Tax Hike Leaders Lose in Kansas GOP Primary

Published September 1, 2004

Republican tax hike advocates lost several high-profile races in the August 3 Kansas primary. Among those defeated were the grandson of a former presidential candidate and the governor’s brother-in-law, who received barely 40 percent of the vote in losing his contest.

In Kansas, this practice of rejecting high-taxers is not new. According to Robert Novak’s August 8 column in the Chicago Sun-Times, a “Kansas revolution” continues.

“Key Republican state legislators in Kansas who supported a state tax increase were defeated in Tuesday’s primary by challengers who signed the anti-tax pledge of the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR),” wrote Novak.

“The future of the Republican Party belongs to those who vote for lower taxes. Republican tax hikers are a dying breed,” ATR President Grover Norquist had predicted weeks before the Kansas primary.

Well-Connected Taxers Shunned

Defeated incumbents included Bill Kassebaum and Cindy Neighbor, the two GOP legislators who led the recent, unsuccessful push for higher state taxes. The brother-in-law of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Doug Sebelius, who is also the son of a former GOP Kansas congressman, unsuccessfully challenged incumbent fiscal conservative John Faber in the GOP primary.

Kassebaum is the son of former U.S. Senator Nancy Kassebaum and the grandson of 1936 Republican presidential candidate Alf Landon. “This is the latest chapter of a bitter internal ideological battle that has been waged in the Kansas Republican Party for many years,” wrote Novak.

Two years ago, Bill Kassebaum had defeated Republican incumbent State Representative Shari Weber in a primary after which the winner did not face a Democrat opponent in the general election. Weber won the rematch this August, with 53 percent of the primary vote.

Kassebaum’s fellow freshman house member Neighbor was soundly defeated by Mary Cook in their third primary contest.

Voters Ousted Tax Committee Chairman

The chairman of the state senate tax committee, David Corbin, was overwhelmingly defeated in his primary by Augusta realtor Peggy Palmer, receiving only 37 percent of the vote. In 2002, Corbin had been a leader in passing a statewide tax hike on sales, gasoline, cigarettes, and businesses, costing taxpayers more than $300 million a year.

Palmer attributed her victory to voters’ uneasiness over taxes. “People were tired of tax increases. … People wanted accountability.” Palmer also believes her victory was due to “unhappiness over spending growth” and the “incumbents’ growing inability to respond to the [budget and tax] problems.”

One incumbent, the fiscally conservative State Senator Susan Wagle, won by a landslide over former gubernatorial candidate Bob Knight, who was endorsed by the powerful teachers’ union but received only 36 percent of the primary vote in Wagle’s east Wichita district.

Freshman house member and tax hike advocate Rob Boyer took on fiscal conservative Kay O’Connor in a District 9 race in suburban Johnson County next to Kansas City, where O’Connor’s defeat was widely predicted. After winning with 54 percent of the vote, O’Connor happily borrowed a phrase from Mark Twain, saying, “The rumors of my political death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Karl Peterjohn ([email protected]) is executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network.