Monday, August 25, 2014

Kansas Democrat Throws Faux Dem Chad Taylor Under Bus

Daily Kos, 8-25-14



(Editor's Note: Progressive Kansas blogger Mike Hummell provides an alternate take on our earlier coverage of Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Chad Taylor's chances to beat endangered incumbent Pat Roberts this fall.)

Last week, a Democratic congressional candidate in Kansas did something courageous. He chose to endorse an Independent candidate in the U.S. Senate race against Republican Pat Roberts. This never happens and the result has been predictable, as party officials and donors pile on the criticism. Nevertheless, 1st district candidate Jim Sherow did Democrats nationwide a service.

Kansas has a legitimate three-way Senate race between incumbent GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, Democrat Chad Taylor, and Independent Greg Orman. Only two have a chance of winning and neither of them is a Democrat. You want to beat Pat Roberts? Make the Senate a little less crazy? Listen to Jim Sherow.

"I believe that Greg Orman presents the best chance at providing Kansas new energy in the US Senate - and that energy is needed to help promote the growth of the Kansas economy," Sherow said.

I had already abandoned Chad Taylor, but seeing Jim Sherow do it really confirmed my belief. I consider Jim to be the very definition of what Kansas needs in Congress. He is a fourth generation Kansan, a KSU professor, and the former mayor of Manhattan, KS. His opinion carries weight for me because of his lifetime of statewide action.

In contrast, I have a different view of Democratic candidate Chad Taylor's accomplishments in the state.

"It started when Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor announced that a 10 percent budget cut would force him to end his office’s prosecution of misdemeanor cases, almost half of which last year were domestic battery cases. With that, Taylor stopped prosecuting the cases and left them to the city."

That's right, Chad Taylor is the DA who refused to prosecute domestic abuse cases in Topeka because they cost too much. And don't let him excuse this as a budget standoff, real people saw real results while Chad Taylor was busy shutting down the local government like a tea partier.

"In the meantime, police spokeswoman Kristen Veverka confirmed that 16 people have been arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic battery since Sept. 8 but were released from the Shawnee County Jail after charges weren't filed."

And the Democratic party wants me to vote for this guy? First I need to check in with some women's advocates to see if there is any reason to worry about these victims:

"Letting abusive partners out of jail with no consequences puts victims in incredibly dangerous positions," said Becky Dickinson of the YWCA. "The abuser will often become more violent in an attempt to regain control." The YMCA also said that some survivors associated with their Center for Safety and Empowerment were afraid for their safety if the dispute wasn't resolved soon.

Seems like a reasonable concern for the 16 families who sat at home and waited for the perpetrator to return THE SAME NIGHT! Anyone else want to weigh in?

"To have public officials pointing fingers while victims of domestic violence are trying to figure out who will protect them is just stunning," Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence told the Times.

The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence apparently doesn't agree with abuse prosecution as a budget cutting measure. Maybe Chad Taylor's spokesperson can beat some sense into them:

"Dakota Loomis, spokesman for Taylor, said the district attorney’s office "agrees that domestic violence is a crime that should be taken seriously and charged. Our situation isn’t what it was in 2009 in regard to funding," Loomis said Tuesday. "Limited resources have forced us to determine what we’re statutorily required to do."

Classy. Now keep in mind that this decision flew directly in the face of an agreement with the YWCA Battered Women Task Force that DA Chad Taylor had himself signed onto.

"Joyce Martin, CEO of the Topeka YWCA, said in a statement Tuesday, 'We believe the Shawnee County District Attorney's Office is the most appropriate agency to prosecute this serious crime.'

Martin said that in 2009 the YWCA worked with the district attorney’s office, Topeka Police Department, Shawnee County Sheriff's Office and Third Judicial District Court Services to create 'community protocols' for responding to and prosecuting domestic violence cases. Once finalized, the protocols were signed by District Attorney Chad Taylor...

Martin said in signing the protocols, Taylor agreed that his office would 'aggressively prosecute domestic violence,' 'review domestic violence cases as first priority' and 'charge the cases that meet sufficient evidence to prosecute the case.'

'We’re concerned the district attorney isn't following through on those things (protocols),' she (Laura Burton, public educator for the YWCA's Center for Safety and Empowerment) said."

His apologists will tell you that this was a budget standoff. That he expected the city of Topeka to take over like some other towns in Kansas. But that would assume he was unaware of these facts:

"Interim City Manager Dan Stanley said the city attorney's office isn't equipped to handle domestic violence cases. Stanley told city council members Tuesday evening the district attorney's office has seven people dedicated to prosecuting misdemeanor domestic violence cases. The city attorney's office has five prosecutors total, only one of whom prosecuted any domestic violence cases, with the last one having taken place 10 years ago."

So go make excuses for someone else. Maybe John Edwards has an opening. And I haven't even mentioned the lawsuits that have come out of his office.

"The allegations include gender discrimination for lack of providing breast-feeding stations and race discrimination relating to the women’s supervisor, who allegedly used her position to coerce Hispanic employees and clients to clean her home."

Maybe I am being unfair. Maybe he is a champion of women's rights in other ways. Let's look for an abortion stance...

"no stance on record"

It is hard to find clear statements from Taylor about his stance on abortion. For example, his website includes "Women's Issues" under the category of "Social Issues." By contrast, Orman doesn't hide, discussing abortion under "Reproductive Rights" on his site where he clearly states:

"We've spent a lot of time over the last two decades debating whether or not women should have the right to make decisions about their own reproductive health. As a man, I'll never have to face some of the decisions that women have to make. I know the women of Kansas are smart, and I trust them to make their own decisions about their reproductive health.

I believe it's time for our government to move past this issue and start focusing on other important issues, such as healthcare and higher education affordability, tax code simplification, and fixing our broken immigration system."

I can sign on with that. So did Women For Kansas, when they endorsed Greg Orman recently. Surprised? No? Me either.

"'We are very pleased Orman threw his hat in the ring. It lets us put forth a more complete roster of candidates who could truly begin changing the direction of Kansas. We hope you agree.' - Lynn Stephan, Convention Co-chair"

No doubt the Democrats who are angry with Jim Sherow can't find the time to share that annoyance with Women for Kansas.

The other major party choice is Senator Pat Roberts, the symbol of all that is wrong with Kansas politics. Beholden to the Koch brothers before it was cool, Sen Roberts has proven to be one of the worst Senators in the U.S., voting against the Violence Against Women Act and for a Constitutional ban on marriage equality, all while screaming "FREEDOM!" The need to defeat him is critical to Kansas and the nation.

And that brings us back to Democrat Jim Sherow's endorsement of Independent Greg Orman. This may have been easy for him. He could see the writing on the wall. Taylor lost in all the populous counties in Jim Sherow's district: Ford, Finney, Reno, Salina, and Russell. In fact, if it wasn't for Taylor's vote margin in Shawnee, his home town, he would have lost the primary election to someone who did not campaign at all.

Taylor has no real base, only the people who vote straight ticket, a loser strategy for a Kansas Dem. Meanwhile, Orman's Facebook page is littered with recognizable Democrats.

Why should Jim Sherow endorse a terrible Democratic candidate that can't win anyway? A guy who had less then $2,000 cash on hand before the primary? Take a look, Greg Orman is kicking Taylor's butt at fund-raising and is hanging tight with Pat Roberts. Does anyone believe that Taylor can raise the least money and still win a three way race against an incumbent? Please.

So where is Orman on the issues? Check his website and you will see him call for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. On gun rights he clearly calls for background checks for gun purchases.

He gets the dangers of the Hobby Lobby decision, stating "This is a dangerous precedent to set and opens the door to many more court challenges from private employers." He also sums up Citizens United well by saying, "I believe the Supreme Court made a mistake in giving corporations the same rights as people."

Orman brings a lot to the table and is clearly the best choice of the three. He has raised more money than Taylor and doesn't receive the generic disdain many have for the Democratic Party around here. He is seen by little 'r' republicans as a viable alternative to the carpetbagger Pat Roberts. In head to head polls Orman is the obvious leader. From the Wall Street Journal on Friday:

"The GOP's saving grace is that the senator's opponents — businessman Greg Orman, an independent, and Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, a Democrat — are 'pretty much splitting the anti-Roberts vote evenly,' according to PPP. But if one of them were to drop out, 'Roberts would really be in trouble.' In head-to-head match ups, the Republican leads Mr. Taylor by four points and trails Mr. Orman by 10. The independent would 'take 30% of the Republican vote while losing only 11% of Democrats to Roberts.'"

The Kansas GOP is in full civil war mode, moderate Republicans are lining up behind the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis and abandoning Gov. Sam Brownback. That leaves the Christian Right battling the Tea Party for the ample scraps of the Kansas GOP. The Tea Party has already made it clear that Roberts ain't their guy, so he can't count on them getting off the couch on election day. They may decide Independent Orman tastes better even if he is less filling.

Don't waste the Republican civil war. Moderate and left of center voters have a chance to line up with the candidate that can compete and put the national Republicans on the defense in a previously safe area.

As a Kansan I have seen the damage up close that conservative policies create. We have watched as this once great state crumbles at the hands of the Kansas Republican Party. I have dutifully voted Democratic and fought hard to get others to do the same. I have even scolded others who suggested we vote for a third party.

Not this time. Count me in Jim.


Chad Taylor's comments about the President on local TV, from his own site:

Interviewer: "Something that a lot of Republicans, especially incumbents, are coming out with as well is that if you elect a Democrat you're basically putting President Obama into the House or the Senate. You've distanced yourself from the Obama Administration, haven't you?"

Taylor: "You know I've never been a huge fan of the President's. There are several issues that he and I greatly disagree on. His leadership style is very different from mine. It’s funny, I've already heard the same comments that you have, Shawn: 'A vote for Chad Taylor is a vote for Harry Reid and a vote for Barack Obama.' I just think that is absolutely absurd."

And from yesterday morning (Aug. 24), Greg Orman on MSNBC's Up with Steve Kornacki.

Comments on DailyKos (41)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Absentee Senator Pat Roberts Survives, But Bruised by Tea Party in Kansas Primary

The Huffington Post, 8-6-14


On Tuesday night, the Tea Party lost its last, best chance to knock off an incumbent Republican U.S. Senator this year. By a margin of 48-41 percent, three-term Kansas Senator Pat Roberts prevailed over Milton Wolf, a radiologist and first-time candidate who was mostly known for being Barack Obama's conservative second cousin.

Milton Wolf confronts Pat Roberts on July 30

Roberts appeared vulnerable earlier this year after questions were raised about his residency in Kansas, similar to what helped defeat veteran Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) two years ago. The New York Times reported in February that Roberts was renting space from a supporter in order to maintain his voter registration in Kansas, an address where neighbors hadn't seen him in years. He compounded his problems with a verbal slip last month, when he admitted in a radio interview that he returns to Kansas "every time I have an opponent."

Home of Pat Roberts' supporters in Kansas where he is registered to vote

And Wolf was extreme enough to be a credible Tea Party standard bearer. While parlaying his family ties and far right wing views into frequent guest spots on Fox News and a column for the Washington Times, over the past few years Wolf repeatedly compared Obama and liberal Democrats to Hitler and the Nazis. He insisted "(Sarah) Palin indeed was right...death panels are all too real," about supposed secret provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

According to Wolf, the Act's requirement that people who choose not to buy health insurance be modestly fined (since by doing so, they risk burdening society with future emergency health care costs) was reminiscent of "Stalin's iron-fisted gulags." And he pledged to replace the ACA with his own "PatientCare" initiative, which would effectively destroy Medicaid by block-granting it to the states and changing it to a "premium-support plan" that would generously "afford the needy the ability to purchase their own private insurance."

These nut-job ideas helped him attract the support of Tea Party groups including former S.C. Senator Jim DeMin's Senate Conservatives Fund (now led by defeated Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli), who spent $580,000 backing Wolf; Fight for Tomorrow; the Madison Action Fund; and the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, who paid for a last-minute ad falsely accusing Roberts of improperly "taking a special exemption from ObamaCare."

But Roberts hit back hard and early, helped by his far superior campaign war chest. He refused to debate Wolf, which a week before the primary led to a memorable confrontation between the two when Wolf ambushed the Senator on the street prior to a campaign event.

Roberts' ads attacked Wolf over revelations that he had posted gunshot victims' X-rays to Facebook in 2010, accompanied by snarky, joking comments that Wolf was eventually forced to admit were "insensitive." And highlighted other missteps like Wolf's failure to vote regularly in local or state elections.

Except for an ad questioning Wolf's conservative credentials with an out-of-context clip of him saying he wanted to see Barack Obama succeed, Roberts refused to argue over policies, instead making the primary a referendum on Wolf's personal character. It was the same playbook that worked for other incumbent Senators who successfully fended off Tea Party challengers this cycle, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who beat back a well-funded campaign by businessman Matt Bevin. And Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), whose defeated opponent is still challenging Cochran's 7,667-vote runoff win on June 24 in their ugly primary fight.

Wolf was a flawed candidate, but he held Roberts to under 50% of the vote. His failed primary challenge effectively made the case to many Kansas voters that Roberts has been in Washington for too long. Roberts first went to D.C. in the 1960's as a congressional aide, was elected to the House in 1980, and moved up to the Senate in 1996.

Recent polls have shown a closer-than-expected race between Roberts and his Democratic opponent in the fall. Chad Taylor is the sitting District Attorney of Shawnee County, the county that includes Topeka, the capitol of Kansas. The telegenic, 40-year old Taylor was first elected in 2008, and re-elected in 2012 after facing no opposition. He won his own primary Tuesday night by a margin of 53-47%, beating a former U.S. Senate candidate with statewide name recognition. Taylor was endorsed by the Kansas City Star, who called his candidacy "impressive," listed his priorities as "growing jobs and the economy," and said he "promises pragmatic, bipartisan work."

Taylor has won accolades for eliminating his office's backlog of over 4,000 cases that he inherited from his predecessor. He made national headlines in 2011, when to draw attention to budget cuts, his office stopped prosecuting domestic violence cases, calling on the city of Topeka to provide funding. In a surprise response that was widely criticized, Topeka actually repealed its ordinance outlawing domestic abuse, which led Taylor to announce that his office would resume prosecuting such cases.

Last month, one SurveyUSA poll showed Taylor within five points of Roberts. This caused Steve Kraske, political correspondent for the Kansas City Star, to declare "something...dramatic is going on in Kansas politics," and said it "may be the closest a Democrat has been to a sitting Republican senator since Herbert Hoover bade farewell to the White House."

Roberts is also facing other headwinds. Kansas is experiencing a Brownback backlash, after current Republican Governor Sam Brownback swung the state hard to the right once being elected in 2010. Brownback, a staunch religious conservative and longtime Koch brothers ally, formerly served beside Roberts in the U.S. Senate, and ran for President in 2008, dropping out before the primaries began. While in the Senate, Brownback co-sponsored the Constitution Restoration Act of 2005, which would have forbidden courts from ruling on matters involving church/state issues, and stated that judges who did hear such cases would be subject to impeachment and prosecution.

As Governor, Brownback has pushed through drastic cuts to state education spending. He declared that life begins "at fertizilation," and signed five anti-abortion bills, including a May, 2011 law that forbids insurance companies to offer health care coverage for abortions except to save a woman's life, with no exceptions for rape or incest. He also blew a hole in the state's budget by slashing the top income tax rates in Kansas. In response, last April the state's debt rating was downgraded by Moody's Investor Service.

All year, polls have shown a tight race between Brownback and his current challenger, Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis. Unhappiness with Brownback's term has led nearly 100 Republican current and former officeholders from Kansas to endorse Davis.

In his classic 2004 book What's The Matter With Kansas?, Thomas Frank explored the rise of anti-elitist conservatism, and how the radical right had managed to hijack populism in our country's heartland. It detailed how long before the Tea Party came to national prominence, the state's far-right conservatives were waging war with moderates for control of the Republican Party. Ten years later, extreme right-wing craziness and heartless social policies may have finally gone too far even for a bastion of red state America like Kansas.

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