Monday, January 16, 2006


Kansas School Board Race: The Early Score

Has Connie Morris' high-profile support for unpopular right-wing positions such as intelligent design, the Corkins appointment, vouchers, and charter schools affected her ability to raise money for her upcoming election campaign?

Could Morris' widely reported six night stay in a $339-a-night room at the Fontainebleau Hilton Resort in Miami Beach, initially billed to the taxpayers, be eroding support for her in Western Kansas?

Is it too soon for Education Commissioner Bob Corkins and Communications Director David Awbrey to start looking for new jobs?

It may be to soon to tell. After all, the 5th District State School Board race is just getting under way, and perhaps Morris has been so busy trying to come to grips with the pre-biotic soup that she just hasn't had time to turn her attention to fund raising.

Whatever the end result turns out to be, it's clear that Morris' Republican opponent in the August primary, Sally Cauble, and the Democratic challenger in the November general election, Tim Cruz, both moderates, have gotten out of the starting gate much, much faster than Morris, according the reports filed with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.

Those reports also indicate that both challengers are campaigning actively, and are developing broad-based support in Western Kansas.

Here's the scorecard so far:

Morris: $175 from three contributors. Political action committees tied to the Kansas Republican Assembly also donated $2,000 to Morris on Dec. 29 that are not reflected in her 2005 year-end report. The four checks, each for $500, were all written by Merilee Martin who is treasurer for the Free Academic Inquiry and Research and the Kansas Republican Victory Fund state and federal PACs, each of which list P.O. Box 626 in Topeka as their mailing address. Although Kansas election laws limit contributions to State Board of Education candidates to $500 in each primary and general election cycle, right-wing Republicans have created a slush fund to move money around between the four PACs to circumvent legal contribution limits. (see note, below)

Cauble: $10,835 from 104 contributors.

Cruz: $1,400 from eight named contributors, and $725 from an unknown number of unnamed contributors who gave $50 or less.

The election is a long way off and things very well may change. Morris has proven herself an energetic campaigner in the past. As the school board race develops, it will be interesting to see if the unfriendly reception Morris got in some quarters, when she traveled around her district with newly appointed Education Commissioner Bob Corkins, discourages her from making the same kind of public appearances she did in the last election.

Red State Rabble will also be watching to see if the right-wing money machine can overcome the kind of grassroots support demonstrated by both Cauble and Cruz in the early going.

Note: While Morris doesn't report the PAC contributions in her year-end report, both the FAIR and KRVF state PACs do report making the contributions. RSR will not be able to view the FAIR and KRVF federal reports until February, however, right-wing board candidate Ken Willard reported contributions from all four PACs, leading us to believe that he, Morris, and Bacon were all given the same $500 contributions on Dec. 29. As we noted in an earlier post, the contributions were given near the end of the reporting period, over the Christmas holiday, and that the candidates who did not report them, may not have actually received them until after the end of the reporting period.


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