Chris Reeves

Kansas Republican State Senator goes full-on conspiracy theorist as she fights for US Senate seat

Susan Wagle is many things. She isn’t just a state senator, she is President of the State Senate. She’s the big reason why Republican leadership blocked Medicaid expansion. Now that’s she’s running in a crowded field for US Senate, though, she has to find a new way to bring the Republican base home. When your opponents in a primary campaign look like Kris Kobach, and everyone knows you’re a conservative in the state senate, what can you do? Well, for Susan Wagle, the answer seems to be to try and out-racist the racist:

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'It needs to be said': Julián Castro is absolutely right that the Democratic primary needs to be fixed

The debate over whether the Iowa caucus should be the first test for presidential hopefuls is not new, as the issue bubbles up every election cycle. What has been a bit different this time around is that candidates who are seeking to win in Iowa are also willing to step up and say: Maybe something is wrong. In the past, this issue was danced around by editorial boards, party insiders, and voting rights advocates. To have presidential candidates themselves, including front runners, debate whether or not Iowa should be first signals a change in the calculation of how important the Iowa caucus is to these campaigns.

In disputing this theory, a Des Moines Register editorial argues that Iowans are just used to “candidating,” meaning that they get personal time with the candidate and that is more important than money spent. Isn’t that nice? Candidates spend tons of personal time in one state, paying attention to the direct issues of one state. Despite the thought that “it isn’t about money,” the truth is that money is spent—and often, that money isn’t spent inside of Iowa. Candidates have ads created on the east or west coast. They hire staff they know and trust who are often from out of state. While Iowa benefits from the tourism, my past experience tells me that the number of out-of-staters who staff the campaigns in Iowa far exceeds local hires.

The benefit to Iowa, however, remains significant. Its oversized impact on the direction of the presidential race as well as the benefit of “candidating” can influence political campaigns and provide a testing ground for policy positions.

On Tuesday night in a town hall, Julián Castro was asked to defend his position on why Iowa should not be first. The Des Moines Register covered it by pointing out he did not back down.

On Tuesday night, the Democratic presidential candidate made sure to clarify: criticizing the process isn't about changing 2020. It's about changing the Democratic Party for the future — a conversation he knows comes with risks, Castro said. It isn't just "sour grapes" because he may not win Iowa or New Hampshire, he said.

"I'm 45 years old," he said. "If it’s a catastrophe to bring this up, if I ever wanted to run again in the future, the same thing applies. So I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to bring this up, and I do, because it needs to be said."

The argument that Castro makes should not fall on deaf ears. Until Andrew Yang qualified for the December debate, there were no persons of color who had qualified. Cory Booker and Julián Castro are both on the outside looking in.

During the Democratic National Committee’s Unity Reform Commission, one of the things I heard repeatedly from members on both sides was that the end goal was to make sure people had the opportunity to vote, to open up the process, and to work to maintain voting rights. This call from all members is an important one, and was celebrated by every single member of the DNC, in public and in private.

The fight for voting rights is a fight that happens everywhere, in districts that can be deep red or districts that are bright blue. The party has said that we care about the intent to vote everywhere, and that persons of color have their voting rights protected, especially following discriminatory practices by Republicans. This drive for voter rights and building a better process for voters makes holding the Iowa caucus followed by the New Hampshire primary questionable. Iowa (91% white) and New Hampshire (93% white) just don’t reflect where the party is today.

During Democratic National Committee events, even guests attending from Iowa as observers and former officials pointed out that if Iowa were to go for Trump in 2024, it would be apparent that its value to a Democratic candidate would be minimal. Some argue that today: How much time does a Democratic candidate invest in Iowa in the general election? Do any of our candidates have it on their list of battleground states in a general election?

The New York Times addressed the issue this way:

After touching off the latest round of Iowa pearl-clutching with a vigorous denunciation, Mr. Castro has continued to speak out against the primary schedule. It has become one of the few avenues for his struggling campaign to receive attention.

“We can’t as a Democratic Party continually and justifiably complain about Republicans who suppress the votes of people of color and then turn around and start our nominating contest in two states that, even though they take their role seriously, hardly have any people of color,” he said.

This issue has been debated for years inside the Democratic National Committee. Very few other states will in any way defend the Iowa caucus going first. Those state officials also are not very willing to go on the record saying that, fearing that could cause their future support of a candidate or work for a candidate to be—you guessed it—damaging to a candidate in Iowa.

Because Iowa is insistent on remaining first, it is difficult for members of the Democratic National Committee to come up with a solution that could actually work. One joke I’ve heard more than once is that the debate around the Iowa caucus is part of the reason why some develop a taste for good liquor.

The change in the Iowa caucus can happen for the party, and it should happen. In order for that to be true, however, one thing must happen first: The Democratic candidate must win the general election in 2020. By doing so, the 2024 caucus becomes a non-factor, and gives a sitting Democratic president more opportunities to make the call for change. Without that power on the side of change, it is incredibly doubtful there will ever be movement on this issue.

If we truly want a diverse system with better voter representation, we should fight for it. Democratic candidates should be brave enough to at least say we should reconsider the slotting of the entire primary calendar.

If we shrug our shoulders and refuse to consider change in the process, the only thing we guarantee is that no change will ever happen.

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Rep. Steve Watkins involved in voter fraud scheme — unless he lives at a UPS Store

How many of us have spent some time at a UPS Store? It’s Christmas time, maybe we ship packages to family and friends for the holiday. But what are the odds that someone, you know, actually LIVES at a UPS Store? Well, Rep. Steve Watkins (KS-02) signed documents for the FEC indicating that he has made a home inside of the packing store, and some people have questions.

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Devin Nunes runs into trouble as court briefing points out 'no reasonable person' believes cows can tweet

There are some things in the universe that are difficult to understand. Why do some people love black jelly beans and others hate them? Why did America reject both the Metric system and Yahoo Serious? But some facts are just so obvious there is no dispute.

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All hands abandon ship as Fox News staff jump overboard

When Shep Smith jumped ship from Fox in the middle of his contract, there had to be at least a few wondering if the weight of propaganda was actually starting to hit some of the staff who actually thought of themselves as journalists.

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Republican shadow organization uses sexually-charged smear campaign in Wichita mayoral race

Republican shadow organizations just don’t know where to stop.  A Republican organization out of New Mexico took to the airwaves to try and protect current Republican Mayor Jeff Longwell. They did so by charging state house representative Brandon Whipple with sexual harassment. The problem? The person described in the ad was NOT representative Whipple. It was, in fact, a Republican State Senator.

The ad, which portrays Whipple as someone involved in sexual harassment — something that never happened — was recorded in shared office space with GOP Representative Michael Capps, a legislator who was tied to potential child abuse and strange behavior that the GOP cut ties with him 2018. KCUR covers that story:

The Kansas Republican Party is cutting ties with state Rep. Michael Capps of Wichita after it was revealed that Capps was found guilty of child abuse last year.

A letter from the party released Friday said it asked Capps earlier in the week to withdraw from the race to keep his seat representing House District 85. The district covers parts of east Wichita.

"Unfortunately, he has chosen to remain a candidate," the letter said. "Mr. Capps has been made aware that his decision to stay in the race is not supported by the Kansas Republican Party."

When it comes to the smear campaign against Representative Whipple, however, the use of a 2017 story by the Kansas City Star flips the party and chamber of those accused — Whipple is a member of the House, and those accused by interns were Republican State Senators.

The claims have been called slanderous by Rep. Whipple’s attorney, who has filed a lawsuit in regards to this matter.

Republicans hope the damage has already been done. By making a claim — one they knew to be false — and using young women to provide voice to it in a Youtube video, they have followed in the footsteps of national Republicans who will stoop to absolutely any level — including attacking a man and his family — because the ends justify the means.

It is time for those involved to offer an apology and admit they were wrong. But that kind of accountability doesn’t exist in a party where a child abuser can end up in the state legislature and create ads like this with impunity.

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Ivanka Trump tried to take credit for Kansas economy. Then a state legislator torched her

The Trump clan seems to love taking credit for, well, everything. In November of 2016, Trump was elected. At the same time, in the Kansas legislature, Democratic candidates found success, growing the number of elected in our statehouse. This marked the end of the Brownback administration’s disastrous state budgeting. Long term Republicans found themselves ousted, as Democratic candidates picked up seats.

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Kansas secretary of state finds $400,000 discrepancy in funds intended to upgrade voting systems

Kris Kobach, the failed candidate for Governor of Kansas has been in the news today as the architect of census altering questions that many believe were aimed at voter suppression. While the former Secretary of State faced pushback on Capital Hill, in Kansas, his Republican successor discovered that his basic incompetence serving in the office he had resulted in significant budget errors.

Democratic elected officials expressed genuine anger over the error. Democratic State Senator Marci Francisco, in a phone call, said: “It is concerning, and we need to find out why this happened and we have to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Kobach’s use (and potential misuse) of funds from HAVA (The Help America Vote Act) became a campaign issue in 2018, when his Republican primary rivals contended his use of the fund created gimmicky accounting. In the primary debate, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported this exchange and response:

In Hutton’s view, this suggested 85 cents of every $1 reduction claimed by Kobach was associated with downsizing of HAVA.

“The people of Kansas are tired of the gimmicks and games from the politicians in Topeka, whether it’s budgets that don’t balance from (Sam) Brownback and (Gov. Jeff) Colyer, or Kobach lying about his own budget to claim credit for something he didn’t do,” Hutton said.

Hutton does not have a clue,” Kobach said.

The state’s HAVA fund holds more than $3 million, Kobach said. The secretary of state’s office, which is a fee funded agency, collected $11.7 million in 2017 and spent $4.6 million during the year. More than $7 million was forwarded to the state’s general budget, Kobach said.

In the end, as Kansans are discovering now, despite all the bluster of saving money and who had a “clue”, it was Kris Kobach himself who managed to keep others completely in the dark as to the use of the funds, and his failure to follow proper reporting guidelines.

Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwabb announced the discovery today, contending that he felt as though a commitment to transparency would serve the office well, and told press he would work to address these kind of errors going forward.

Gone from office for more than six months, the damage left behind by the former Secretary of State continues to cast a shadow over the Kansas State house.

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Kansas Republican demands Governor stop telling poor people they have the right to receive public assistance

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is under fire from Republican leadership this morning, with Republicans attacking the governor’s administration for informing people who are poor that they do have rights to receive public assistance for themselves.

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Kansas state Republicans remove press and protestors to silence demands for Medicaid Expansion

The Washington Post declares that “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” Today in the Kansas Senate, Republican Senate Susan Wagle moved to turn out all the lights, tossing Pro-Medicaid expansion protestors from the gallery and removing all major press. Using members of the state capital security staff, senate press from major newspapers were removed from the Senate floor, the doors were locked, the gallery was closed, and Republicans punished the public — not just by refusing to address Medicaid Expansion but by welcoming the use of strong arm tactics against the press in attempts to cover the workings of the state house.

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Kansas state Senate leadership staff caught using racist taunt to mock Democratic representative

When Rui Xu (D-Roeland Park) was elected in November, 2018, Kansans had their first Chinese-American legislator. For families like mine, where my sons and spouse embrace their Chinese heritage, the election of the young representative helped highlight the fact that Kansas does, in fact, have diversity and that members of House District 25 were willing to embrace and vote for the young Democratic candidate with big ideas.

From The McPherson Sentinel

Rep. Rui Xu says he was offended by what appeared to be a racially motivated gesture from a top senator’s aide Friday night on the House floor.

Ethan Patterson, the chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, denies making the gesture, and the moment in dispute wasn’t captured by the official video broadcast of House action.

As Rui exited the area, the Chief of staff put both hands together and bowed, a gesture occassionally used to mock Chinese Americans for cultural standards.

Sen. Leader Jim Denning was key in making sure that the Kansas Senate refused to even debate Medicaid Expansion, despite passage in the house, and had in the prior week decided to bail on a scheduled 4 hour meeting with the Governor over how to proceed on Medicaid Expansion. Despite the fact that a Democratic Governor, Laura Kelly, and a Republican Insurance Commissioner in Vicki Schmidt were both on the side of Medicaid Expansion in the 2018 election, Senate Republicans cowered in their boots, afraid to take a yes or no vote at all. Instead, Senate Republicans and staff openly discussed a new plan for expansion, one which could be done very differently.

As part of the Democratic coalition in the house, Rui Xu, along with all Democratic elected and some Republicans, had blocked the budget, demanding that the Senate drop the cowardice and provide Medicaid Expansion an up or down vote.

After arm twisting through the weekend, which involved the Senate Leader and his staff making clear to house members this would not happen, Republican votes in the house caved and let the budget pass without Medicaid Expansion. Not content with the win, it appears taunts seemed appropriate.

Xu, a Democrat from Westwood, and an assistant said they saw Patterson waiting in a doorway that leads to House leadership offices. They said Patterson looked directly at Xu, placed his hands together and leaned forward in a bow, which Xu interpreted as a gesture reminiscent of 1940s propaganda that reduced Asian-American people to caricatures.

After winning election in November, Xu became the first Asian-American lawmaker to serve in the Kansas House. Xu said he was concerned that someone would make a gesture based on what he looks like.

“Growing up, I never had anybody like me in a position of power, and I’m finally able to be a voice to amplify,” Xu said. “It would be a dereliction of duty, actually, for me to just let this slide.”

Patterson insisted because his wife is from El Salvador, he was very sensitive to offensive gestures, and despite being witnessed by another person nearby, he wouldn’t condone such activities. In the course of a single interview, Patterson goes from saying he didn’t do such a thing, to saying hey, he didn’t mean to offend anyone, and he’d apologize if someone was offended.

Just to be clear: a lot of people ARE offended. And not just by him using racist taunting, but him thinking it was an appropriate response to cover for the cowardice of his boss by twisting arms preventing a vote on Medicaid Expansion.

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