Conservatives Win In Kansas GOP Senate Primary

fromKCUR

In Kansas, there's been a battle between moderate and conservative Republicans over control of the state Senate. The state has moved in an increasingly conservative direction over the past two decades.

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FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: And I'm Frank Morris. In Kansas, GOP primary election night was really a tale of two parties: one in a big, fancy hotel ballroom with a live band and lots of VIP soirees upstairs.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE HOOTING AND CHEERING)

MORRIS: Conservatives here in Overland Park celebrated a resounding victory. Jim Denning, one of their favorites, says this primary obliterates the one thing blocking Governor Sam Brownback's program of deep tax cuts and conservative social regulation: a group of moderate Republicans working with Democrats in the state Senate.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JIM DENNING: That back has probably been broken. And there's not going to be a Democrat coalition to work off of in Topeka going forward.

MORRIS: Outside the big gala, Tim Roudebush, an elderly business man with a bright, crinkly smile, was darn near overjoyed at the news about Denning's win.

TIM ROUDEBUSH: Oh, hallelujah. Are you kidding? Are you serious?

MORRIS: I'm serious.

ROUDEBUSH: Do you know what you're talking about?

MORRIS: Yeah. I was just taking to him.

Oh, what a relief, because the other guy's a Democrat.

STATE SENATOR TIM OWENS: Well, I'm not a Democrat. I've never been a registered Democrat in my life.

MORRIS: Senator Tim Owens, Denning's opponent, says voters were deliberately duped. He's at a party down the street, in a hotel meeting room, with a quiet TV and long faces.

STATE SENATOR TERRIE HUNTINGTON: I think it's been brutal.

MORRIS: Terrie Huntington, another outgoing moderate Kansas senator, says race drew unprecedented spending from outside groups, funded on the one hand by billionaire conservative activists the Koch Brothers, and on the other by labor unions.

HUNTINGTON: It's almost like buying elections, if you will.

MORRIS: The Kansas GOP's not getting over this anytime soon.

Normally after a primary, the party throws a unity breakfast. Not this morning.

For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris, in Kansas City.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

He's with our local member station KCUR.

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