Kansas voters oust conservatives in GOP primaries
© Getty Images

Kansas voters delivered a sharp rebuke to conservative Gov. Sam Brownback (R) on Tuesday, sending more than a dozen members of the Legislature to defeat after steep tax cuts left the state in a deep budget hole.

ADVERTISEMENT

At least six Republican state senators, including Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, lost their bids for renomination on Tuesday to more centrist challengers in districts stretching from the Kansas City suburbs to Wichita and rural Hutchinson. Eight state House members succumbed to less conservative challengers as well.

“The voters have spoken and they wanted to go in a new direction,” Bruce told the Wichita Eagle in a statement.

The upheaval in the state Legislature comes after conservative Republicans forced through income tax cuts in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s request. Kansas has missed its projected tax collection targets in ten of the last twelve months, according to the state Department of Revenue.

To stave off the budget crisis, Brownback’s administration has delayed millions in planned spending for schools, highway projects and the Department of Corrections. Kansas fell more than $100 million short of expected tax collections in Fiscal Year 2016. 

Brownback’s approval rating plummeted after the budget cuts. In July, a poll conducted by Fort Hays State University found just 15 percent of Kansas voters were very or somewhat satisfied with Brownback’s job performance, while 60 percent said they were very dissatisfied. Only 17 percent of voters said they would vote for Brownback if he were allowed to run for a third term.

More Kansas voters said they viewed President Obama’s job performance in a positive light than Brownback’s.

“Kansans are attributing more of their dissatisfaction with the state’s current fiscal problems to the governor, while still holding the legislature somewhat culpable,” Fort Hays pollsters wrote.

Only 25 percent said they were very or somewhat satisfied with the Legislature’s performance; 60 percent said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied.

“Kansas is not immune from the wide-spread anti-incumbency sentiment we have seen across the nation this election season,” Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said in a statement. “Gov. Brownback looks forward to working with strong Republican majorities in the legislature to make Kansas the best place in America to raise a family and grow a business.”

Voters also tossed out Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R), a conservative who angered House Republican leadership in recent years by mounting repeated coups against former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — House postpones Rosenstein meeting | Trump hits Dems over Medicare for all | Hurricane Michael nears landfall Kavanaugh becomes new flashpoint in midterms defined by anger Juan Williams: The GOP can't govern MORE. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several farm groups spent hundreds of thousands of dollars boosting Huelskamp’s Republican challenger, Roger Marshall, who is favored to take over the seat in November.

--This report was updated at 12:42 p.m.