Mod Republicans Hold On

By John Celock

A group of moderate Republican Kansas state lawmakers held on to their seats in Tuesday’s primary, but conservatives managed to hold off moderate challengers in their primaries.

Several of the leading moderate Republicans in Topeka easily defeated more conservative challengers as the latest battle in the GOP civil war concludes. The results come following a charged debate where conservatives said that Democrats tied to President Barack Obama were trying to influence the results of internal GOP affairs.

Republicans took issue with the involvement of the Kansas Values Institute, a 501(c)(4) chaired by Dan Watkins, a former senior campaign advisor to Obama that provided support to moderate Republican candidates. KVI’s other board members are former state Senate Vice President John Vratil (R-Leawood) and former state Rep. Jill Quigley (R-Overland Park), both moderate Republicans who have endorsed Democrat Paul Davis for governor over Gov. Sam Brownback (R).

Last week, Republican political consultant Jared Suhn released a picture on social media calling the Republicans being supported by KVI the “Obama Values Supporting Team.” The results for candidates on Suhn’s list saw wins and losses.

In Johnson County, Rep. Barbara Bollier (R-Mission Hills), one of the most moderate lawmakers on the GOP side, easily defeated challenger Neil Melton 59 percent to 41 percent. In a neighboring district, Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park) easily defeated her moderate challenger, Jennifer Flood, 68 percent to 32 percent.

Conservatives also fended off moderate challengers in Johnson County, with Rep. Amanda Grosserode (R-Lenexa) defeating moderate Jameila Haines 55 percent to 35 percent. Grooserode, one of the most conservative lawmakers in Topeka, had to fend off KVI attacks that tied her to Obama and that she favored a socialist housing policy. In an open seat contest, conservative Randy Powell defeated moderate former Rep. Ron Worley 56 percent to 44 percent.

In Harvey County, conservative Rep. Marc Rhoades (R-Newton) fended off a challenge from moderate Barbara Bunting, winning 58 percent to 42 percent. Bunting had received a campaign donation from state Democratic Chairwoman Joan Wagnon in her race. In Salina, though moderate Rep. Diana Dierks (R) fending off her conservative challenger, Tom Bell, 54 percent to 46 percent. Bell had criticized Dierks in the closing days of the race for her backing from KVI and support given to her by Saline County Democratic Chairman Phil Black, along with the fact that she had sought the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 1994.

In Geary County, Rep. Allan Rothlisburg (R-Grandview Plaza), one of the most conservative lawmakers in the state, was unseated in the primary by Lonnie Clark 58 percent to 42 percent. In Shawnee County, moderate Fred Patton narrowly leads conservative Rep. Josh Powell (R-Topeka) by 68 votes with a final canvass early next week.

In addition to Rothlisburg and possibly Powell, Rep. Joe Edwards (R-Haysville) was defeated by fellow conservative John Whitmer in the primary. Edwards has been battling allegations since last year that he has been previously convicted for prostitution, which he denies saying it was another person with the same name.

In addition to the House defeats, Rep. Marshall Christmann (R-Lyons) finished third in his bid for the GOP state Senate nomination to succeed Sen. Clark Shultz (R-McPherson), who gave up the seat to unsuccessfully seek the GOP nomination for state insurance commissioner.