First of all, thank you!

yard sign It has now been about eight weeks since the election, and for those who may have missed my message on Facebook, I just want to again express my gratitude and thanks to the people of the 10th District for entrusting me with a third term. It was a hard-fought election against a tough opponent, who deserves credit for giving it her all on behalf of her beliefs.

I also want to thank all who assisted me in various activities - by walking with me, taking yard signs, driving volunteers, or organizing - I simply could not have done it without you.  Of course, we knew going in that the election would be close, and for many candidates, the prospect of a competitive challenge can cause them to compromise their principles.  I have always striven not to do so, not in my voting record nor in the message I take to the door, and I'm pleased to see that my consistent, conservative stands have been upheld by a majority of the voters in my district.

Now, as we look to 2017 and beyond, the question becomes, "What now?  Where do we go from here?" 
It's a tough question.  On the national level, it's a vastly different political landscape than it is on the state level.  Every election cycle produces unique results.  There are undeniable challenges facing us in the Kansas Legislature this year, and if new members elected in the primary abide by their emotional rhetoric with their votes, it is likely to produce results that could be incredibly harmful to the people in our state. 

In this newsletter, I'm going to do my best to explain to you what has happened, what to expect in the coming two years, and how we can fight together.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to e-mail me back with your questions or comments.

First of all, a quick note -- to help explain some issues, you will notice that I sometimes use the terms "Left" and "Right."  I don't often use the word "liberal," because that term has been used in the past to define what we call "conservative" today.  Left and Right terminology, in contrast, has been used consistently over the years since the terms were developed in the French Revolution (1789-1799), by referring to where members sat in the room!  Those on the left tend to support Jacobinism strong central governmental powers to transform society, and those on the right tend to support natural law and free markets, which delivers more liberty to the people.  There are left-wing Democrats and right-wing Democrats just as there are left-wing Republicans and right-wing Republicans.  However, while most Democrats are left of center, Kansas Republicans can be mixed.  Most all Republicans run their campaigns as though they are right of center, but some Republicans in Kansas will vote left of center after they get elected.  I consider it part of my duty to let you know who is pushing what legislation so you have all the information you need.

The Impact of President Trump

The election of Donald Trump sent shockwaves around the world and is a clear repudiation of the political establishment in both parties.  Whatever one may think about President-elect Trump's previous statements and demeanor - and I share the concerns of many in that regard - he broke through the mainstream media logjam in a way no regular politician ever could.  His mere ability to suck up the oxygen in the media gives him a rare bully pulpit that allows him direct access to the people. Try as they might, the media is unable to filter him.

Of course, we don't know what President Trump's exact policies will be like nor do we know how he might change over time.  However, early signs are encouraging, particularly regarding some of his stronger appointments to cabinet positions.  More will be known as his administration is filled out and President-elect Trump takes office.   There are certainly things to be optimistic about, including promises of:
  • A conservative appointment to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.
  • Enforcement of our nation's laws on immigration - this will help us in the states dramatically.
  • The rollback of excessive and unnecessary EPA regulations.
  • The repeal of ObamaCare and the prospect of true, free-market based solutions.
  • A fresh respect for the states and the 10th Amendment.
  • A new view on education, including getting the federal government out of Common Core as well as a new appreciation of the importance of pursuing school choice.
There are also areas where we just don't know what might happen, such as on religious liberty, government involvement in picking winners and losers via incentives, and the rest.  Conservatives will need to support Mr. Trump in all the many areas we agree, but not be afraid to raise an objection when there are concerns.

Overall, though, there is much reason to believe the ways of Washington may be changing for the better.

What About in Kansas?

While the negative interference from Washington on matters of liberty, opportunity, and freedom may be diminishing, the unfortunate reality is that things are not nearly as rosy here in Kansas. 
After the elections of 2010 and 2012, there was certainly great optimism because for the first time in Kansas history, conservatives had won both chambers of the Legislature in addition to having a conservative as governor.  We enacted important reforms to our school funding system, to our tax code, and we began limiting the size of government.  We passed some good pro-life legislation and we have become one of the most secure places for those who believe in self-defense and 2nd Amendment rights.  Local elections are now in the fall and the people have the right to vote on property tax increases.

The list goes on and on.  Sadly, there were some mistakes, and more so, the success of these programs and initiatives were never communicated effectively to the people.   That lack of communication put up against the forces of the Kansas media and our opponents, many of whom are organized in a fashion to disseminate misleading information, ended up giving our opponents nearly free reign to deliver false messages to the people, particularly in swing districts where they had the most influence.

Right when the economy is poised to take off, the foundation for success in Kansas is now in jeopardy.

In the Kansas House, the body moved definitively leftward, as we saw right here in Shawnee, with the loss of three seats to left-wing Republicans and Democrats.  In the Kansas Senate, we went from around 29 conservative-leaning Republicans to less than 20.   We need to push for it regardless, but as I see it, there won't be enough votes to cut spending.  And while the left-wing Republicans and Democrats ran their campaigns announcing a need to increase spending, it will be interesting to see if they are willing to have their names attached to a tax increase.  

It is my hope and it will certainly be my effort to work with my colleagues in both chambers to advance conservative ideas and make the philosophical, fact-based arguments that persuade them to vote in line with conservative principles that cause our culture and economy to flourish.
I will, of course, continue to update you throughout the session as to what is happening in Topeka. 

This is going to be a historic session with many twists and turns, so I encourage you to stay tuned.

Leadership Matters - Why I Voted for Senator Ty Masterson

Four years ago, there was much optimism in the Kansas Senate when conservatives were leading with an overwhelming majority, and where we could even pass Constitutional Amendments such as the measure to reform judicial selection.  In the beginning, we elected what we thought was "conservative leadership."

Sadly, as time rolled along, and the winds changed and the pressure mounted, some in leadership began to head down a dangerous road where power became more important than principle.  The path of power-driven politics continued further after the recent election and deals started being made behind closed doors.

We could have elected a Senate President who truly governed based on conservative principles.  That's why I stood proudly behind Senator Ty Masterson in his decision to challenge Susan Wagle.  Ty has been a stalwart for limited government, religious liberty, lower taxes, and he has always been willing to propose solutions to achieve those aims.

Unfortunately, despite the fact by some counts we had as many as 19 conservatives in our 31-member caucus, Susan Wagle won by a vote of 22-7.   Many, who ran their campaigns promoting conservative principles, voted for Wagle simply because they thought she was going to win, so they made deals to receive a choice committee chairmanship.  This "strategy" of the ends justifying the means put several left-wing Republicans in positions of control.

It is truly stunning how many steps back we have taken.  Several have truly forsaken principles for the sake of power.  It is politics at its ugliest.
The Left's Big Kansas Utopia, and How They'll Pay for it.

Did you know that $40,000 is considered wealthy?

A popular saying these days is that "Elections have consequences," and indeed they do.  They also teach us things, and often what's revealed in the aftermath of those elections is just how extreme and out of touch some liberal groups are. 
We heard a lot of rhetoric in the campaign about the LLC exemption (which has created 82% of the new jobs in Kansas).  It was a campaign prop to hide the real goal of more government spending, and recently the plans for that goal have been revealed.  A coalition of left-wing groups came out in favor of hiking gas taxes, income taxes, property taxes, etc., - and the increases would even be applied to middle-income Kansans.

One of the proposals, to increase the Kansas income tax, involved keeping the lower bracket the way it is, but increasing the highest bracket up to 6.5% -- on anyone making more than $40,000 a year or more!

Actually, this should not be surprising. Left-wing groups have a utopian vision for Kansas which involves massive unaccountable spending to schools, dozens of needless new road projects, an expansion of Obamacare Medicaid, and more funding for special interest groups.  The claim is to "balance the budget" but nowhere in their plans is there any proposal for a reduction in spending.
While Kansans may have had concerns about the LLC exemption, many did not think they were voting for dramatic income tax increases or gas tax hikes this election cycle.  Will legislators respond to these very organized and loud interest groups, or will they resist the pressure?

The Kansas economy, as well as the pocketbook of every Kansan, hangs in the balance.

There is a Better Way

Everyone in Topeka understands that we have a Constitutional duty to balance the budget.  However, while reviewing proposals, the answer is not to dramatically increase the tax burden on citizens. The answer, as it always does, lies in reducing the size and scope of government, and then exploring ways to improve our tax structure, such as the large amount of sales tax exemptions we provide. 

Also under threat this year is the progress we have made on allowing citizens to defend themselves through their 2nd Amendment rights, on moving local elections to the fall, on providing you the right to vote on property tax increases, among other measures.  In some cases, we may be able to get a majority to stop the onslaught - in other cases, the only thing will be the governor's veto.

Those of us who remain in Topeka fighting for conservative principles need to stand strong in the face of adversity.  I will be working with my Senate colleagues to keep you informed throughout the session so  you understand the conservative perspective on what comes out of the Senate Chamber.
How You Can Help

You may be asking, "What can I do to help?"

For those of you in Shawnee, the first thing you can do is to contact your State Representative and let them how you feel about the proposals before us.  Reps. Shelee Brim, Tom Cox, Cindy Neighbor, Linda Gallagher and Jarrod Ousley all need to hear your thoughts about what's going on.  An individual message, versus one that comes via an interest group, can often make a big difference - so don't be afraid to reach out and respectfully communicate with your legislator about your views.

Another thing you can do is to forward my newsletters to your friends and neighbors so we can counteract the disinformation from the media.  The Kansas Policy Institute is also launching a new publication with the help of local conservative writers Jack Cashill and Danedri Herbert - I will be sharing their reporting frequently in my newsletters.
Finally, I urge you to get involved.   First, please consider joining the Northwest Johnson County Republicans.  They meet on the third Monday of every month at Minsky's at 435 and Midland, and their speaker on January 16th is Danedri Herbert, a reporter who I just mentioned above.  

We also have several Precinct Committee man and woman vacancies in Shawnee, and we can look to see if your precinct is available.  I will be working with my campaign team to begin developing precincts so you can become part of a network of people in your own neighborhood and help distribute information.

Stay Informed - Get Information!

Kansas residents can access information on legislation, legislative procedure, state government, public policy issues and more by calling 1-800-432-3924. Calls are answered by experienced reference/research librarians at the State Library of Kansas and kept confidential. Lines are open weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Callers can also leave brief messages to be delivered to legislators as well as request copies of bills, journals, and other legislative documents.
In addition to calling the hotline, residents can also text questions to 785-256-0733 (standard text message rates may apply), email, or instant message at , or visit the State Library. The State Library is located on the third floor, north wing of the Kansas Capitol Building. The library's hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
Finally, I do want to take this time to say that I hope you had a very Merry Christmas and I wish you a joyous and prosperous New Year.  I hope you enjoyed time with friends and family in celebration of this special time of year.  Thank you again to all who stood alongside me in 2016, and I look forward to working with you as we meet the challenges in 2017.

In honor of your liberty,

Mary Pilcher-Cook

Mary Pilcher Cook

Working in honor of your liberty.
Contact me today!