Friday, September 01, 2006

Taking Back Kansas: The Great & Invisible Republican running for governor

By Diane Silver

This is part of a continuing series on the campaign to bleach the red out of red-state icon Kansas and to loosen the Religious Right's stranglehold on the state.

Today's topic: The odd race for governor.

The campaign for governor pits the one bright spot for progressive and moderate Kansas -- Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius -- against a no-name Republican.

And why is no-name state Sen. Jim Barnett of Emporia the GOP candidate in a GOP state? It's very simple. All of the name candidates were scared off by Sebelius' high approval ratings.

What's the status of the race today?

Ric Anderson of the Topeka Capital-Journal accurately assesses the situation when he notes:
Say what you will about Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' school finance ads -- and "dopey" really is a word, in case you were wondering -- but at least she's getting herself out there.

Where is Jim Barnett? That's a question many Kansans might be asking if not for one thing: They"d first have to ask, "Who is Jim Barnett?"
So far the campaign has consisted of Sebelius airing TV ads (three so far), and Barnett and other assorted Republicans complaining about the ads' content.

Barnett appears to be dialing for dollars in the hopes of raising money to pay for his own ads. Anderson reports that Barnett is supposed to begin running ads after Labor Day. At least one Sebelius ad has run since the middle of summer.

Meanwhile, one anonymous blog is claiming that Barnett is going to remove his far-right running mate Susan Wagle from the campaign. (This blog -- Kansas Governors Race -- appears to be Republican run. Its comments during the primary leaned towards one of Barnett's opponents, Ken Canfield. However, no one knows for sure who is posting on the blog.)

The really big news for Barnett is that some mainstream Republicans have endorsed him. The fact that is even news illustrates the deep split in the party between moderates and the Religious Right.

The question in the minds of some Democrats is whether Karl Rove and company will descend on Kansas. Some feel the national GOP might want to damage Sebelius, even if they can't defeat her, because of her potential to jump from governor to senator or beyond.

Although Kansas does have a tradition of electing Democratic governors, Sebelius seems to be the odd one out. She leans left and is pro-choice in the reddest of red state. She maintains a 63 percent approval rating and even gets 59 percent approval from pro-life Kansans.

Coming Soon: A post on the enigma of Sebelius.

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