North Carolina and Kansas have had a long connection in basketball. Dean Smith, the legendary UNC basketball coach, was born and raised there and went on to play ball at the University of Kansas. In 1956, UNC defeated Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain in triple overtime in one of the greatest NCAA championship games in history. In 1958, Smith was hired as an assistant coach at Carolina and, later, his assistant Roy Williams went to coach at Kansas, before returning to Chapel Hill.

Now, we have a more dubious relationship with the Sunflower State. Republicans in North Carolina and Kansas decided to make both states conservative laboratories, enacting ALEC supported legislation to slash taxes and cut funding to all sorts of government programs including public schools, community colleges and universities. Both states are seeing a public backlash.

Just like North Carolina, Gov. Sam Brownback and the Republican legislature slashed taxes on the wealthiest while raising them on the poor, promising that the changes would spur economic growth. It didn’t happen in either state. Kansas has seen a hole in its budget so large that its bond rating was downgraded. North Carolina already has a 10% drop in revenue and we are still a couple of years behind Kansas.

In Kansas, Republican Brownback won by double digits in 2010. Today, he’s trailing his Democratic opponent, Rep. Paul Davis. More than 100 Republican elected and former elected officials endorsed Davis.

If Pat McCrory were running this year, he would likely face similar numbers. But he’s not. Instead, all of our legislature is up for re-election. And the numbers aren’t far off of Kansas. In districts that should be safe for Republicans, they are trailing. Thom Tillis is losing his race to Kay Hagan right now largely because of his record as speaker of the house.

This week, I saw even more evidence. In a heavily Republican piedmont district, the legislature has an approval rating of 28%. The incumbent, who should be in a walk, can’t get close to 50%. However, the unknown challenger probably lacks the resources to close the gap.

And that’s the North Carolina Democrats’ dilemma. They have more targets than they do money. Sam Brownback may have led the Kansas Revolution, but the legislature led it here. They promised to kickstart our economies but left us with rising unemployment and stagnant wages. 

In November, we’ll see if the states come together again against what looks like a national Republican tide.


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