- Associated Press - Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Wichita Eagle, Aug. 6

Primary not a game changer:

Tuesday’s primary election was hardly a game changer for conservative Kansas, though some returns delivered unmistakable messages for the incumbents and forecast real races ahead.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s re-election bid was never in doubt at the primary, and he won easily over Wichita businesswoman Jennifer Winn. But that so many Republicans favored an unknown one-issue candidate to Brownback is another sign of the discontent with the governor within the GOP ranks, to go along with the recent endorsements by 100 Republicans of Democrat Paul Davis and numerous opinion surveys.

As expected, Secretary of State Kris Kobach also won big Tuesday, against high-quality challenger Scott Morgan, but now must defend his controversial record on and off the Kansas taxpayers’ clock in a challenge from Democrat Jean Schodorf.

Kansas Republican voters threw cold water on the heat of the nationally watched campaigns for the U.S. Senate and 4th Congressional District seats, sticking with Sen. Pat Roberts and Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, over tea party firebrand Milton Wolf and former congressman Todd Tiahrt, respectively.

The arguments that Roberts didn’t qualify as either a conservative or a Kansan lacked credibility, especially coming from a physician revealed to have found humor in grisly X-rays online. But it was telling that Roberts didn’t win 50 percent of the vote, and now he has to hope the ill will created by his negative ads against Wolf won’t weaken him going against Democrat Chad Taylor.

And what can be said about Tiahrt? He was so well-liked during his productive 16 years in Congress that the contest should have been closer. But voters couldn’t make sense of Tiahrt’s motives for running again or misleading criticisms of Pompeo.

Though Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, prevailed in the 1st Congressional District, he let political newcomer Alan LaPolice get uncomfortably close. Huelskamp hasn’t paid with his job - yet - for his ejection from the House Agriculture Committee, vote against the farm bill and general inability to work well with others in the House GOP caucus or even the Kansas delegation. But the farm groups’ unhappiness with Huelskamp isn’t going away anytime soon either, and his bad behavior should help Tuesday’s winning Democrat, James Sherow, in the fall.

The five-way GOP race to replace Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger shook out in favor of Ken Selzer, who now takes on Democrat Dennis Anderson.

Closer to home, conservative Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau defended his District 4 seat against one predecessor, Republican Carolyn McGinn, and will face another - Democrat Melody McCray-Miller, in what now seems like the key battle for control of the commission and the direction of county governance. That’s because the more conservative of two Republicans in District 5, state Rep. Jim Howell, easily defeated Derby Mayor Dion Avello.

So the lessons of the primary went deeper than the win-loss column, raising expectations for an interesting autumn.


The Topeka Capital-Journal, Aug. 4

With proper resources, great universities can get even better:

Gov. Sam Brownback appointed three new members to the Kansas Board of Regents on Friday, saying he thought they were the right people to help raise the profile of the state’s public universities, community colleges and technical colleges.

“We aspire to be the best state in America and to do that you really need high-quality education, K-12 and higher,” the governor said.

Brownback is right about that, and we hope he, veteran regents members and the new appointees are successful in raising the profile of the state’s universities.

That said, it should be noted the state has an excellent education system. U.S. News and World Report has The University of Kansas rated 47th among the nation’s top public universities. Kansas State University is ranked 68th. Given the number of public universities in the country, those rankings show KU and K-State aren’t bottom-dwellers. This newspaper frequently reports on impressive advances both schools are making in areas as varied and business and agricultural to medicine and engineering.

Other public universities also have good reputations. Some garner national and international recognition.

Can they all do better and improve their standing among the nation’s universities? Should they aspire to greater heights? Of course they should. An outstanding educational system is a great attraction for any state. Many college students, regardless of where they’re from, tend to locate in the state where they graduated and continue to contribute to their adopted state in numerous ways. The higher the education profile, the greater the benefit to a state and its communities.

Goodland lawyer Joseph Bain was among Brownback’s Friday appointees to the Kansas Board of Regents. He noted there is always room for improvement and said: “Some of that has to do with funding. Some of that has to do with accountability and transparency.”

He is right on all counts.

It is often said that government programs can’t be improved simply by throwing money at them. That’s certainly true, but funding always must be adequate.

Raising the profile of the state’s universities will require the proper mix of brick and mortar, human resources and funding.

As cohesive as Brownback and the Legislature have been on many issues in recent years, legislators haven’t always gone along with the governor’s funding request for K-12 programs or the public universities.

University officials, the Kansas Board of Regents, the governor and legislators all must be on the same page if they plan to raise the profile of our public universities. It is a worthy goal, and we wish them well.


Salina Journal, Aug. 7

Ready for some change?:

For all the hope by challengers in Tuesday’s primary that voters were ready for a change, for the most part that wasn’t the case.

In the Republican Saline County Commission District 1 race, voters were ready for a change as they resoundingly ousted two-term commissioner and Chairman Randy Duncan. Our guess is that if commissioners John Price and Jim Gile had been up for re-election, they, too, would have been gone. As it is, they don’t stand for re-election until 2016.

In the Nov. 4 general election, former Salina mayor Monte Shadwick, who defeated Duncan, will face Democrat Stephanie Cool. No matter who wins, they’ll bring fresh perspectives to the commission, including the idea of turning the county’s daily operations over to a professional administrator.

After Tuesday’s results, Duncan told reporter Tim Horan that he doesn’t favor expanding the commission to five members, and he wants the commission to stay in charge of the county’s daily operations. He noted that the current form has worked well since 1860.

Maybe it did up until a decade or two ago, but it no longer does. Many aspects of county government have become far too complex for the average person on the street to jump into and manage well.

In other races, mostly there was no change. GOP voters in the 71st House District voted to keep incumbent Diana Dierks over challenger Tom Bell. Statewide, GOP voters turned back challengers to incumbents, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Sen. Pat Roberts, Reps. Tim Huelskamp, Lynn Jenkins and Mike Pompeo, and Gov. Sam Brownback.

Jenkins and Pompeo crushed their opponents, while Roberts beat political newcomer Milton Wolf 48 to 41 percent, and Brownback beat Jennifer Winn 63 to 37 percent. Both Roberts and Brownback showed some vulnerability.

Roberts’ narrow win was against a flawed candidate whose only real issue was that Roberts doesn’t live in Kansas. And Roberts had the backing of most Kansas GOP leaders.

Brownback won big, but how does a political newcomer, Winn, with no name recognition or funding and who ran for office only because her son was charged with murder, and who backs legalizing marijuana in Kansas, get 37 percent of the votes against a sitting governor?

We’ll find out in November how much change voters want.


Lawrence Journal-World, July 31

Protecting Kansans’ personal information:

A recently released audit examining the security of state government computer systems demands immediate attention from Kansas officials.

The review, conducted by Legislative Post Audit, determined that the current level of computer security at state government agencies could leave Kansans’ personal information vulnerable and that many Kansas agencies aren’t complying with requirements to provide detailed information technology plans.

State Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, responded to the report by saying the Kansas Legislature should have “serious hearings” about the security of state computer systems. Even better would be for the state agencies already charged with ensuring proper computer security to act now rather than waiting for legislators to debate the issue.

The audit found that 75 state agencies are running 353 computer systems that contain sensitive data. That’s everything from birth certificates to tax returns and other documents that include what should be tightly guarded Social Security numbers. It also determined that 17 of the 45 agencies that hold information considered “high risk” had not had an independent evaluation of their computer security in the past three years.

That lax attitude has been tolerated, the audit said, by the state’s information technology officials, who “did not follow up on missing plans, and in one year did not send necessary templates and instructions to all agencies.” Officials in the Office of Information Technology Services responded by making excuses about the difficulty of hiring enough computer security experts in Topeka, especially at the current wages, which range from $53,000 to $123,000 a year.

Furthermore, the state computer situation isn’t new, according to Scott Frank, head of the Legislative Post-Audit. The state’s computer security has been reviewed periodically for years, he said, and problems always are found. “I don’t think there was a time when the state had a very solid, well-thought-out approach to security,” he said.

There is no excuse for state agencies not ensuring the security of sensitive information on Kansas residents who are required to provide that information for various purposes. Kansans can choose not to submit a credit card number or other information to purchase something online, but they can’t choose not to comply with state requirements to provide information to complete a voter registration, a tax return or other state business. Once that information is in a state computer system, it is the state’s responsibility to make sure it is secure.

It may be impossible to make the state system 100 percent safe, but the recent audit confirms that Kansas officials are falling far short of doing the best they can to make sure sensitive personal information isn’t compromised.

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