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GREAT BEND, Kan. - Political races are the only contests I can think of with no referee to punish bad behavior. In basketball, if an opponent trips you on your way to a game winning layup, you get foul shots. In jury trials, if an opponent introduces inadmissible or misleading evidence to a jury, a judge can grant a mistrial. In baseball, a pitcher throwing spitballs is ejected, often banned for months.

But political elections in Kansas are unique. There are no refs, and there are no Kansas statutes criminalizing lying in political campaigns. In a close race, a candidate's conscience is his only guide, as Jimmeny Cricket would say. And conscience alone doesn't stop candidates like Sam Brownback from a "win first, apologize later" mode of operation.

One lawyer who requested a mistrial based on prejudicial evidence told the judge: "You can't throw a skunk into the jury box and expect the jury not to smell it." And Sam Brownback knows better than most that you can throw a skunk into a ballot box at the last minute with no possibility of punishment or a do-over. It's winner take all.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Kansas Democrats feel a little lost right now. In his book What's the Matter with Kansas? author Thomas Frank may be pointing the way to the Promised Land by means of the quintessential Kansas political movement: Populism. Frank suggests that old-fashioned Populism is the classic Kansas way, and that three-time Democratic Presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan had the right idea for Kansans "raising less corn, and more hell."

Although it was Kansas lawyer Mary Elizabeth Lease who uttered the famous phrase about "raising more hell," Thomas Frank sees the Nebraska evangelical William Jennings Bryan as the most attractive populist out there. One of the most memorable sentences in his book regards the McKinley-Bryan election of 1896: "Bryan was a Nebraskan, a leftist, and a fundamentalist Christian, an almost unimaginable combination today." (p. 16)

Thomas Frank gives a thumbs up on the dust jacket of the recent book by Michael Kazin on Bryan: "To understand the politics of our own time we must first understand William Jennings Bryan. Michael Kazin gives us an elegant study of this forgotten but seminal figure, a hero to liberal and evangelicals alike." (A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan, 2006).

So how could someone be a hero to evangelical Christians and Democrat progressives at the same time? As strange as it sounds, it make sense that one committed to the actual teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as revealed in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John might tilt toward a progressive politics on some issues.

WASHINGTON - Politico has a story today about the Kansas Congressman with real C Street "Fellowship" credibility, Jerry Moran. We've previously reported the indelible ties of Sam Brownback and Todd Tiahrt to the C Street "Fellowship" (here, here, and here). But, according to Politico, the Kansas Congressman that has really benefited from his close association with C Street is Jerry Moran.

Moran, who, along with KS-04 Congressman Todd Tiahrt, is engaged in the race to succeed Sam Brownback in the United States Senate, has received many more notable endorsements in his bid for the Senate seat, especially from sitting United States Senators.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Charles Schollenberger, 57, of Prairie Village, Kan., departing his usual speech after thanking Amanda Haas for inviting him to speak today at the Washburn Law School, told students, "I am today calling for a two-year phased withdrawal of U.S. and Allied troops from Afghanistan, starting January 1, 2010, and ending December 31, 2012."

"The Afghan war has been going on since 1979. We have been in Afghanistan since 2001; thirty-two years of war is long enough for the Afghans. Eleven years of war is long enough for us," Schollenberger said.

According to the National Priorities Project, the U.S. has spent an estimated $228 billion to date on the Afghan war. Schollenberger expressed faith that amount of money would be better utilized within our own borders.

WICHITA, Kan. - Yesterday, I reported on the October quarterly filings by challengers to the open Congressional seat in KS-04, currently held by Todd Tiahrt. We weren't able to report on how two of the challengers, State Senator Jean Schodorf and Jim Anderson, had performed in the October quarterly, because they chose not to e-file, thereby adding 48-72 hours to the Federal Election Commission's reporting.

TOPEKA, Kan. - In politics, it is often said that timing is everything. That may be partially true, but it doesn't hurt to have a supremely qualified, hard working and well respected candidate to boot.

Especially when you are talking about someone with broad-based, in-depth legislative experience regarding health care and taxation while understanding how the Federal government has often failed State governments as of late by not shouldering its fair share of the fiscal burden.

It made my day Friday when I heard Senator Laura Kelly had announced her run for the Second District Congressional seat, which couldn't have come at a better time when you look at the challenges facing our state and nation.


GREAT BEND, Kan. - At the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Republican Governor Robert Bennett called Kansas "the most Republican state in the Union." And he may have been right. But those days are over.

The book How Barack Obama Won, by Chuck Todd and Sheldon Gawiser, shows that Kansas is far from being the reddest of the red states. But the important thing is the direction Kansas is heading. And it's heading toward a more moderate, Democratic path.

Although the authors point out that Kansas is the #2 state in self-identified Republicans at 49% (only Wyoming at 52% is higher), Kansas strangely doesn't even rank in the top fourteen states in self-identified "conservatives."

TOPEKA, Kan. - The 2nd U.S. Congressional District has been anything but stable. In 2006, Nancy Boyda (D) defeated incumbent Rep. Jim Ryun (R). After just two years in Washington, Lynn Jenkins (R) defeated Boyda in 2008.

The district has been in the news in recent months. Jenkins has seemed to take a number of missteps (here, here and here). The Kansas Democratic Party is even tracking Jenkins at a special site, JenkinsFail.com.

Now, we hear that Jenkins has a challenger in the 2010 election. State Sen. Laura Kelly (D) has announced that she wants to reclaim that congressional seat for the Democratic Party.

TOPEKA, Kan. - Long-time Kansas resident Charles Schollenberger, 57, of Prairie Village has been for months visiting state residents sharing his vision of what he feels a Kansas state senator should be representing. After forming an exploratory committee back in June, today Schollenberger made his official announcement. He will in fact seek the senate seat being evacuated by Sam Brownback.

Schollenberger attended the annual Democratic fall meeting held last weekend in Wichita. After meeting with several key Democratic voters and receiving good feedback, Schollenberger wasted no time in making his announcement.

"We pledge our best efforts to wage an effective campaign to break the strangle-hold that conservative Republicans have had over our two U.S Senate seats for the last 70 years. I invite you to join me in this crusade for change." Schollenberger said.

Schollenberger delivered his speech under rain filled skies this morning across the street from Brown V. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka.

LAWRENCE, Kan. - I consider myself fairly well immersed in the political world. I read the news constantly, regularly read blogs for up to date opinions and inside information, and am relatively comfortable when it comes to the subject of political history. Because of all of this it is not often that I am legitimately shocked by an occurrence in modern day politics.

Today, however, I was completely floored.

It would seem that in the fight against sexual violence, Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas is on the side of... sexual violence?

Raj Goyle's Photographic Memory

GREAT BEND, Kan. - The first time I met Raj Goyle we were both Democratic hopefuls for the Kansas House of Representatives, attending a strategy meeting in Topeka in 2006. Both of us were running in tough Republican Districts, me in the 112th, him in the 87th against longtime Republican incumbent Bonnie Huy.

"Marty Keenan," I said, extending my hand in friendship. "Raj Goyle," he said. "I met your in-laws recently," he said, as my jaw dropped. "Harry and Carol Castelli." Raj had met my very Republican in-laws going door-to-door, and it was obvious he talked to them at length.

I figured this was just a lucky coincidence. I decided to throw him a bone and tell him about another of his potential constituents I knew: "Do you remember John Holt, the broadcaster? His parents live in your district..."

Why Brownback Is Not a Shoo-in

GREAT BEND, Kan. - The key question about Sam Brownback's Republican candidacy for Governor is not "Why aren't any Democrats running?," but "Why aren't more Democrats running?" During my lifetime, Kansas has had more years of Democratic governors than Republican governors.

The prevalence of Democratic governors in Kansas is an oddity, but easily explainable:
Kansans love divided government. They don't trust one political party to control the Governor's mansion, and both legislative bodies at the same time.

But what about Bill Graves? Yes, this moderate, pro-education Republican served for 8 years with a Republican house and a Republican senate. But Sam Brownback is a different kettle of fish.

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. - Prairie Village resident Charles Schollenberger has announced the formation of an exploratory committee for a possible U.S. Senate run. The committee plans to meet through the end of 2009 to determine if sufficient support exists for a candidacy.

Schollenberger believes "Kansans deserve better representation. Republicans have tied up [those] seats for over 70 years." From a "fair play standpoint, the other party ought to have a chance."

Schollenberger hails from Hudson, Ohio has been a resident of metropolitan Kansas City for 27 years. He grew up in northeast Ohio where he was a strong advocate for passage of the 26th amendment in 1971, which lowered the legal voting age to 18.

GREAT BEND, Kan. - Statistically, speaking the 112th District House of Representatives seat is the third safest Republican seat in the entire Kansas House of Representatives. In fact, this western Barton County seat hasn't been filled by a Democrat in over 60 years.

So why did I run 3 times as a Democrat for this seat in 2004, 2006 and 2008? I guess I'm a dreamer at heart, a Don Quixote who wants to believe that good things happen to good people who keep trying. Averaging 47.6% of the vote is nothing to be embarrassed about, but it still makes you wonder why politics isn't more fair.

But at a recent Royals game, I saw two things that started to make things a little more clear. One said: "Play for the name on the front of your jersey, not the name on the back." How true. Each time I ran for state tepresentative, I was a member of a team, the name on the front of my jersey "Democrat" is what really counts. The name on the back of the jersey "Marty Keenan" is secondary. And all three times I finished over twenty five points ahead of the meager 21% Democratic registration in my district. So I represented the team well.

WICHITA, Kan. - Dick Kelsey spent some more of his own hard earned dollars to showcase some of his top brass supporters for his bid for Congress in KS-04. Last week, Kelsey posted this radio spot featuring Kansas GOP Presidential caucus winner Gov. Mike Huckabee in a strong endorsement.

(Script of Huckabee Spot after the jump.)

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