In addition to knocking out U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Moderate Republicans swept to impressive victories in several Kansas legislative races Tuesday, moving GOP moderates and Democrats tantalizingly close to effective control of the state’s legislative agenda next year.
Dinah Sykes and John Skubal, both running on moderate platforms, defeated incumbent conservatives Greg Smith and Jeff Melcher for two Senate seats in Johnson County. Moderates also prevailed in at least five closely watched House districts in the county, defeating conservative incumbent Republicans.
“Looking at all the effort and the work that all of us put in, it paid off,” a jubilant Sykes said in south Overland Park. “I knocked on ten thousand doors. I heard people were frustrated. But actually being frustrated and making sure you vote in a primary is a huge deal. I’m very excited.”
Conservative Republicans appeared to perform somewhat better in other parts of the state, but still lost a handful of contested primaries. Incumbent conservative state Sen. Forrest Knox lost his district, near Wichita, but state Sen. Ty Masterson, Ways and Means chairman, held on in his district northeast of Wichita.
Incumbent Sen. Terry Bruce of Hutchinson was defeated by moderate Edward Berger in the GOP primary.
Experts said the full impact of the voters’ decisions might not be known until later. But the trend to moderates, and away from conservatives, seemed clear.
“I think it’s showing, at least in Johnson County…. there’s been a change in direction by the Republican voters,” Kansas GOP executive director Clay Barker said. “It seems like with the two Senate races and several House races that voters have preferred a somewhat different direction.”