July 10, 2014

In Kansas Open-Seat Race, Family Matters

More than most open-seat candidates, Democrat Stephene Moore’s bid in Kansas’ 3rd district will be heavily influenced by the man she is trying to replace.

Moore’s husband, retiring Rep. Dennis Moore (D), has a history of winning tough races in the competitive east Kansas district, and it’s clear she will get a boost from his name identification.

But from a strategic perspective, is it smart for Stephene Moore to align herself with her husband’s legacy, given the anti-Washington, D.C., sentiment circulating through the 2010 midterm elections? Does she even have a choice, given their shared last name?

“I think it’s a false choice,” said someone close to the Moore campaign. “You have to do both. There’s no logical way to conduct a campaign that doesn’t talk about what she’s going to do that’s unique to her and what she’s going to do that carries on what Dennis started.”

Stephene Moore officially announced her candidacy on April 6, more than four months after her husband announced he was leaving Congress at the end of this term. A source with knowledge of situation said the two decisions were separate: Rep. Moore announced his retirement, and then Stephene Moore decided to run for office.

If Stephene Moore is victorious this fall, her win would almost be unprecedented: Except for cases of death, a Member’s spouse has never successfully succeeded his or her husband or wife in Congress in modern Congressional history.

According to the Kansas City Star, the House historian could only find one comparable case in 1926 in which Rep. Katherine Langley (R-Ky.) decided to run to avenge her husband’s ethics conviction after he resigned. Langley lost the special election but defeated another Republican in the primary and, according to her official Congressional biography, lost re-election in 1930.

Although many Democrats in Washington were surprised by Stephene Moore’s interest, which was first floated by her husband at a luncheon for local party activists in late February, those close to her were not shocked by her announcement. Over the years, they say, she felt increasingly compelled to serve the community.

“She’s always been very involved in the community through volunteering with different groups,” said someone else close to Rep. Moore. “She’s always been really interested in children’s issues because she was a nurse ... and I think that over the years, she has become increasingly involved and interested in affecting the lives in the Kansas City area and all around the country.”

Stephene Moore has lived in the 3rd district for four decades. Although she still maintains her license to practice nursing, she said she has not worked in a hospital for 10 years and instead is focused on volunteering in the community and working on international medical missions.

“It’s not been any secret that I’ve been interested ... in issues of public concern for a long time in my community,” Stephene Moore said in a phone interview last week.

Stephene Moore has also signed her husband’s consulting team from his most recent campaigns, including fundraiser Michael Fraioli, pollster Alan Secrest, media consultant Martin Hamburger and direct-mail consultant Ed Peavy.

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