Fractious Republicans

Jordan Hopes to Unify GOP as He Looks to Oust Moore

Posted October 29, 2007 at 6:22pm

Billed as the candidate who can unite Republicans in Kansas’ 3rd district and unseat Rep. Dennis Moore (D), state Sen. Nick Jordan (R) appears to have the moderate and conservative wings of his party behind him — at least for now — in a state that is often racked by GOP infighting.

Jordan’s anti-abortion-rights stance and strong support of the business community have both moderate and conservative Republicans prepared to support his candidacy, although some moderates remain skeptical. Moore has held his GOP-leaning seat for

nearly a decade partly because moderates and conservatives have backed opposing primary candidates, with the losing faction refusing to support the winner in the general election.

“Nick Jordan has done just a killer job of being pragmatic and bringing the Republicans together like no one has done in the past 10 years,” said 3rd district GOP Chairman Ernie Straub. “He’s got moderate support, and he’s got conservative support.”

Straub, who owns a construction company, is known for donating to conservative candidates and describes himself as a “pragmatic conservative.”

Straub’s claim notwithstanding, Democrats dismiss all talk of GOP unity, and some moderate Republicans in Moore’s suburban Kansas City district aren’t completely sold on Jordan. They remain concerned that he might drift too far to the right as the campaign progresses, and are reserving the right to yank their support.

Andy Wollen, chairman of the moderate Kansas Traditional Republican Majority, expressed concern that Jordan has accepted fundraising assistance from CHOMP, an arm of House Republicans that is supporting former Rep. Jim Ryun (R) in the adjoining 2nd district. Ryun, considered a conservative, is running in a GOP primary against state Treasurer Lynn Jenkins, the preferred candidate of Republican moderates. The winner will square off against freshman Rep. Nancy Boyda (D), who ousted Ryun last year.

CHOMP stands for Challengers Helping Obtain the Majority Program, and is run by GOP Reps. Pete Sessions (Texas), Jim McCrery (La.) and Mike Rogers (Mich.). Wollen said the moderate Republican group is not calling on Jordan to return the money, but simply to be cautious about who he aligns himself with.

“KTRM is excited to finally have a consensus candidate for the 3rd district, and we’re hopeful Nick will be able to do what we haven’t been able to do, and that is to knock off Dennis Moore,” Wollen said. “But we’re worried that he is linking himself to Jim Ryun by accepting money from the same organization … CHOMP is an alarm bell.”

The GOP rift in the 3rd district has been emblematic of the political problems Republicans have faced in Kansas statewide for more than a decade. And as Wollen’s remarks prove, the wounds of that intraparty squabble are slow to heal.

The result has been major gains by Democratic candidates in this otherwise Republican-leaning state, including Moore’s five consecutive victories and Boyda’s upset win last year; the re-election of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) in 2006; and the election last year of now-Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson (D), who is an ex-Republican and former state GOP chairman.

Jordan said in a telephone conversation on Monday that he has been reaching out to both social conservatives and business-oriented Republicans on a weekly basis in an effort to secure the support of both and avoid the pitfalls of previous Moore opponents.

Wollen said that he speaks to Jordan regularly, and stressed that his group is on board with the state Senator even though it is concerned about his ties to CHOMP.

Charlotte Esau, executive director of the conservative Kansas Republican Assembly, gave Jordan a more ringing endorsement, suggesting that if he can keep the moderates happy he might be able to steer clear of a competitive primary and enter the general election campaign with a unified party behind him.

“I think both sides really like him as a candidate,” Esau said. “I think they’re pleased he’s in the race.”

Jordan’s ability to unite the Republican base in the 3rd district, and keep it unified through Election Day, could go a long way toward his effort to oust Moore. But Moore’s success has not been predicated on Republican infighting alone.

The fifth-term Congressman was the popular Johnson County district attorney before advancing to the House, and succeeded politically by positioning himself as a moderate Democrat who puts getting things done ahead of partisan politics. His office is also known for providing top-notch constituent services.

Moore won his first few races with about 50 percent of the vote, and was a perennial GOP target through 2004, a good year for Republicans that saw President Bush win the 3rd district with 55 percent of the vote.

But that same year, Moore was re-elected — also with 55 percent of the vote — over Republican nominee Kris Kobach. Kobach won a bruising primary over Adam Taff (R), who had been the GOP nominee in 2002, but failed to unite 3rd district Republicans behind his candidacy in the general election. Kobach is now the state GOP chairman.

Moore proceeded to fall off of the radar of Washington, D.C., Republicans in 2006, winning a fifth term with 65 percent of the vote. Democrats argue that talk of Jordan threatening Moore’s newfound political comfort is significantly overblown.

“Congressman Moore is independent and battle tested. He’s popular with people of all political stripes in his Kansas district,” Democratic Congressional Committee spokesman Ryan Rudominer said Monday. “The [National Republican Congressional Committee] would be wasting the little money it has in Kansas 3.”