New governor’s easy task behind her
As hard as it is for a Democrat to prevail in a statewide contest in heavily Republican Kansas, the easy part of Kathleen Sebelius' mission is behind her.
Writing without exit polls that provide insight to TV pundits, we can only assume Sebelius' victory owed much to voter concerns her Republican opponent Tim Shallenburger would not adequately protect education from cuts as he dealt with the state's budget deficit.
The depth of that crisis was further defined on the very day of Sebelius' victory. Tuesday, state officials and university economists made another downward revision of the state's revenue estimate. They estimated the state revenue collections would be $363.5 million less this fiscal year than estimates used to prepare the budget. Worse yet, it doesn't appear the state's aircraft or farm economies are near a rebound.
Sebelius was less than specific during the campaign about how she would fulfill her seemingly conflicting pledges not to cut current education funding while not raising taxes. She now has until January to put those details in black and white.
Any plan the new governor develops will need the approval from a Republican-controlled Legislature. It is a task that will challenge and reveal her leadership skills.
There is reason to be optimistic Sebelius and the Legislature will work together. GOP representatives and senators don't have to concede Sebelius a mandate to find reason to seek common ground. They have only to look at the fate of Baldwin Republican Ralph Tanner, a former chairman of the House Education Committee who lost his re-election bid to a Democrat who challenged his education record.