The most important ó and overlooked by most of us ó date in the 2008 state election cycle is getting close.


The most important ó and overlooked by most of us ó date in the 2008 state election cycle is getting close.

No, itís not the results from the Aug. 5 primary election or even the Nov. 4 general election.

The most important date? Itís June 10, at noon, when Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh makes the formal announcement that filings are closed for the 2008 election cycle. And, as secretaries of state have said for years, at one minute after noon people can start filing for the elections of 2010. Nobody does, but secretaries of state like to say that anyway.

In the weeks leading up to June 10, political activists are busy trying to encourage members of their political party to file for office in the House or Senate or for the State Board of Education.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, likens the filing deadline to the Kansas Lottery: ďYou canít win if you donít play.Ē

The filing deadline plays out a couple ways that most donít notice.

Incumbent members of the Legislature tend to make sure that their constituents get a little flyer in the mail touting accomplishments that he/she believes are important to the district ó reason to leave well enough alone, to not find a challenger to the incumbent. It doesnít often work but, then again, sometimes it does, and every election cycle dozens of members of the Legislature get a free ride Ö no opposition to reelection.

That no-opposition status turns out to be its own little test for incumbents, who merely need to stay out of prison through the election cycle to come back to Topeka for the winter. The test? It is to campaign anyway Ö attend the public forums and walk in the parades where they, toss candy to children and hand out brochures to their voting-age parents.

Thatís showing appreciation and interest in voters who donít really have a choice anyway. Voters, even those without a choice, donít like to be ignored or taken for granted.

In recent years, weíve also seen the last-minute switch, where an incumbent acts as if he/she is going to file on deadline day or maybe had already filed, and shows up at the Secretary of Stateís office and either doesnít file or withdraws from the race.

That usually happens when an incumbent has stealthily acted game for the race and has a friend file for the office, often to run unopposed. That switcheroo has worked in the past and it makes it difficult for the opposite political party ó which may have decided that the incumbent would be either difficult or too expensive to try to defeat ó to come up within minutes with a challenger who may have considered running but was daunted by the experience, the campaign war chest or the tenure of the non-filer.

So, whatís happening now? Party leaders are talking to their friends and their friendsí friends to see if they can find a potential candidate for every House and Senate and State Board of Education seat.

Itís the time for party officials who have researched the voting records, the inclinations, the friends, the enemies and the local satisfaction of incumbents to make a good case to a challenger that this is the year to run for public office.

For Democrats in Kansas, thereís another factor. Yes, theyíre Democrats, but often a friendly socially moderate Republican represents their district well. That means Democrats will be watching Republican filings to see whether beside the obvious pride of having their district represented by a party member there is the chance that an unfriendly Republican will win the GOP primary. Democrats need a credible opponent Ö if things go wrong (for Democrats) at the primary election.

Lots of angles to figure, lots of filings to be watched, lots of politics to be played out on June 10.

Thatís why noon, Tuesday, June 10, is as big a day in politics as Wednesday and Saturday is to Lottery players. You canít win if you donít play.

Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawverís Capitol Report. To see about that, visit www.hawvernews.com or call (785) 267-5500.