Johnson County moderates criticize conservatives at candidate forum

Moderate Johnson County Republicans hoping to oust conservative incumbents in the Kansas Legislature were out in force at a candidate forum in Overland Park on Wednesday evening.

The candidates included a small-town mayor, a homeschooling dad and a third-grade teacher. In their allotted time, the moderates sharply criticized Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and the conservative legislators who have implemented a tax policy that has made it impossible for the state to fund schools and roads in a way Kansans are accustomed.

“Life in Kansas was good to us until it wasn’t,” said Joy Koesten, who is opposing state Rep. Jerry Lunn in the August Republican primary.

John Skubal, a three-term Overland Park councilman challenging state Sen. Jeff Melcher, mocked Brownback’s now famous comment about Kansas undertaking a “real live experiment” in trickle-down economics. “I don’t know about any of you, but I don’t like being a guinea pig,” Skubal said.

James Dingwerth, running against state Rep. Randy Powell, said he wanted to be the “burr under the saddle of Sam Brownback.”

The League of Women Voters of Johnson County hosted the event at a building in the Blue Valley school district. Candidates in contested primaries were invited to attend. But, as at a similar event in Prairie Village on Sunday, no conservative incumbents showed up. 

The room was thick with exasperation with the state’s conservative Republican leadership. 

After the candidates spoke, Melissa Carlson, a member of the League of Women Voters’ board of directors, discussed the fallout from the state making it harder for people to vote. 

Carlson did not mention by name Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is criticized for pursuing voter fraud with a Javert-like zeal. Instead, she used a rhyme understood by anyone who follows Kansas politics.

“Confusion may reign, but we know who’s to blame,” she said.

Categories: News