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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach with his wife Heather in Topeka, Kansas on November 6, 2018. | Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images The most important Kansas primary elections, briefly explained. Kansas has a slate of important primary elections on Tuesday, setting up what could be one of the most competitive general election seasons in recent memory. From the presidential contest and an all-important Senate race to several House elections, the state is shaping up to be one of the more unlikely 2020 battlegrounds. Why? Because Kansas, where the electorate tends to skew moderate, seems to be souring on Donald Trump. The New York Times reported private polling has shown a close race between Trump and Joe Biden in the state. Trump won Kansas by more than 20 points in 2016, but a few months before the 2020 election, voters are pretty evenly split on the president’s job performance, according to Morning Consult. His approval rating has dropped by 20 points since he took office. In 2018, Democrat Laura Kelly won the governor’s race to put her party back in power for the first time in a decade. This is a state where more than half of voters identify as moderate or liberal. And its population has been growing more suburban and urban, despite its prairie reputation. “We have a big chunk of stereotypical suburban voters that are transitioning to be more Democratic now,” Patrick Miller, a political science professor at the University of Kansas, told me. “They’re not as comfortable today with the politics of the Republican Party, and a lot of them voted for Laura Kelly. Those voters carry a lot of heft.” In all likelihood, the presidential election isn’t going to be won or lost here. If Joe Biden prevails in Kansas, he’s probably on his way to a landslide. But the battle for control of the US Senate could be decided in this state. And the general election campaign could look quite different depending on which Republican triumphs in Tuesday’s primary. Kansas’s US Senate Republican primary Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, US Rep. Roger Marshall, and businessman Bob Hamilton are the leading contenders for the Republican Senate nomination, vying for the opportunity to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Roberts. Anna Moneymaker-Pool/Getty Images Sen. Pat Roberts on May 7. Kobach is a well-known commodity and has been an immigration hawk for years. As Miller puts it, he was “Trump before Trump was Trump.” He served two terms as secretary of state before running for governor in 2018. But Kobach’s inflammatory rhetoric and hardline views have sometimes put him at odds with the more moderate Kansas electorate, and he lost the governor’s race. He hasn’t been able to raise much money for the 2020 Senate race, though as Recode’s Teddy Schleifer reported, libertarian tech billionaire Peter Thiel pumped almost $1 million into the campaign to support Kobach. But he does enjoy support among Kansas’s more conservative voters, which has kept him at the front of the primary field. Marshall won his US House seat in 2018 before quickly being courted by the Republican establishment to run for Senate after the national party’s preferred choice, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, declined to enter the race. He is a party-line Republican; at times, he’s sounded open to reforms like a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, but he has also vocally supported Trump’s agenda. There is no getting to Kobach’s right on that particular issue, however, and so the primary campaign has assumed a familiar mainstream-versus-conservative tenor. “He’s the kind of Republican that, if Republican leadership has negotiated a compromise spending bill with Democrats, Marshall is going to vote for it because leadership is going to vote for it,” Miller said of Marshall. “He’s not going to vote no on principle.” Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images Rep. Roger Marshall speaks to reporters on October 23, 2019. According to the New York Times, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other senior Republicans have begged Trump to endorse Marshall over Kobach, fearing the latter would be more vulnerable in a general election after his 2018 loss. But Trump has so far not waded into the race and likely views Kobach as an ideological ally. Hamilton, who started his own plumbing business in the 1980s, is the wild card. He’s put more than $3 million of his own money into the campaign, portraying himself as the archconservative outsider. Polling on the race has been sparse, with the last survey from June showing Kobach with a 9-point lead (35-26) over Marshall and Hamilton sitting in third with 15 percent. At this point, the Kansas Senate race is likely to be somewhat competitive, in a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1932, no matter who the Republican candidate is. Barbara Bollier, a state senator expected to easily prevail in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, has raised more than $7 million so far, much more than any of her potential GOP opponents. “I think that’s really shocked people, to put that lightly,” Miller said. “I think she’s proving herself to be a better candidate than a lot of people wanted to give her credit for.” But national forecasters expect the race to be tighter if Kobach, who has already lost a statewide election in the Trump era, wins the Republican nomination. Sabato’s Crystal Ball currently rates the Kansas Senate race Likely Republican, but that would change if Kobach emerges with the nomination. “I do think a Kobach nomination endangers the Senate seat, and makes the overall GOP path to retaining a Senate majority harder,” Kyle Kondik, managing editor at the Crystal Ball, told me. “We will make the rating of Kansas more competitive if Kobach wins.” Kansas First Congressional District Republican primary Marshall is vacating his seat in Kansas’s First Congressional District so that he can run for Senate. The district, which covers most of western Kansas, has a strong Republican bent; the Cook Political Report rates it R+24, meaning it’s 24 points more Republican than the US overall. That means the winner of the GOP primary on Tuesday is all but assured to wind up in Congress next year. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates the district Safe Republican. Tracey Mann, a former lieutenant governor, is considered the frontrunner, though Bill Clifford, a doctor and businessman, has spent more than $500,000 of his own money to try to make the primary competitive. “I think people would be surprised if Mann didn’t win,” Miller told me. The expected Democratic nominee after Tuesday’s primary, Kali Barnett, is “a good candidate in the wrong district” for the general election, Miller said. “If she gets 30 percent, that’s an accomplishment.” Kansas Second Congressional District primaries Oddly enough, it is the Republican incumbent in the Second District, which covers most of eastern Kansas besides the immediate Kansas City region, who is facing the most notable primary challenge. Rep. Steve Watkins is currently facing felony charges for alleged voter fraud. Prosecutors have said he used an inaccurate address to vote in a 2019 municipal election, leading him to vote in the wrong city council election. Watkins has said the address mix-up was a simple mistake and called the charges “hyper political” and suspicious, according to the Kansas City Star, insinuating the prosecutor is trying to help his Republican primary opponent, Jake LaTurner. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images Rep. Steve Watkins in the Capitol on on Feb. 11. LaTurner, 32, is the Kansas state Treasurer. He’s also received the endorsement of the Kansas Farmer Bureau, one of the most important interest groups in the state. LaTurner has criticized Watkins over the voting scandal, saying he is putting a winnable seat at risk. There has been no public polling heading into Tuesday’s election. Whoever comes out of the GOP primary is expected to face Democrat Michelle De La Isla, mayor of Topeka. She has raised a healthy amount of money in the primary (more than $700,000) and could use her compelling life story — she had been homeless for a time in her native Puerto Rico before moving to Kansas, getting a college degree, and entering political life — to make the general election campaign a close one. Sabato’s Crystal Ball rates the race Likely Republican, but some other forecasters like the Cook Political Report place it in a more competitive category. “Her primary is just a formality,” Miller said of De La Isla. “Democrats are, I think, very interested in this district.” Kansas Third Congressional District Republican primary Rep. Sharice Davids is the Democratic incumbent. She took the seat in 2018, part of the wave that won her party control of the House. “It’s your poster child for high-education, high-income suburbia, zipping off Democratic at warp speed,” Miller told me. “It’s hard to see Republicans seriously contesting a district like this.” It’s still teetering on the edge of being competitive: Cook rates the district R+4 and Lean Democratic, though Sabato’s Crystal Ball is more confident in Davids’s chances, putting the race in the Likely Democratic column. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images Rep. Sharice Davids speaks at the event in the Capitol on March 10. The Republican primary field, to determine who will challenge Davids, is cluttered. Three candidates — businesswoman Amanda Adkins, ex-nonprofit CEO Sara Hart Weir, and former mayor Adrienne Vallejo Foster — have raised at least six figures and have legitimate political credentials; Adkins notably served as an adviser to then-Gov. Sam Brownback. The candidates in the Third District, Miller told me, are “falling over themselves to be as pro-Trump as possible.” “That’s where they’ve come into conflict with each other,” he said. “Who’s the Trumpiest here?” Given the changing political nature of the district, that could end up being a problem in the November race against Davids. But first, one of them must make it out of Tuesday’s primary. Support Vox’s explanatory journalism Every day at Vox, we aim to answer your most important questions and provide you, and our audience around the world, with information that has the power to save lives. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. Vox’s work is reaching more people than ever, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources — particularly during a pandemic and an economic downturn. Your financial contribution will not constitute a donation, but it will enable our staff to continue to offer free articles, videos, and podcasts at the quality and volume that this moment requires. Please consider making a contribution to Vox today.
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I’m Traveling, Even Though I’m Stuck at Home
For many people, travel is a way of life. When not on the road, we dream of being on the road. As we fly home from one trip, we’re planning the next. That certainly describes me. And yet, several months into the pandemic, I’ve realized that the essence of traveling requires no passport and no plane ticket. A good traveler can take a trip and never leave her hometown.For the past 30 years, I’ve spent four months in Europe each year, writing guidebooks, producing travel television, and leading bus tours. Since mid-March, I’ve slept in the same bed. I’ve eaten dinner at the same table with the same person. A weekly venture to the supermarket is my big excursion. There’s nothing in my pockets, nothing on my calendar, and the only things I’m wearing out are my favorite slippers. I’m home for my first Seattle summer since 1980.Rick Steves traveling in 1978. (Courtesy of Rick Steves’ Europe)Stuck here, I’ve been pondering a big question: Why do I travel? When I was young, I sought out vacations on which I could have fun checking iconic sights off my bucket list. As the years went on, I realized that I traveled more to get out of my comfort zone, to find who I was in the immense scheme of things, and to fly home with the best souvenir: a broader perspective. Since March, I’ve tried to apply this mindset to my current situation. I’ve found that I can satisfy my wanderlust with “sightseeing highlights” just down the street and cultural eurekas that I never appreciated. Before the pandemic, I didn’t think to savor the little, nearby joys in the same way I did while abroad. To be honest, I ignored them. Now I notice the tone of the ferry’s horn, the majesty of my hometown sunset.[Read: The strange pleasure of planning a post-pandemic vacation]Similarly, while I enjoy sampling new cuisines abroad, I’m lost in my own kitchen. I never cooked until this year—literally never made pasta, never used olive oil, never cared that there are different kinds of potatoes. Now, like someone experiencing the delights of Europe for the first time, I thrill at the sensation of a knife cutting through a crisp onion.Rick Steves cooking at home during the pandemic. (Courtesy of Rick Steves’ Europe)Travelers are free to wonder, seeking inspiration. We marvel at the glorious achievements of the past: ancient Greek philosophy, Renaissance genius, heroic struggles for liberty, equality, brotherhood. While many Americans temporarily cannot visit museums, cathedrals, and monuments, we can be inspired by books, movies, lectures, and conversations. We can explore our backyards like a tourist would. In the past few months, I’ve read the historic plaques in my hometown, wandered through our little cemetery, and admired the church steeple (even if it’s just a painted cross mounted on hardware-store dowels).I’ve also been dusting off old passions. I sifted through the brittle postcards, coated in minuscule handwriting, that I sent home from my earliest backpacking trips. And I oiled up my old trumpet, which had sat in the darkness of its case since I was in college. With each sunset, I play taps from my deck. The neighbors come out, whoop, and clap, and we are reminded—as the sun dips out of sight—that we are in this together and blessed with our health, a beautiful environment, and one another.This crisis has made me aware of things I’d come to take for granted. For my entire adult life, spending three months each year in Europe has been routine. Now grounded at home, I see clearly how fortunate I was to regularly jet around the world. And reflecting on the suffering this pandemic is causing both near and far, I’m also mindful of my privilege to be able to work from home for a steady paycheck—something I know many do not have right now.Travel teaches us that there’s more to life than increasing its speed. This quarantine has been therapy for a workaholic like me. Perhaps the pandemic is the universe’s way of telling us all to slow down. And, like travel, this crisis is reminding us of how we need one another, and we need one another to be safe and cared for. Hard times highlight the importance of public services and good governance, as well as the value of neighbors.[Read: Traveling teaches students in a way schools can’t]While the future is uncertain, approaching the world as a traveler can make us less afraid. It opens our minds, it opens our hearts, and it enriches our lives. I am confident that, sooner or later, we’ll be planning trips and packing our bags again. In the meantime, I’ll be patient and continue to embrace life with the traveler’s spirit here at home.On the road, I find myself saying “Life is good” a lot. And even while homebound during a pandemic, I find plenty to be thankful for—and many reasons to strive for a world where all can say: Life is good.
Dear Therapist: No One Appreciates My Middle Child
Editor’s Note: Every Monday, Lori Gottlieb answers questions from readers about their problems, big and small. Have a question? Email her at Dear Therapist,My husband and I have three terrific kids, ages 6, 4, and 2. Our oldest is cautious, helpful, and precocious. Our youngest is easygoing, affectionate, and goofy. Our middle child is persistent, bold, imaginative, and tenderhearted. Her personality is not as easy as her siblings’, but she’s a great kid. If she makes me want to pull my hair out five times a day, then she makes me laugh, surprises me, or melts my heart 10 times a day.The problem comes from others. Our elderly next-door neighbor dotes on the oldest and youngest and all but ignores the middle one. More than once, she has asked whether our doctors have diagnosed her with any disorders. I just look at her as if I don’t understand her question. I’ve had others “praise” me for being so patient with our middle child. These kinds of comments make me so angry and sad.We recently visited my husband’s family, and I grew resentful of the way my in-laws talked about and treated our middle child. Conversations seemed to focus on all the bad things she had done that day, or ever in her life. I’m sensitive that these narratives we tell repeatedly can lock a kid into acting a certain way, especially when she is treated differently by the adults around her. My husband’s parents played favorites with him and his siblings, and one sibling has suffered long-lasting trauma from this, and now has several mental-health issues. The final straw was when our oldest picked up on the comments from the adults, and started joining in the criticism of her younger sister. I scolded my oldest with hopes that the adults around the table would take the message to heart, but I didn’t address their behavior directly. My husband and I have discussed these issues since the visit, but we are both at a loss as to how to improve things.My middle child is not a monster. Her preschool teachers assure me that she’s well behaved. Like any kid, she has tantrums at home, but she’s not violent or uncontrollable. When we visit my side of the family, she is happy and carefree; they accept and love her for who she is. I’m so tired of people seeing only her bad traits. Do you have any advice on how we can address the issues on my husband’s side of the family?AnonymousColumbus, OhioDear Anonymous,As most parents of multiple children have observed, all people are born with a certain temperament, which is why siblings can be raised in the same environment and display wildly different dispositions. These inborn temperaments are often apparent from birth—the fussy baby, the “easy” baby—and because some personality types demand more parental patience and attention, they’re often given the label of “difficult.”A child with this label may have a more intense emotional range than average, or may be more sensitive or inflexible. She may be considered “high energy” or “strong willed” or, as you describe your daughter, “persistent.” For these kids, moving through the world is just harder—whether that’s transitioning from the park to the car, finding an unfamiliar food on their plate, or not getting to go first in a board game. And as you’ve seen, many adults tend to find these kids challenging to be around, even if, like you with your daughter, they also see their gifts.You’re asking how to handle your in-laws’ reaction to your daughter, but it might be helpful first for you and your husband to get clear about your own. Many parents of children like your daughter feel multiple and conflicting emotions—some of which they suppress, out of fear that they aren’t acceptable. In your case, you may be reacting to what is the great taboo of parenting: Some children are exponentially harder to raise, and that can make parenting them less enjoyable and more exhausting in the day-to-day.You get angry and sad when others point out what you already know—that your daughter is more challenging than her siblings. But I wonder if this anger and sadness is partially displaced—if it’s more comfortable to be angry and sad because of how others feel about your daughter than to be angry and sad because of how you and your husband feel about her. Many parents of challenging children worry that if they acknowledge some of the emotions that raising their child engenders—frustration, resentment, sadness, envy of other parents—they’re somehow being disloyal or unloving. In short, “bad” parents.The truth, though, is that you’re human, and there’s a big difference between seeing your daughter as a “monster” and seeing her as a challenging kid. I wonder how you and your husband have been able to talk with each other about your respective feelings toward your daughter. Are you able to create a space for each of you to share how you feel, or have you made the tacit agreement that you talk about her only in a positive light, thinking that this will protect her? In fact, it leaves her—and you—more vulnerable. Denying your feelings about your daughter prevents you from having a candid conversation—one that would help you cope better as a parent, which would in the long run help your daughter.Once you’re able to integrate the deep love you have for your child with the very real frustrations you and your husband inevitably experience, you’ll be able to talk to others about how to better understand and relate to her without denying the reality of their experience.With your in-laws, you and your husband can start by acknowledging that your daughter’s temperament might require more patience, and that you know they want all of their grandchildren to grow into the best versions of themselves. You can empathize with the frustrating experiences they’ve had with her, and also share with them the parts of her they may not have had the opportunity to see. You can let them know that children are attuned to how adults view them, and that while you’re certain they would never intentionally hurt their granddaughter, she will come to view herself through the same lens the adults in her life view her through. And you can say that by interacting with her in a more effective way, they will begin to see her differently, reflect a different image back to her, and find their time with her far more mutually enjoyable.If they’re open to that possibility, you can share the strategies that work for you with your daughter at home—or those that work for her teachers at preschool. When she misbehaves, for instance, perhaps you address the feeling underlying the behavior (“You seem frustrated that you can’t go first, and it feels so unfair. Maybe next time you’ll go first, but right now, do you want to join in the game or go take a walk with me?”). Maybe you’ve found it useful to help her regulate her emotions by giving her choices, but limited to two (“Do you want to watch this movie or that one?”). Or perhaps you counteract some of the negative reactions she often gets by offering a praise sandwich (“You’ve been so flexible with eating later at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, and we’ve all been so impressed with that. But right now you’re having trouble waiting. I know you’ve had great ideas before for how to wait—what do you think would help more than what you’re doing now?”).Your in-laws may take some time to implement these strategies, but the more they see how they help your daughter—and therefore allow them to have pleasant interactions with her—the more balanced their view of her will become.A problem can be addressed only once it’s acknowledged, and you may also want to give some thought to how you talk about your middle child with her siblings. Instead of shutting down your oldest child’s feelings about her sister, consider that challenging children are challenging siblings as well, and to ease the family burden, many less challenging siblings cast themselves in helpful and easygoing roles. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings about their sibling, or don’t have needs of their own that might get overlooked given the higher-maintenance sibling’s demands on parental time and attention.Ask your oldest daughter how she feels when her sister acts out, and instead of talking her out of her less-than-positive feelings, let her know that it’s perfectly okay to love a person and also sometimes wish they’d go away. It’s a lesson that will serve everyone—you, your husband, your middle daughter, her siblings, and your in-laws—well.Dear Therapist is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a letter, you are agreeing to let The Atlantic use it—in part or in full—and we may edit it for length and/or clarity.
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