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It's the Primaries, Stupid! WSJ article adds proof

We've been saying for a long time that "It's the Primaries, Stupid!" and that we can change the world one election at a time by defeating in their primary elections those Republicans who won't stand for conservative principles. The following article from The Wall Street Journal explains how the Kansas Republican legislative primaries have become a battleground between small government constitutional conservatives, led by its principled conservative Governor Sam Brownback,  and big government establishment Republicans opposed to Brownback's plan to reduce taxes and the size and scope of Kansas state government.

From The Wall Street Journal: Centrist Republicans Feel the Heat in Kansas Primaries

By MARK PETERS

ALMA, Kan.—Conservative Republicans in Kansas are looking to drive the party's centrists from the state legislature in primaries next month in a bid to turn the state an even deeper shade of red.

Long a conservative state, Kansas already has been shifting further right, particularly since 2010, when Sam Brownback was elected governor and Republicans backed by the tea-party movement won control of the state House of Representatives. Now, challengers backed by conservative groups including the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity are aiming to unseat a dozen centrist Republicans in the 40-member Senate, the last part of the statehouse that, combined with a handful of Democrats, can mount opposition to Mr. Brownback and the House.

Mr. Brownback, a former U.S. senator who ran for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination, already has notched legislative victories in his first year and a half in office, including a large income-tax cut he signed in May. A defeat of the centrist Republicans could open the door for further tax cuts, reduced state funding for schools and other government services, and new power by the governor over judicial selections.

"Ideally, Kansas can become a place where conservative ideas of government are tried and exported to other states," Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, who has been supporting challengers in the primary races, said in an interview.

Here in Alma, a town of 800 residents about 100 miles west of Kansas City, fiscal concerns are grabbing attention from abortion and other social issues ahead of the Aug. 7 primary. Ken Smith, manager of Alma's farm cooperative, with its circular silver grain bins rising above a strip of stone buildings that makes up downtown, said students need a good education but that school spending needs to be kept in check.

"My main issue is going to be fiscal responsibility. You can't keep spending money that's not there," Mr. Smith said.

But, he added, "even for conservatives," some of the ideas being pushed by the challengers "may be a little too conservative."

Predicting the outcome of the races is difficult because turnout often is low in primaries, and redistricting has many incumbents running in unfamiliar areas.

At the center of the primary campaign is the May tax law, pushed by the governor and Kansas House members, which cuts individual state income-tax rates and eliminates taxes on nonwage income for about 191,000 businesses.

Challengers such as state Rep. Joe Patton, who is trying to unseat Sen. Vicki Schmidt, are championing the tax measure, saying it will help speed economic growth by attracting companies to Kansas and sparking the creation of small businesses.

"I'm the conservative in this race," said Mr. Patton at a candidate forum at St. John Lutheran Church in Alma on Sunday night.

Some of the senators facing primary challenges voted against the package, while others—including Ms. Schmidt—voted for it, but say they were told the bill was just meant to start negotiations and not become law. They fear the tax cut will damage the state's solid fiscal position and force deep cuts in government services in years ahead.

The Kansas Legislative Research Department projects the state would run a surplus for the current fiscal year but that in two years, annual revenue would fall short of estimated state expenses by $677 million, or 11%.

Tim Owens, a Republican state senator from the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park who voted against the tax cuts, has been warning voters in his campaign about some of the challengers' views. "I used to think I was a conservative," Mr. Owens said. "I'm not sure Ronald Reagan would be a conservative today."

Mr. Owens said he has clashed with Mr. Brownback over how judges are appointed. He said if the challengers win, legislation likely would pass giving the governor more power over the selection of judges to the state court of appeals, leading to the appointment of more conservatives and a rightward shift in the judicial branch.

Dozens of former state legislators have formed a group to support the centrist senators, calling themselves Traditional Republicans for Common Sense. Mr. Brownback also has entered the party fight in recent weeks, saying in a statement that "because of the alliance in the state senate between Democrats and some Republicans that join together to promote a Democrat agenda, the primary election has effectively become the general."

Write to Mark Peters at [email protected]

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