Recently we presented to a group of political professionals and asked which state with a Democratic governor was trying to break a Republican supermajority in the state legislature. It took more guesses than you’d think for them to arrive at the fact that Kansas is one of the best states for us to make a difference in this year.
Gov. Laura Kelly (the third Democratic woman to serve as governor of Kansas, no other state can claim that) faces a state legislature with narrow Republican supermajorities, that have hampered her ability to govern effectively. But only one House seat or three Senate seats are needed to prevent veto overrides, especially important heading into a redistricting cycle where a partisan gerrymander could impact two U.S. House seats.
You might think of Kansas as a rural state, but more than half of its population lives in Greater Kansas City, Wichita or Topeka. That means the targets are concentrated in suburban areas that Kelly carried in 2018. Many of these seats went big for Kelly, which could be a sign of a more lasting shift.
Notably, Kansas has been a Republican stronghold for its entire existence. It can be hard to appreciate just how meaningful that is. It runs as deep as Democratic machines in New York and Chicago. That may seem intimidating, but it also presents a great opportunity. Many Kansas voters are demographically similar to suburban persuadable voters in other states. And we saw them vote for Kelly in 2018, so we already know they’re persuadable on some level. Great state legislative candidates just need to get their message in front of these voters.
To the maps! First, let’s take a look at the Senate, which is a tougher hill to climb but has 4-year terms, so we can lock in some gains for longer. We need 14 seats to break the supermajority, a net gain of 3.
Safe Democratic: 7 Districts
7 out of 40 seats. This is still Kansas, after all.
Tilt Democratic: 4
This category includes some tougher holds but also the top pickup opportunity; the 8th District, which is being vacated by retiring Republican Jim Denning.
The 5th and 10th may feature Republican incumbents but they’re incumbents in name only; Kansas appoints people to fill the terms of legislators who retire before their term of office is up and these appointees have yet to face the electorate.
Tilt Republican: 5
One of the reasons to get excited about the Kansas Senate is that in a good year we could make some massive gains; sweeping these seats would take us within 2 seats of a tied chamber.
Lean Republican: 2
Tying the chamber is feasible, but unlikely. Breaking the supermajority is a more realistic scenario.
Alright, feel good about the Kansas Senate? Well, check out the Kansas House, where we need only 42 seats (a net gain of one) to break the supermajority.
Safe Democratic: 33 Districts
Again, you can see the persuadable base in suburbs and college towns through this map.
Lean Democratic: 2
Trump carried these seats so the incumbents aren’t entirely safe, but the political trends are in their favor.
Tilt Democratic: 3
The seat most likely to flip is the 17th; incumbent Tom Cox is running for Senate and Kelly carried it by more than 20 points.
We need just 4 of these 6 seats to hit our goal. So you can see that it’s a more likely chamber than the Senate, where they’ll need to win at least one Tilt Republican seat.
Tilt Republican: 11
We could still fall short in some of the Tossups but break the supermajority if there is movement in some of these less marginal seats that Trump could carry again but nevertheless have shown to be persuadable.
Lean Republican: 9
And if you think 2020 will be a 2008-style wave then you can actually see a path to the majority emerge in the House, as remote as it may be. It’s incredibly unlikely that all these seats flip, but you can see a wide path to netting the one to break the supermajority.
And that’s how to break a supermajority in Kansas. One quick note on our ratings: Kansas hasn’t had its filing deadline yet so we’ll probably make some revisions to these district ratings once we have a firmer idea on the candidates running—so stay tuned! As always, if you enjoy these previews then tips are greatly appreciated.
DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.