Martin Hawver
Guest columnist
Kansas Democrats are going to face one of the most complicated, uncomfortable election years in recent memory in 2012.
The state party chair is logically and procedurally correctly telling Democrats who are considering running for the Kansas House or Kansas Senate to hold off on making their formal announcements and filings until after the state’s legislative districts are redrawn next spring.
That makes very good sense, from a strictly technical viewpoint.
Why get a Democrat candidate into a race—particularly in an urban district—only to see the Legislature, with ultimate court approval, change the boundary lines to move the candidate into another district where he/she might not stand as good a chance for success?
You just have to move one precinct line or one census district boundary by a block or two, and you’ve changed the political tilt of a House or Senate district to the advantage of one party or another.
Yes, it makes good sense to hold off on announcing, putting together a staff, raising money, getting signs and palm cards printed until you know for sure what district you’re going to be running in.
But this is going to be a test…much like when mom said to clean up your plate before you reach for dessert. There’s going to be excitement, political energy and, well, candidates are going to be told to stay calm and relatively quiet. Tough job.
And, figure that there are Democrats out there who have been spoiling to run for office to fix something or other for years, and who aren’t going to pay any attention to the wait-until-reapportionment suggestion—if they’ve even heard about it… They’re Democrats.
That delay until announcement of candidacy probably will work for Democrats because in Kansas, there are usually only a couple Democratic primary elections…there just aren’t that many registered Democrats anymore…
But, the real challenge for the Democratic Party will be looking beyond the primary election season and into the general election.
That’s when things get complicated and sophisticated at the same time.
What’s probably going to happen in a handful of races is that for many purposes, moderate Republicans seeking reelection are Democrats’ best friends on many issues ranging from school funding to tax policy to welfare to labor law.
Now, they’re not Democrats, but in terms of state policy, those moderate Republicans vote with Democrats on many issues.
But, how do you tell a reliable, enthusiastic Democratic Party member who cares enough about government to give up his/her fall of 2012 that if a moderate Republican survives his/her party’s primary election, the party is probably OK with it?
It’s not going to be said out loud, mind you, but Democrats are going to have to concentrate on districts where the Republican candidate represents the greatest danger to the party’s interests.
Very practical politics: Don’t announce and then get reapportioned out of the district you want to represent. Don’t waste resources in campaigns where the GOP opponent is often a friend, but carries an R behind his or her name.
Oh, and also, keep up party loyalty and enthusiasm while doing it…
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