More than 700 political movers and shakers in Kansas attended the MainStream Education Foundation’s annual Stand Up, Speak Out awards dinner Sunday night at the Overland Park Convention Center.
The common theme: We’ve got lots of hard work to do to turn the Sunflower State around. Activist groups such as Stand Up Blue Valley and good-government organizations such as the League of Women Voters of Kansas were honored for what they are doing for the right causes.
I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker. Boiled down, my advice was for good-willed Democrats, moderate Republicans and independents to work together to repeal or otherwise change the destructive policies of Gov. Sam Brownback. It’s up to the people in the room, I noted, to do the campaigning, the calling, the convincing that will be needed to help voters elect the best legislators on Nov. 8.
People in the audience nodded their heads. They applauded in a few instances. Obviously I was speaking to many of the already converted.
Here are a few words of warning.
MainStream Coalition members and supporters can’t exist in their own echo chamber, hoping and wishing that other Kansans will see the same things they do: a broken state budget, a slash-and-burn Legislature, a delusional governor.
Obviously, voters in the past haven’t seen that. Remember, Brownback actually won the majority of votes in Johnson County in his 2014 re-election race. Ultra-con lawmakers dominated the House and Senate elections in 2012 and 2014 in the county.
In addition, MainStream backers have to realize most people aren’t political nerds like them. These Kansans don’t always pay a lot of attention to what happens in Topeka. These are the voters who need to hear directly from the candidates — or get a piece of literature in their hands — that explains what kinds of changes could help lead to a better, stronger Kansas.
Sure, MainStream supporters know and preach that Kansans must retain five Kansas Supreme Court justices this fall. And that Democrats need to beat as many as possible of the ultra-conservative House and Senate members from Johnson County.
The harder task is to make sure the general public believes these actions need to be taken. That takes old-fashioned networking, talking over the back yard fence to neighbors and, yes, paying for ads and fliers to counteract the negative campaigning that’s now polluting Kansas in some of these races.
Moderate Republican candidates may have the toughest task of all. Some were rightly lauded for beating ultra-con GOP incumbents in the August primaries. But now some of these same Republicans are wrongly being linked to Brownback, with claims that they support his reckless economic and social policies.
On a more upbeat note, let’s be clear: Things are different from 2014 and certainly from 2012.
Brownback’s horrible popularity ratings show that many Kansans are aware he’s not doing a great job leading the state. The bad news about lack of job growth and revenue shortfalls has spread through the media.
More Kansans than ever at least know there’s something wrong in Topeka.
The ultimate goal for MainStream Coalition backers and the candidates they support is to tap into that frustration and help convince voters to send better Democrats and moderate Republicans to the Capitol on Nov. 8.