So, election 2022, how did it go? Well, it depends on your priorities. And the same is true for me when I look at the results in Kansas.
In Kansas, for me, celebrating with enthusiasm was much harder. Yes, we had a fantastic re-election of Sharice Davids in the 3rd Congressional District. Winning by 14% in a district the National Republicans targeted and now getting real national attention and exposure is a huge plus for Kansas. This also puts her in a place of real leadership potential and with this district boundary protected for ten years, in a position to have a much less targeted campaign in 2024.
Beyond Davids’ success, yes Governor Kelly won reelection, which is certainly good for the state, but there is little else to feel good about. Governor Kelly’s close win was against a lackluster candidate, who ran a campaign few objective viewers thought was that special. Then there was the third party candidate that certainly didn't help the challenger. But, then add to that losing the Attorney General position to Kobach, missing other opportunities including no gains in the Democratic House, and a missed opportunity with Patrick Schmidt for Congress, there are many Democrats who worked very hard and really wonder what happened. How could we, with so many great candidates, have so little success?
Well, to me and many others the answer is not too complicated. For some very hard to understand reason, the campaign for Governor forgot that the August 2nd dramatic win for NO on state legislative control on abortion was obviously important to a strong majority of Kansans. Instead of dramatically using the right-to-choice issue to rally more votes for Democratic candidates, the campaign totally ignored the political topic that was most important, particularly to new and hard-to-get-out voters. In addition, I think the struggle of the State Democratic Party to play a positive role did not help. Combine that with another pretty much failed Coordinated Campaign (ask the Mann and Rogers campaigns) and maybe we are lucky to have the limited success we have. No surprise then, with abysmally low turnout, that only the campaign with most of the money survived, and the other campaigns were largely overlooked, despite Kris Kobach being on the ballot in another key statewide race. This is an issue that will continue to cause problems for Democratic candidates. If success on only one part of the ballot is all we can expect, it will certainly be harder to get the kind of support and legislative partnership that is needed by the candidates who do win office—especially when it comes time to get important things done. So, again, it depends on your priorities.
The strategy employed in Kansas was also in total contrast to other Democratic Candidates for Governor nationwide, who learned from our vote in August, emphasized abortion, and raced to key wins including legislative progress all across the country. We now have a Democratic Caucus in the Kansas House who can not protect a Governor Kelly veto, which allows the Republicans to pass whatever they want, including another shot on another constitutional vote on abortion. Add to that having Kris Kobach Attorney General, and I find looking back on November 8th painful.
So what happens next? I suppose for most of us Thanksgiving and all the holidays, plus following our favorite sports teams, will take us into spring and a break from politics. Now that is fine and normal if we accept the results and will just try harder next time. But that does not get better results, especially if we operate the same way with a similar strategy.
I do not have the answers, but I do know new ideas or solutions do not just simply come along. Thinking and planning for 2024, if not already started, must begin very soon and maybe looking at some new ways to operate might help too. Seems to me we owe the State of Kansas and our fellow citizens giving this effort a try.