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Kansas sees growing urban-rural divide in midterm election

November 26, 2018

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas hasn’t escaped the growing urban-rural political divide that is playing out nationally, especially after Democratic voters in the state’s urban centers fueled Laura Kelly’s victory over Republican Kris Kobach in the November governor’s race.

The urban-rural divide could make it easier for Democrats to control the governor’s office or hold a congressional seat and could help Republicans fortify their hold on rural areas, the Kansas City Star reported.

Ahead of the 2018 midterm election, the percentage of Kansas Democrats registered to vote grew for the first time in years. But Kansas won’t have any Democratic state lawmakers west of Hutchinson after several rural Democrats lost their races.

The urban-rural divide has grown gradually in both Kansas and across the county over the last couple of decades, said University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller. The politics and size of the divide “have finally gotten to the point where they’re becoming starkly obvious on maps,” he said.

The few blue counties in central and eastern Kansas, within a sea of red, were able to push Kelly to victory by 5 percentage points, or about 46,000 votes. Kelly won nine Kansas counties but none west of Wichita.

Kelly received 86,000 more votes in the state’s 10 most-populated counties than the party’s 2014 gubernatorial candidate, Paul Davis. Kobach had just about 7,100 more votes in those counties than the 2014 Republican who was seeking re-election, Sam Brownback.

“We’ve been reaching out to urban voters for years. That’s been a big part of what we do as a party,” said Kelly Arnold, the outgoing chairman of the Kansas Republican Party. “But it has changed. It is something that as we move forward we need to make sure we’re spending enough time on the issues that are important to each district, whether that be a rural district or an urban district.”

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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