Conservative Takeover of Kansas Is Imminent, Warns the Son of the Times' Publisher

The imminent conservative takeover of Kansas is a cause for concern, suggests the son of Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. in a story on Friday.

Reporter A.G. Sulzberger, scion of the paper's publisher and also the Kansas City bureau chief of the Times, passed on the fears of moderate Kansas Republicans at the seemingly assured election of Christian conservative and U.S. senator Sam Brownback as governor, in a story packed with "conservative" labels, "Kansas Governor's Race Could Redefine G.O.P." The original online headline was more explicit: "Brownback Victory Would Shift Kansas to Right."

Sulzberger set an ominous tone:

This state has been painted, unwillingly at times, as a caricature of a certain brand of conservatism. It was here that the State Board of Education challenged the theory of evolution, that an abortion provider was fatally shot at his church, and that a writer set his polemic "What's the Matter with Kansas?"

But while Republicans dominate the State Legislature and the governor was once chairman of the state party, the reality about those who currently control Kansas is far subtler - the effective majority in the Legislature is a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats, while the governor defected to the Democratic Party.

So, if Sam Brownback, a United States senator and, briefly, presidential candidate, is elected governor in two weeks as nearly everyone expects, Kansans are anticipating the type of conservative revolution that those living elsewhere already assumed had swept through this state long ago. Mr. Brownback's ascent would be the culmination of a civil war that has raged here for decades between moderates and conservatives in the state's Republican Party.

While the governor's office has flipped back and forth between moderate Republicans and Democrats, Mr. Brownback would be the first conservative to hold the office in at least a half century.


Supporters of Mr. Brownback are looking forward to checking off a long conservative wish list - including tax cuts, spending freezes, regulatory rollbacks and new restrictions on abortion. "There is certainly excitement that when we put a bill on his desk that he is going to sign it," said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of the anti-abortion group Kansans for Life.

And moderate Republicans in the Legislature, many of whom survived ouster campaigns from within the party this year after voting with Democrats to temporarily increase sales tax, are bracing for what they fear could become a permanent political shift.

Sulzberger noted that "Mr. Brownback's brand of religiously infused social conservatism seems increasingly mainstream here." Sulzberger's habitual use of the "conservative" identifier suggests he's in the mold of a typical Times political reporter.

But Mr. Brownback's politics continue to be the focus of his Democratic opponent, State Senator Tom Holland, who has talked about Mr. Brownback's relationships with polarizing conservatives like the billionaire Koch brothers and the evangelical leader Lou Engle.


Even if that message fails to prove a winning one next month, Paul Davis, the Democratic minority leader in the State Assembly, believes the conservative takeover of the Republicans may eventually lead to a realignment of the parties. As evidence he noted that three incumbent Democrats in his caucus first won office as Republicans.

"I think over time," Mr. Davis said, "you're going to see more and more of these moderate Republicans decide that they have more in common with Democrats than with conservative Republicans."

For now, though, conservatives are celebrating what promises to be their most successful election to date. The party is well positioned to win the entire Congressional delegation for the first time in more than a decade with an unusually conservative slate. And though the Legislature might still field a significant number of moderate Republicans, they first had to overcome a coordinated ouster campaign from within the party that was financed in part by a fellow Republican state representative.