Topeka is the state capital of Kansas and is quite a large city. Kansas tends to vote for republicans in most elections, but is the city of Topeka as conservative as the rest of the state?
Topeka, Kansas is a moderate city. In the past, it has voted for conservative candidates into office, but in the 2020 election, Topeka residents voted for liberal candidates by a narrow margin. In the 2016 election, the city voted for republican candidates in most of its races.
Topeka, Kansas has leaned conservative in the past but now may be leaning more liberally. We’ll go through the voting history of the city as well as where it stands on some of the issues that conservatives may find important.
Information About Topeka, Kansas
- Population: 125,963
- Race: White (Non-Hispanic) 67.2%, Hispanic/Latino 15.3%, Black 10.5%, Other 7%
- Median Household Income: $49,647
Topeka, Kansas is the state capital of Kansas and has had a few notable historical events that have shaped the city. The city is also the 5th largest city in Kansas, though it would be 3rd if you consider Kansas City, Overland Park, and Olathe to be part of the same metro area.
Topeka is a smaller city out on the plains of Kansas, and they have invested in having some beautiful parks and activities for the public. A great time to visit Topeka is during Tulip Time in April, when the city fills its parks with tulips you can enjoy.
Topeka has also had some historical significance for the civil rights movement in the United States. Topeka, Kansas was home to Oliver Brown, the named plaintiff in the Brown v Board of Education case that led to the desegregation of American schools. Topeka was also the site of a major tornado disaster in 1966 that decimated the town and killed 17 people.
In the 2020 general election, Topeka, Kansas voted for the liberal candidate for president, which is unusual for the area. In the presidential race, Shawnee County voted 50% for Joe Biden (D) and 47% for Donald Trump (R). This was a change from the presidential race in 2016 when Donald Trump received 46.8% of the county vote and Hillary Clinton only received 44.19% of the county vote. The Republican presidential candidate also took the county in the 2012 race. The Republican candidate won the state overall in 2020.
These elections do show that the city is fairly purple (blue and red) and that both parties are about evenly split in the area.
In the 2020 election for US Senator, Shawnee County also voted for the Democrat candidate. Barbara Bollier (D) received 50.42% of the vote while Roger Marshal (R) only received 44.2% of the vote. This margin is even greater than the margin of victory in the presidential race during that same year. Bollier lost the state overall, and Kansas currently has 2 Republican senators.
Kansas has only had 3 Democratic senators in its history, while it has had a total of 30 Republican senators. The last time it had a Democratic senator was in the 1930s.
Topeka is part of the Kansas 2nd Congressional District, which is represented by a Republican named Jake LaTurner. Jake LaTurner actually lost the vote in Shawnee County by almost 5% but managed to pick up more votes in the other counties in his district to win.
Residents of Shawnee County also voted for the liberal candidate in 2018 but voted for the Republican candidate in 2016 by a margin of 17%.
The 2nd congressional district will be affected by redistricting following the 2020 census results. The new map for the state will include a portion of Kansas City in an attempt to dilute the Democrat-held 3rd District, making it much more likely for Republicans to retake that seat in the next election.
State and Local Elections
Kansas currently has a divided state government. The governor of Kansas is a Democrat named Laura Kelly. She was elected in 2018. Both the State Senate and the State House of Representatives in Kansas are held by a Republican Supermajority that has the power to override the governor’s veto power.
Topeka continued its trend by voting for the liberal candidate for governor in the 2018 election. Governor Kelly received 57% of the vote in Shawnee County, while Kris Koback, the Republican candidate, only received 33.8% of the vote.
In the 2020 election, residents of Shawnee County voted for the Republican candidates for state senator in the 18th and 20th districts and voted for the Democrat candidate in the 19th district. Topeka is divided into 3 districts, and all 3 districts are currently controlled by Republicans.
Topeka is currently represented by 5 different Democrat representatives in the Kansas House of Representatives.
Elections for mayors in Kansas are non-partisan races, meaning that the state does not include party affiliations on the ballot with the candidates. Residents of Topeka will have to do more research in order to decide whose politics they agree with more when voting for city officials. However, the current mayor, Mike Padilla, has been identified as a Democrat by multiple local groups.
Kansas has a state income tax. Currently, the Kansas tax rates are 3.10%, 5.25%, and 5.70% depending on your income level.
Kansas does not allow local income taxes.
Sales tax in Topeka is fairly high compared to the rest of the country. Residents of Topeka can expect to pay about 9.15% in sales tax. Kansas has a sales tax rate of 6.5%, Shawnee County has a sales tax rate of 1.15%, and Topeka has a sales tax rate of 1.5%.
Shawnee County has a property tax rate of 1.54%.
Overall, the tax burden for residents of Topeka is fairly moderate compared to the rest of the country.
Public Schools were made into an important political consideration for parents in 2020 when schools started to close because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Parents, especially conservative parents, became concerned about how schools teach about race and gender, how they responded to the pandemic, and how they handle trans students and gendered sports.
In the most recent primary election in the fall of 2022, two of the republicans on the Kansas Board of Education were defeated by republicans that voters considered more conservative.
Kansas was quicker to return to in-person learning than many blue states after students were sent home due to Covid-19.
The Topeka Capital-Journal recently reported that Kansas legislators have mostly changed tunes and instead of seeking bans or restrictions on what students are taught, they are now pushing for a bill making curriculums more transparent. They are mostly pushing for parents to be able to see what is being taught rather than restricting it.
Overall, conservatives seem to be winning in the realm of public education in Kansas, but the lack of restrictions on progressive teaching in schools may discourage some conservative parents.
The 2nd amendment is an important issue for conservatives, and evaluating gun policies can be a good way to gauge the politics of a state. Kansas is a fairly gun-friendly state.
Kansas has a permitless carry law that allows anyone 21 and older to carry a concealed handgun for self-defense. You can conceal carry or open carry a handgun in Topeka without a permit due to the state’s interpretation of the 2nd amendment. Most self-defense trainers do not recommend open carrying as a good strategy for self-defense, but the state does allow it.
Kansas has strong self-defense laws to protect those that use self-defense. There is no duty to retreat, meaning you don’t have to prove you tried everything you could to escape before using self-defense.
Kansas does not have any magazine capacity limitations or restrictions on the guns that can be purchased in the state. Kansas does not require a special permit or registration to purchase a handgun. You must be 18 years old to purchase a rifle or shotgun in the state and 21 years old to purchase a handgun.
Abortion has always been a hotly contested issue for conservatives, but with the recent Dobbs v Jackson decision overturning Roe v Wade, the decision has become even more important for conservatives. Back in 2019, Kansas passed an amendment to the state constitution that made the standard from Roe v Wade the law in Kansas.
After the Dobbs decision, an amendment was proposed to walk back the 2019 decision and allow the legislature to pass laws on abortion. The amendment was voted on in August 2022, and Kansas voters voted to keep the 2019 decision and not take up the amendment.
The vote against the amendment was 58.9%, while the vote for the amendment was 41.1%. This suggests that even many conservatives in the state voted against the amendment since there was a higher turnout for conservatives in this election.
What Parts of Topeka are More Conservative?
Topeka is not a liberal city in the way San Francisco, Portland, or Chicago are, but it is also not overwhelmingly conservative. The middle of town and the eastern portion is largely dominated by majority liberal communities.
If you are looking for a more conservative part of the city to live in, North Topeka, West Topeka, and Southwest Topeka are the more conservative to moderate areas of the city that you should consider.