervent supporter of the Trump campaign, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

David Duke, convicted felon, white supremacist, and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, announced Friday that he will run for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, Roll Call reported.

Duke said that after a “great outpouring of overwhelming support,” he will campaign for the open Senate seat vacated by former Republican Sen. David Vitter, who lost a bid for Louisiana governor in a runoff election.

Duke’s announcement comes the day after Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination in the midst of growing tensions over race relations across the country. Trump has been criticized during the campaign for his rhetoric, which, his critics say, mainstreams white nationalism and provokes anxiety and fear among students of color.

His statements about crime and immigration, particularly about immigrants from Mexico and predominantly Muslim countries, have been interpreted by outlets such as the New York Times as speaking to some white supporters’ “deeper and more elaborate bigotry.”

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Duke said in his campaign announcement that he was the first candidate to promote the policy of “America first,” echoing a line from Trump’s nomination acceptance speech on Thursday night.

“The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America First,” Trump said Thursday night. “As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect.”

Duke said his platform has become “the GOP mainstream” and claimed credit for propelling Republicans to control of Congress in 2010. He said he is “overjoyed to see Donald Trump … embrace most of the issues I’ve championed for years.”

Trump in February declined to disavow the support of a white supremacist group and Duke, saying he knew “nothing about David Duke” and knew “nothing about white supremacists.” He later clarified that he rejected their support, and blamed his initial failure to disavow Duke on a “bad earpiece.”

Trump’s candidacy has also brought to light brought many incidents of anti-Semitism, much of which has been directed at journalists and commentators covering the presidential campaign.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro wrote in the National Review that Trump’s nomination has “drawn anti-Semites from the woodwork,” and that the Republican nominee has been willing to “channel the support of anti-Semites to his own ends.”

Duke took to Twitter after Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday to express his support for the Republican nominee’s vision for America.

“Great Trump Speech, America First! Stop Wars! Defeat the Corrupt elites! Protect our Borders!, Fair Trade! Couldn’t have said it better!” Duke tweeted.

Duke has been a fervent Trump supporter, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

Duke was elected to the Louisiana house in 1989, serving one term. Duke was the Republican nominee for governor in 1991, and was defeated by Democrat Edwin Edwards.

Duke, who plead guilty in 2002 to mail fraud and tax fraud, has served a year in federal prison.