The biggest upset in 2010, and perhaps in the past decade -- since Kay O'Connor's 2000 primary election defeat of incumbent Kansas Senator Rich Becker -- was the upset in the Overland Park-based Fourth District Johnson County Commission race.
Last week, I discussed one of the reasons why Jason Osterhaus beat liberal Republican Larry Winn the Third for 4th District County Commission: Osterhaus did not pretend to be all things to all people. Rather, Jason Osterhaus ran as an authentic economically conservative Republican, and that's the message the voters received.
In a poll taken by my PAC the day before the election, this is what we found:
- Among Republican voters: Discounting undecided voters, Jason Osterhaus received 64%
- Democrats: Discounting undecideds, Jason Osterhaus received 30%.
- Independents: Jason Osterhaus and Larry Winn tied at 50%, discounting undecideds.
Osterhaus beat Winn by 1400 votes, a 53% to 47% margin. Winn had everything going for him: his father was a former US congressman, he was a recent chair of the large Overland Park Chamber of Commerce, he was a recent chair of the Shawnee Mission School Board, he had high name ID upon entering the race, he had the endorsement of the ENTIRE 12-member Overland Park City Council (and Mayor Carl Gerlach), a few semi-conservative and well-known Republicans endorsed Winn, the Johnson County Sun endorsed Winn, the Kansas City Star endorsed Winn, and Winn had a huge fundraising advantage over Jason Osterhaus.
However, Larry Winn is a liberal/socialist, barely a Republican:
- He endorsed Dennis Moore in 2004.
- Even in 2010 -- at the SAME TIME Larry Winn was mailing out a postcard that read "Republicans Stand United" -- Winn endorsed a one-time Republican, now-Democrat Lisa Benlon in the 22nd Kansas House District over the eventual winner and Republican Greg Smith. The 22nd district largely shares boundaries with the 4th District Commission.
- Larry Winn raised property taxes at the Shawnee Mission School District.
- Larry Winn supports corruption, because the Shawnee Mission School District and the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce support corruption.
- Larry Winn thought that a large number of people cared that the pro-corruption, liberal Steve Rose (Johnson County Sun) and the pro-corruption, liberal Kansas City City Star editorial board had endorsed him.
- Larry Winn accepted the endorsement of the intolerant, left-wing group "Mainstream Coalition" that sent spies into area Christian churches during the 2005 marriage amendment. This group makes the ACLU look normal.
Today, I'll discuss one additional factor in this race: age. From our November 1 poll, we learned that 48% of voters over the age of 50 were supporting Jason Osterhaus, and 64% of voters under the age of 50 supported Osterhaus. The 4th district is an older district, with roughly 2/3 of voters over the age of 50; to compare, about half of the Olathe-based 5th district's voters are over 50. Most of the 4th district is inside what is sometimes called the "435 corridor," and for various reasons this area is strong in: KC Star readers, Johnson County Sun readers, and registered Republican voters who have abandoned the party. Older voters remember Larry Winn's father, and are more likely to remember that Larry Winn "the third" is on the Shawnee Mission School Board.
Even though this was an open seat (formerly held by Ed Eilert, who ran instead for County Chair), Larry Winn was a functional incumbent. But incumbency was only so powerful, and Larry Winn's weak message of "I'm the guy" did not resonate with under-50 voters.
I'll continue to discuss this race in future articles.
About the poll:
- Voters were called only if they had voted in at least two of the last three general elections (among November elections in 2008, 2006, and 2004).
- Two-thirds of likely voters are over the age of 50. In this particular poll, 67% of voters were over 50 (we asked in the poll if the voter was over 50 or under 50).
- The female-to-male ratio in this poll was 56% female to 44% male (we asked if the voter was male or female).
Final sample size of 270 (margin of error 6.1%).
- According to voter registration, the partisan breakdown in this poll was: Republican (55%), Democrat (29%), Unaffiliated (16%).
Connect with Benjamin Hodge at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, The Kansas Progress, and LibertyLinked. Hodge is President of the State and Local Reform Group of Kansas. He served as one of seven at-large trustees at Johnson County Community College from 2005-’09, a member of the Kansas House from 2007-’08, a delegate to the Kansas Republican Party from 2009-’10, and was founder of the Overland Park Republican Party in 2011. His public policy record is recognized by Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, the Kansas Press Association, the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government, the NRA, Kansans for Life, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).