Unlike like most primary elections, when Democrats are lucky to have one candidate, 2016 is a rare and pleasant change.
Those who’ve followed Kansas politics for a while can remember 1998, when Rep. Tom Sawyer was the Democrats’ sacrificial lamb, stepping up to run for governor just so the Dems could field a legitimate candidate against incumbent governor Bill Graves.
In this heavily Republican state, having more than one Democratic candidate is a very rare thing. For that reason, for Democrats, primaries haven’t really amounted to much. Why bother to show up, when you know your one candidate is going to advance anyway.
But this year is different, Kansas has six Democratic candidates vying for the state’s top seat. What’s even better yet, the winner has a realistic chance of winning in November, so showing up and voting really matters this year.
If having choices for governor isn’t enough, Democrats are competing in two other primaries. The 3rd Congressional District, which covers Wyandotte and Johnson Counties, has six Democratic candidates and just like the governor’s race, the candidate who moves forward has a good chance of beating the incumbent, Congressman Kevin Yoder. The district is pretty evenly split. In the 2016 election, Hilary Clinton carried the district 47% to 46% and Democrat Dennis Moore represented the district from 1999 – 2011.
In the 4th Congressional District, Atty. John Thompson has a surprise opponent. Thompson built a lot of name recognition and political capital in his 2016 run against then State Treasurer Ron Estes. Thompson came close to defeating Estes and vowed he’d be back. He may make it back to a head-on with Estes, but he has to get through a primary first.
Kansas House races
Every two years all 125 members of the Kansas House must run for re-election. On the Democratic side there about 10 races with a primary: including three races in Johnson County, three in Wichita and two in Lawrence.
One of the more interesting of these races has incumbent, one-term Rep. K.C. Ohaebosim has drawn two opponents. Interestingly, there isn’t a Republic candidate so the winner of the primary is virtually a walk-over. In the race, Ohaebosim who is Black, is opposed by one Black and one White candidate. This is a seat that’s been held for a while by an African American. With the Black vote split, there’s a possibility the seat could be a net loss of African- American legislators in the Capitol.