Primary Primer: Republicans Brawl

Posted August 1, 2008 at 5:21pm

In a little over 24 hours, freshman Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.) will know which Republican she’ll have to hold off in November to retain her conservative-leaning seat.

Former Rep. Jim Ryun and state Treasurer Lynn Jenkins were scheduled for a weekend of heavy campaigning in advance of Tuesday’s 2nd district GOP primary. Boyda beat Ryun in 2006, but the district remains majority Republican, and the GOP has high hopes of recapturing it in November.

Republicans in Kansas who have been following the primary give a slight edge to Ryun. But Jenkins’ decision to dramatically escalate her effort, both on television and on the ground, have increased her chances of winning.

Ryun was on television much earlier than Jenkins, and was generally thought to be campaigning harder, and for a much longer period of time, than Jenkins. In the past two weeks, Jenkins went negative against Ryun, with the former Congressman returning the volley in kind.

“My gut tells me Ryun will pull it out,” one Kansas GOP insider said. “But looking at it on the ground, this race has definitely tightened in the last two weeks. Jenkins has gone full-out with a ground game and air war.”

The Ryun campaign’s weekend plans focused on extensive get-out-the-vote efforts, including 115 volunteers manning five phone banks, and traveling in six 15-passenger vans going door to door across the sprawling, heavily rural, eastern Kansas district.

His campaign is cautiously optimistic.

“Jim Ryun will continue his relentless campaign efforts with parades, speaking to the Osawatomie Rotary Club and a [National Rifle Association] banquet in Topeka,” Ryun campaign spokesman Kyle Robertson said.

The Jenkins team plans its own slate of grass-roots efforts. Jenkins’ personal schedule included walking in a parade Friday evening and knocking on doors and making phone calls throughout the weekend. Her campaign also expressed cautious optimism about its prospects.

“While this is certain to be an extremely tight election, we are well-positioned to win this nomination and confident Republican voters are ready for a new direction,” Jenkins campaign spokesman Patrick Leopold said.

Regardless of who wins the primary, the 2nd district will be a major battleground in November. Boyda upset Ryun by 4 points in 2006, after losing to him by 15 points two years earlier. That same year, President Bush got 59 percent of the vote in the 2nd district.