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PROTESTS

I was the only member of the local media to report on the Donald Trump protesters outside the Wichita caucuses, about a week before violence at his campaign rallies started to dominate the national news cycle. The video was viewed more than 120,000 times on Youtube.

BASKETBALL

I explained how Kansas’ unique passion for basketball , could unduly influence the caucus results (which was shared on social media by Chuck Todd).

DATA ANALYSIS

In the absence of any good polling in Kansas, I explained how Oklahoma’s primary results were the best predictor of Kansas’ upcoming caucus. This not only proved to be correct, but was the paper’s top digital story that week–showing reader appetite for smart, fivethirtyeight-style analysis.

MARCH 2, 2016: “How Oklahoma’s primary might predict Kansas caucus results”

What does the best evidence tell us about who will win the Kansas caucus Saturday?

The only recent poll in Kansas shows Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the lead by small margins. But about 40 percent of voters said they were undecided, and it was a relatively small sample size with a large margin of error.

One of the best clues to how Kansas might vote is Oklahoma. Not only are Oklahoma and Kansas neighbors, their populations have a similar racial and socioeconomic makeup, a similar urban/rural split and a relatively similar electoral size…..Continue reading

CANDIDATE SUPPORTERS
I did a front page cover with profiles of supporters of each of the five leading candidates. As part of that story I convened a small panel of Republicans and Democrats for a video talking about which candidates they supported and why, which was something our paper had never done before.

VIOLENCE

And then I broke a story about a Trump protester attacking two minority college students–the top story for the paper the following week. I was the only member of the media to get an interview with the Hispanic student involved, a profile which underlined how the uniquely violent and racist rhetoric of this campaign played no small part in the confrontation.

MARCH 18, 2016: “Man explains why he refused to back away from biker in Kwik Shop confrontation

On March 11, the first night of spring break, Christian Saldana asked permission to leave his restaurant job a little early so he could talk with his friend Khondoker Usama about a business competition.

He had no inkling this choice would indirectly thrust Saldana into national headlines and create a controversy over hate crimes and the rhetoric of the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

Usama was developing a plan for a security product that would use video to alert people when their packages arrived in the mail, he said, an idea Saldana thought was interesting. Usama invited Saldana to a birthday party.

While the food was cooking at the barbecue, Saldana and Usama volunteered to pick up some soda at the closest gas station, because all they had to drink was water, he said.

But what was supposed to take only a couple of minutes turned into an altercation with a motorcyclist who Saldana says shouted racial epithets and chanted Trump’s name.

Initial news reports of the incident relied on Usama’s account because Saldana wanted to remain anonymous, but Usama was largely a witness to the event. Saldana was the one who, besides a motorcyclist whose name has not been released, was most directly involved.

When police showed Saldana the surveillance video from the convenience store, he realized his actions looked less innocuous than he had remembered.

In the video, there appear to be some points at which he could have walked away. There is no audio in the surveillance video, but Saldana said that, although he didn’t use any racial epithets, he had cursed at the biker.

At 5-foot-8 and weighing 155 pounds, Saldana said, he never had any interest in being in a fight, let alone with someone so much bigger. He ran cross-country and was in a history club at North High School. He has a 3.5 GPA, according to his resume on LinkedIn.

He works 25 hours a week at two jobs and lives with his mom. He is studying economics and business as a freshman.

He does not seem to be the sort of person that most people, including himself, expect to be involved in an altercation just past 3 a.m. at a convenience store, a clash that would be cited as evidence by some people of increasing racially motivated and politically charged violence and by others as an example of an overly politically correct culture too quick to make every problem about race…..Continue reading

DELEGATES

Before most of the national media had caught on to the importance of state rules, I was explaining the nitty-gritty of Republican delegate selection in Kansas, and why it favored Ted Cruz over Donald Trump.

MARCH 10, 2016: “Kansas rules favor longtime Republican activists as convention delegates”

The most important Republican presidential election in Kansas may turn out not to have been the caucus on Saturday but the election of delegates to the party convention.

And applications to be a delegate are due at 5 p.m. Friday.

If Donald Trump or any other candidate fails to secure a majority of delegates before Republicans gather in Cleveland on July 18-21, there will be a contested convention. This means individual delegates will decide who gets the nomination.

The last time voting at a convention mattered was 40 years ago, said Clayton Barker, the executive director for the Kansas Republican Party. That’s when Gerald Ford managed to beat out Ronald Reagan on the first vote, even though he had not secured a majority of the automatic votes going into the convention.

In Kansas, the process of choosing delegates is skewed toward people who have been involved in Republican politics for years. In a close fight at the convention, this could mean the difference between Republicans selecting Trump or a more traditional party candidate.

The backroom maneuvering for who these delegates will be and how much power they might have has already begun, according to Barker….Continue reading

“Berger beats Bruce, McGinn keeps seat in ‘brutal’ night for conservatives”
August 2, 2016
BY BRYAN LOWRY, OLIVER MORRISON AND MATT RIEDL

One of Gov. Sam Brownback’s closest allies in the Legislature lost his bid for re-election Tuesday night amid a wave of conservative losses.

Brownback isn’t on the ballot this year, but his policies are very much at stake in this election.

Moderates, who have seen their influence wane since Brownback took office in 2010, recaptured some of the power Tuesday by tapping into voters’ frustrations with the state’s budget woes.

2016 PRIMARY ELECTION RESULTS FOR KANSAS

Ed Berger, the former president of Hutchinson Community College, beat Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, by 14 percentage points after running on a platform of fiscal responsibility. He highlighted his opposition to recent higher education cuts and the practice of taking money from the highway fund to plug budget holes.

“That was our message all the way through and I think that resonated with people,” Berger said in a phone call.

Bruce conceded the race shortly after 10 p.m., saying in a statement that the voters “have spoken and they wanted to go in a new direction.” Bruce had been one of the main leaders of the conservative faction that took control of the Senate in 2012.

Republicans squared off in 16 Senate primaries and moderates prevailed in 10 of those races.

Bruce Givens, a special educator from Butler County, ousted Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, who has spearheaded the effort to loosen gun restrictions in recent years. Rep. John Doll, a moderate Republican from Garden City, prevailed over Sen. Larry Powell, R-Garden City, in Finney County. Conservative incumbents also fell to moderates in Johnson County.

Moderate Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick appeared to have pulled out about a 230-vote victory over conservative challenger Renee Erickson. That could change when provisional ballots are counted next week.

“The race was a little closer than I had hoped, but it paid off a lot of walking and talking and knocking at the door steps, paid off,” said McGinn, who also survived a strong challenge in 2012. “I think Kansas voters want to get away from political tactics and want to get our state back to where we balance a budget, where we are able to run our essential core services, whether it’s school or building infrastructure for business, and they want us to get back on track and we’ve been going the wrong direction for the last four years.”…Continue reading

“Kansas delegates excited yet concerned about Trump-led convention”
July 16, 2016

BY OLIVER MORRISON
[email protected]

In a normal presidential election, being selected as a delegate to the Republican National Convention would be the crowning achievement for people like Kathy Martin, 70, who have worked for years behind the scenes in Kansas Republican politics.

After a week of attending special meals, casting votes in patriotic clothing and basking in the glow, her plan is to return home from her first convention in Cleveland to see the beef sale at the Clay County fair.

Ron and Susan Estes, husband and wife delegates from Wichita, met 25 years ago this month at a Republican event, and this convention is supposed to be a moment for them to toast the intermingling of a quarter century of romance and politics.

John Whitmer, a state representative from Wichita, is still hoping to bump into Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich on the convention floor, and many of Kansas’ Republican delegates plan to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, see the Great Lakes and explore a giant replica of Noah’s ark during their free time.

But, in addition to using words like “excited,” more than half of Kansas’ 40 Republican delegates used words like “concerned,” “unnerved” and “worried” to describe their feelings about the convention that starts Monday. Long-time convention attendees said this could be the “most memorable” convention they’ve been to, “a historic” convention that, if things go awry, could descend into “absolute chaos.”

One reason is that Kansas Republicans select their delegates over nearly two years, a process that rewards long-time conservative activists. But Donald Trump, the candidate at the top of the ticket, does not have a long history with the party, they said. “Trump is an unusual nominee,” said Dave Bohnenblust, a delegate from McPherson. “He doesn’t have a long history of being a conservative Republican.”

Many of Kansas’ delegates said they are looking for reassurance that Trump will support the anti-abortion, anti-big-government policies that they have spent their lives pursuing.

Kansas’ delegates also are worried that protests this year could turn violent. Violence at Trump events across the country has led to the arrest of Trump supporters and protesters. And the murder of police officers in Dallas during a Black Lives Matter protest July 7 has made several of them even more nervous about what could transpire.

A few Kansas delegates, such as Randall Duncan in Salina, have been Trump supporters all along and believe that Trump will draw on his celebrity contacts to turn what is often a relatively boring infomercial for party regulars into entertainment that will captivate the nation.

Other delegates, like Dalton Glasscock, 21, in Wichita, have taken umbrage with Trump and are planning on “going rogue.” Glasscock remembers running up and down the aisles and cheering for Mitt Romney in 2012, but this time he hopes that, instead of a coronation, the convention will be an opportunity to reclaim the identity of the party that Trump has co-opted.

But most of the delegates said that, even though Trump was not their first, second or third choice, and not even in their top 16 out of 17 for some, they plan to support him anyway. That’s because they don’t want the political process to look rigged to primary voters who chose him and because, as much as they have reservations about Trump, they dislike Hillary Clinton more…..Continue reading

August 2, 2016Berger beats Bruce, McGinn keeps seat in ‘brutal’ night for conservatives

November 2, 2016Early voters in Wichita ready for it all to be over

Polling sites at 16 different locations across the county are open for early voting. The Eagle spoke to voters at eight locations in Wichita on Monday and early Tuesday to find out whom they voted for and why….Continue reading

November 5, 2016The horrible election that everyone has an opinion about

Although Kansas voters say they don’t like the mudslinging they’ve seen in the presidential election, they often describe the election in some of the same melodramatic, even apocalyptic, language they decry.

About 90 Eagle readers responded to a questionnaire through the Public Insight Network.

“Crooked Hillary” Clinton “is a liar!” wrote one reader. She’s “in the pocket of big money,” wrote another, and could even be “a dark imp of hell.” Many readers “don’t like, don’t trust her” because, as Wichitan Roger Huddleston put it, she “cannot open her mouth without telling a lie.”

George Stump, a Derby Republican, “would rather have Mr. Trump the womanizer to Mrs. Clinton’s power-grabbing lies and coverups.”

Donald Trump, on the other hand, is “a narcissistic megalomaniac,” said Wichitan John Trewolla. Trump is “a raving lunatic” who inspires “doubts about his sanity” and “needs a personality transplant,” according to other questionnaire responses. He is a “crazy sexist moron idiot” and a “dangerous, misogynist hatemonger.” He is a “bullying, finagling,” “disgusting reality show idiot.”…Continue reading

November 5, 2016Why the election is so close and which voters will determine who wins

Marsha Nelson Carr was going to vote for Gary Johnson for president.

But Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, couldn’t answer basic questions about foreign policy, she said. So she voted for Donald Trump instead.

“Here’s the deal with Trump,” said Carr, who is from Wichita. “He’s an idiot actually; he can’t keep his mouth shut. But I bet you money he can hire the right people.”

As the election nears, millions of Republicans are coming to the same conclusion as Carr: They may not like Trump, but he’s better than Hillary Clinton and there’s no other suitable alternative…. Continue reading

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