By John Hanna-Associated Press
TOPEKA, Kan. | Although fixing the economy is the top priority, Republicans who won greater control of state governments in this month’s election are considering how to pursue action on a range of social issues, including abortion, gun rights and even divorce laws.
Incoming GOP governors and legislative leaders across the nation insist they intend to focus initially on fiscal measures to spur the economy, cut spending and address state budget problems.
“At this point, the economy dominates everything, and until the economy is turned around and our fiscal house put in order, there’s not going to be a lot of appetite for anything else,” said Whit Ayres, a pollster in Alexandria, Va., whose firm did research for several GOP candidates in the midterm races.
But the pressure to go further, as soon as possible, is only slightly below the surface in states where conservatives’ top social goals have been foiled for years by Democratic gubernatorial vetoes and legislative obstacles.
The tension is particularly visible in Kansas, where the victory by Gov.-elect Sam Brownback, a strong opponent of abortion and gay marriage, has created strong expectations among evangelical supporters.
A similar scenario is taking shape in strongly conservative Oklahoma, where a Republican governor will replace a Democrat, and to a lesser extent in Michigan, Wisconsin and several other states.
Some Republican legislators are already worried about getting bogged down in volatile issues or conflicts between wings of the party. But, if the different agendas can be harnessed, an election largely driven by voters’ economic concerns could wind up having much broader social consequences.
“I’m a little bit nervous,” said Rep. Dean Kaufert, a Republican state House member in Wisconsin, where Republicans, including incoming governor Scott Walker, campaigned on enacting tough immigration legislation and banning embryonic stem-cell research. If Republicans overreach, “the danger is the citizens of the state will just say we’ll clean house again, and we’re going to keep doing it until we get it right,” he said.
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