Thursday, October 30, 2014

Poll: Brownback losing Kansans

By DYLAN LYSEN, Herald Staff Writer | 2/21/2014

Today’s polls don’t matter, Bob Fluke said. Kansas is a Republican stronghold.

Though he said he didn’t want to sound too cocky on the subject, Fluke, Franklin County Republican Central Committee chairman, said Friday Gov. Sam Brownback’s chances for re-election don’t rest with a recent poll citing a drop in his approval rating. He’s confident the heavily GOP Sunflower State will retain its top executive in November.

Today’s polls don’t matter, Bob Fluke said. Kansas is a Republican stronghold.

Though he said he didn’t want to sound too cocky on the subject, Fluke, Franklin County Republican Central Committee chairman, said Friday Gov. Sam Brownback’s chances for re-election don’t rest with a recent poll citing a drop in his approval rating. He’s confident the heavily GOP Sunflower State will retain its top executive in November.

The poll’s results — which showed Brownback’s approval rating falling to 33 percent in Kansas (down from 37 percent last year) — are a reflection of the broader political landscape, Fluke said.

“I think some of it is that people are really upset with politicians in general,” he said. “I think [Brownback is] still well-liked, and I think it’s just a matter of complacency with government right now.”

Public Policy Polling released its report, “Brownback extremely unpopular, trails for reelection,” Friday saying many Kansas voters are upset with the governor. The report cited Brownback’s tax plan and cuts to education funding as the reasons of the approval rating drop. Fifty-nine percent of those polled believe Kansas’ education funding is currently inadequate compared to 31 who believe it is, the report says, and only 26 percent of voters in Kansas believe Brownback’s tax plan has been a success, compared to 47 percent who think it hasn’t.

“Kansas voters really don’t care for Sam Brownback and haven’t for some time now,” Dean Debnam, Public Policy Polling president, said in a document accompanying the report.

But Fluke and Cathy McClay, Franklin County Republican Central Committee vice chair, said the polls are not a trusted indicator on how the state of Kansas actually will vote. McClay questioned who was actually surveyed for the report. According to survey documents, the polling group surveyed 693 Kansas voters, including 375 Republican primary voters, from Tuesday through Thursday.

While the report cited Brownback’s tax plan and education funding as reasons why Kansas voters are losing favorable feelings for the governor, Fluke said as far as he’s concerned, the tax plan seems to be working. When former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius left office for President Obama’s cabinet, he said, the state had a total account balance of about $800. Since Brownback has taken office, Fluke said, the state’s account balance is now in the millions.

“We’ve had a year under our belts to see if his plan is working, and so far I think it is,” Fluke said. “Overall, I think it’s working, and down the line I hope we can see more progress.”

As for education, Fluke, an Ottawa Middle School teacher, said the issue with school funding isn’t the amount of money the state offers to schools, but how the schools use the money from the state. Kansas ranks highly nationally when it comes to academics, he said, and funding cuts haven’t affected how well the students are performing in the classroom.

“They’re really doing well in math and reading, as far as Kansas is concerned. Is there room for improvement? Sure,” Fluke said. “We need to fund our schools, absolutely.”

Fluke is concerned about the state potentially increasing money for schools that then will be used on such non-educational purposes as turf football fields, he said, noting he doesn’t want a governor who will raise education funding even if he or she knows school districts may use it in an inefficient manner.

“I look at some schools around and wonder ‘What good is it doing for all of the education of the students when a school needs to have astroturf for the football field? Is [the money] really getting to where it needs to get?’ As a classroom teacher, it needs to go to the classroom.”

Richard Jackson, East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corp. chief executive officer and an Ottawa Democrat, said he agrees Brownback’s rating has dropped because of his tax plan and education funding cuts. Kansans also aren’t happy with Brownback’s moves to change the judicial system by appointing judges, he said.

“Overall I would say judges and taxes and education are what most people are watching and concerned about,” Jackson said.

He said the education funding isn’t where it should be for the earlier stages of child development.

“I think it may be inadequate to some degree, if you look at early child education, kindergarten and other early development classes,” Jackson said.

In light of the poll, House Minority Leader and gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, called for the Kansas Legislature to cap the legislative session 20 days earlier and close the session at day 70, according to a news release. The closure of the session would save taxpayers $1.3 million, Davis said in the news release.

“Every day that the Legislature is in session costs taxpayers $66,000,” Davis said. “And this year, Kansans have not been getting their money’s worth. The 2014 session has been a circus. Middle-class families are paying more for everything they buy, schools are struggling, and our economy is lagging behind the rest of the nation. Yet the Legislature is wasting tax dollars pushing legislation that does nothing to help middle-class families or our schools.”

Fluke said saving taxpayers money would be a good idea, but disagreed the Legislature has been wasting its time this session.

“There still needs to be a lot of things accomplished, and I think bit by bit they’re doing that,” Fluke said.

As for Jackson, he said he thinks Davis has the right idea in proposing cuts to the misuse of taxpayer dollars.

“He’s being proactive instead of waiting,” Daivs said. “That’s definitely an issue that needs to be addressed because that’s the biggest hit on the state budget as it is.”

With the current polls showing Davis leading Brownback, Jackson said he thinks the Democratic challenger has a chance to win the governor’s seat.

“I think you always have a chance,” Jackson said. “He’d be a fresh face. He’s been in the Legislature for a number of years. But even given that, he’s probably not as well known as the governor. He may bring some things that people are concerned about that they don’t think this administration is doing enough of.

“I don’t really think [Davis] has any baggage,” Jackson said. “I think he appeals to a lot of people.”

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