GOP Casts Hopeful Eye on Kansas’ 3rd District

Five-Term Rep. Dennis Moore Could Face Toughest Foe Ever

Posted July 30, 2007 at 6:22pm

House Republicans, long stymied by Rep. Dennis Moore (D) in Kansas’ GOP-leaning 3rd district, think they might have recruited the perfect candidate — state Sen. Nick Jordan (R) — to flip the seat back to the GOP.

In Washington, D.C., last week to participate in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s candidate school, Jordan is described as having the support of both the moderate and conservative wings of the GOP in the Jayhawk State’s 3rd district.

If true, this could prove crucial for a Jordan victory. That’s because Moore first won the suburban eastern Kansas district in 1998 — and has held it since — largely because Republicans have failed to unify behind their nominee in each of the past five elections.

“Both moderates and conservatives are pushing [Jordan] to run,” said a knowledgeable Republican operative based in Kansas. “This is the guy we’ve been waiting for.”

Jordan said in a brief interview late last week that he is “very likely” to run for Congress in 2008 and that he probably would announce his intentions sometime in August.

Jordan’s state Senate seat is up for election next year, and challenging Moore would force him to give up his current legislative office.

“We’re planning to” run, Jordan said. That’s “as strong as I can say it.”

The NRCC clearly wants Jordan and pitched the state Senator strongly in private meetings with committee officials last week. The NRCC briefed Jordan on 3rd district demographics, including a breakdown of each voting precinct that also was accompanied by a recommendation of what portions of the seat he should target.

The 3rd district, the most compact of Kansas’ four Congressional districts, is situated just across the border from Kansas City, Mo.

Moore soundly won a fifth term in the fall, defeating his GOP opponent by 31 points despite the fact that enrolled Republican voters outnumber enrolled Democrats by a 42 percent to 28 percent edge, with 30 percent of the seat’s voters registered as independent. The Republicans didn’t do much better against Moore in 2004, with the Democrat dispatching his GOP opponent 55 percent to 43 percent even as President Bush won the district with 55 percent of the vote.

Moore spent 12 years as the popular Democratic district attorney of solidly Republican Johnson County. He has insulated himself politically as a Congressman by cutting the image of a moderate, common-sense legislator who puts solving problems above party politics and provides first-rate constituent services.

Democrats are confident that the relationship Moore has established with voters — including a significant portion of Republicans — over nearly a decade in office will hold and sustain him in 2008 even in the face of a formidable GOP challenger. And Democrats argue that Moore is on the winning side of issues that matter to the voters in his district, including energy, fiscal and tax policies.

“No matter how you slice it, it’s just baloney for Republicans to think they have a shot here,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Ryan Rudominer said. “Congressman Moore is battle tested and immensely popular with people of all political stripes in his Kansas district.”

However, Republicans believe Jordan can alter a political dynamic that has seen Moore thrive by combining Democratic support with that of a key portion of GOP and right-of-center independent voters.

Republicans in D.C. and Kansas claim that Jordan’s position on social issues and his record on economic matters appeal jointly to the conservative and moderate wings of 3rd district Republicans. The two factions have warred with each other in the 3rd district at least since 1998 when Moore defeated Vince Snowbarger (R) for the seat — a split that reflects an intraparty rift plaguing the Kansas GOP statewide since the early 1990s.

Jordan is socially conservative, opposing both abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research — which makes the conservatives happy. But he also has a lengthy record of championing business and economic development projects — and this makes the moderates happy.

Additionally, Republicans contend that Moore is providing the GOP with plenty of ammunition to use against him in 2008, arguing that he has been voting with a Democratic leadership that controls the House for the first time since the Congressman was elected, thereby undercutting his image as an independent legislator who puts the 3rd district first and politics second.

“Nick Jordan is a proven vote-getter and a unifying force to be reckoned with,” NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said. “We believe that he can mount a very serious challenge against Dennis Moore, especially now that he has tied himself to the liberal record of the Democratic Congress.”