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Source: Joe Aistrup, 785-532-6900, jaistrup@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Tyler Sharp, 785-532-2535, media@k-state.edu

Friday, Jan. 28, 2011

Celebrating 150 years of statehood:

MANHATTAN -- The state of Kansas boasts a rich political history. Conflict, compromise and crusades have created a lasting influence on the structure and status of Kansas politics today, said a Kansas State University political scientist.

Joseph Aistrup, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a Kansas politics expert, identifies eight influential events as the most important in state political history.

* The state's bloody origins prior to the Civil War gave the state its unforgettable nickname "Bleeding Kansas." Kansas and West Virginia were the only states born during this divisive period of U.S. history, Aistrup said.

* The ratification of a constitutional amendment in 1880 forbidding the sale and production of intoxicating liquors set off Kansas' version of the "100 years war" over the sale and consumption of alcohol, Aistrup said. Kansas was the first state in the nation to pass such a constitutional amendment. Carrie Nation, the Rev. Richard Taylor and Vern Miller are just a few of the interesting public figures who took part in this debate. Aistrup said 106 years after the amendment was passed, Kansas erased the last vestiges of prohibition, legalizing liquor by the drink in bars and restaurants.

*The Populist Era of the 1890s sparked a farmer revolt that swept the nation, protesting against low commodity prices, robber baron railroads, foreclosures on farms, monopolies and the excessively wealthy.

* The Progressive Reform Era in the early 1900s brought major changes in the structure of Kansas' governments. The changes included the city manager form of government, voting rights for women, authorizing the income tax and the line-item veto for the governor, Aistrup said.

* The gubernatorial election of the progressive newspaper editor Arthur Capper in 1914 united the warring factions in the Kansas Republican Party, which at that time were divided between progressive reformers and "standpatters," who were part of the old Republican Party machine. Capper's leadership allowed the Republican Party to move forward and to re-establish its majority status. This majority status has largely gone unchallenged by the Democrats, Aistrup said.

* The election of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 as president. Aistrup said the Abilene resident wasn’t shaped by state politics, but he was very much shaped by his Kansas roots.

* The 1960s redistricting that established "one person, one vote." Prior to this, state legislative districts had a rural bias. For example, each of Kansas' 105 counties was represented by at least one member in the state House chamber, Aistrup said. After 1966 representation shifted to the newly developing urban and suburban centers around Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita.

* Passage of a series of constitutional amendments starting in the 1970s helped to fundamentally change the structure of state government. From 1972 to 1986 the Kansas Constitution was transformed into a modern state constitution, Aistrup said. Included in those reforms was significant restructuring of the judicial and executive branches.

* The social crusade known as the Summer of Mercy in 1991. Anti-abortion advocates flooded Wichita and protested in front of Dr. George Tiller's abortion clinic. This motivated many social conservatives to become active in the political process, Aistrup said. Almost 20 years later, social conservatives dominate state government and Kansas' Congressional representatives.


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