About those loyalty pledges…

By Walt Braun

It isn’t surprising that the Kansas Republican Party — well, the conservative faction that runs the Kansas Republican Party — is insisting on pledges of loyalty from candidates for office, including incumbents.

Nor is it a surprise that at least one of the leading Republicans in the Kansas Senate — Majority Leader Jay Emler of Lindsborg — isn’t signing. As Sen. Emler told another publication, “I have never signed a pledge — period — because signing a pledge that somebody else prepared is taking away options for my constituents.”

Good for him.

If the conservatives who run the Kansas Republican Party have their way, Sen. Emler’s constituents will be someone else’s after the November election. He’s one of eight moderate Republican state senators targeted for ouster by, among others, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee.

Others on the hit list include Senate President Steve Morris of Hugoton, Sen. Pete Brungardt of Salina and Sen. John Vratil of Leawood. Those and other moderate Republicans are among the most sensible members of the entire Legislature, not just in the Senate and not just in the Republican Party. Yet they’re considered renegades by conservatives. Their offenses include a propensity to consider issues on their merits, voting on occasion with —  gad! — Democrats, and voting on occasion against issues pushed by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Sen. Emler might as well be candid about the loyalty pledge, which comes on top of other pledges such as the infamous no-tax-increase pledge associated with Grover Norquist.

Today’s Kansas Republican Party is a far cry from former Gov. Bill Graves’ Republican Party, which, if memory serves, was pretty effective at cutting taxes as well as building bipartisan coalitions. The Kansas GOP today isn’t interested in coalitions. In a letter accompanying the loyalty pledge request sent to candidates, state GOP Chair Amanda Adkins said, “The Kansas Republican Party uses candidate pledges to show the voters of Kansas that we are a team united in an effort to move Kansas forward.”

That’s one way of looking at it. Another way, of course, is that the party uses pledges to turn legislators into something resembling automatons who vote the way the party leadership thinks is best.

We don’t have a problem with Republicans. Far from it. And although we don’t always agree with the Republican Senate moderates, we regard them as assets to the state party.

We do, however, have a problem with individuals elected by local voters to serve their interests taking their cues from someone else. The latter includes folks who care more about the power of a political party than they do about what’s good for Manhattan or the state.

We think our city, county and state are best served by the exchange of ideas among legislators who think for themselves, not by a Legislature characterized more by uniformity of thought than originality.

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