Republican Gov. Sam Brownback roared into town today on his motorcyle as part of a statwide effort to cheer the party onto victory next Tuesday.
Setting aside his helmet and leather jacket, Brownback spoke to several dozen Republicans at Congressman Kevin Yoder's campaign headquarters in Leawood.
He urged them to continue to push back against Democratic efforts to take some Johnson County House and Senate seats, all but one represented by Republicans.
"We really need to lean in on those because the other team is really leaning in on targeted races and going after folks.," Brownback said.
The governor said it's especially important this year after a panel of federal judges drew new House and Senate election districts after the Legislature failed to act.
"Every district virtually is new to some degree or another," he said.
After the meeting, Brownback acknowledged that it might be hard to surpass the Republican gains made in 2010 when five Democratic House incumbents in Johnson County lost their bid for re-election.
"We went so high last cycle. We're at a record high," he said. "I think we have a good shot of keeping it close to that. That's just hard to maintain."
Democrats are trying to hold onto House District 24 in northeast Johnson County, which had been represented by Mike Slattery who left to go to grad school.
Now, Democrat Emily Perry is after the seat, but she faces a challenge from Republican Chris Waldschmidt, who has the support of the conservative Kansas Chamber of Commerce, a key arm of the Brownback political machine.
But Perry, fresh from law school and passing the bar exam, is raising thousands of dollars, including big bucks from unions. She could very well spend more than $40,000 when the race is over.
Perry is one Dem that Republicans would prefer just stay out out of the Legislature, fearing she could have a bright political future. (a young Kathleen Sebelius anyone??)
Another race is Overland Park House District 22, held by state Rep. Greg Smith. There, Republican Marla Brems has to overcome some personal baggage (a Chapter 13 bankruptcy) to beat Democrat Nancy Lusk.
The Democrats have been using state cuts in education in their campaign against the Republicans. They argue that the income tax cuts enacted into law this year will leave massive holes in the budget and cause even more cuts to state services.
Brownback told the group that any notion that he has cut education is "patently false."
"We have increased K-12 spending in the state of Kansas from the state of Kansas. I just want to make that clear for the record. Anybody from the Kansas City Star can report that if they like," Brownback said.
Brownback uses state numbers showing overall state school spending has increased to $3.2 billion this school year from $2.2 billion in 2003-2004.
Those numbers include money that’s designated for at-risk learners, vocational education, special education, English-language learners, teacher pensions and subsidies for property-poor school districts.
Democrats say taxpayers need to pay closer attention to the base aid per pupil, which is a better indication of what goes into the classroom.
Legislative research shows state base aid per pupil has dropped from $4,257 in 2005-06 to $3,780 in 2011-12 before increasing this year to $3,383 when the Legislature agreed to add another $40 million for schools.