Kansas Democratic Party

Crysta Henthorne / For the Kansas News Service

WICHITA, Kansas — Charles Bell usually passes on voting. He’s a Democrat in a Republican state and said, “If I vote, it’s not going to count.”

But after seeing Kansans elect a Democratic governor in 2018, he thought maybe the state was changing. And so this year, for only the second time in his 63 years, he voted, hoping Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden or U.S. Senate candidate Barbara Bollier might be elected.

EL DORADO, Kansas — The culture war issues that are polarizing national politics are also front and center in Kansas’ U.S. Senate contest: race, guns, abortion, climate change.

Supporters of Republican candidate Roger Marshall fear a wave of Democratic victories will trigger radical changes in the nation’s economy and culture; that capitalism will give way to socialism, undocumented immigrants will stream across the U.S.-Mexico border and individual liberties will be threatened.

The Kansas Democratic presidential primary isn’t until Saturday, but turnout is already three times larger than 2016.

For the first time, the state Democratic Party used mail-in ballots due to concerns about COVID-19. Party officials announced Tuesday that they had processed 138,400 ballots -- up from 39,266 in 2016.

Party executive director Ben Meers said he was not surprised by the results.

“COVID presented the point of pivot for us,” he said. “We always thought that voting by mail would increase accessibility for voters and we’ve certainly seen that in 2020."

Hugo Phan / KMUW

Kansas Democrats have scrapped plans for polling sites for their May 2 presidential primary and are using only mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Wichita City Council member Brandon Johnson was elected the vice chair of the Kansas Democratic Party over the weekend.

Johnson says he sees his new position as an opportunity to work on strategies for races, build the Democratic Party and raise funds. Although there are Republican strongholds in communities all across Kansas, he says Democrats are gaining ground.

Kansas Democrats scored critical wins in the last election. Now they’re struggling to transform those victories into Democratic-minded policies, and to hold on to the corners of power they’ve captured.

They meet in their annual convention this weekend to pick party leaders and search for consensus on strategies for governing and see if they can repeat last year’s election wins next year.

Steve Becker
Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

Moderate Republican Rep. Steve Becker of Buhler lost his primary in August, but he hasn’t conceded his Kansas House seat to his conservative challenger just yet. He’s mounting a write-in campaign.

Two years ago, when Becker was elected to his third term, a slew of moderate Republicans won seats in the Kansas House. Democrats made equally substantial gains. The Legislature shifted significantly toward the center. 

Kansas News Service/File photo

If there’s one common refrain from nearly all of the Kansas candidates for governor — Republicans and Democrats — it’s support for the Second Amendment.

Hugo Phan / KMUW

About 4,000 people attended a political rally Friday at Century II in Wichita in support of James Thompson, one of two Democrats running in Kansas' 4th Congressional District.

But perhaps the biggest draws at the "Unite for America" rally were Vermont senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who both endorsed Thompson in his second bid for Congress.

Stephan Bisaha, Madeline Fox and Brian Grimmett

The Kansas Democratic party hasn’t had a gubernatorial primary since 1998. The unfamiliar competition this year is forcing Democrats across the state to wrestle with their identity ahead of the Aug. 7 election.

Should their nominee be a candidate who aligns strictly with the progressive ideals of the party platform, or someone with broader appeal? Do they go with experience and name recognition, or youthful exuberance?

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