Kansas GOP May Have an Abundance of Candidates

Posted December 2, 2009 at 6:32pm

Kansas Republicans like to think of their race to succeed Rep. Dennis Moore (D) as having too much of a good thing.

When Moore announced his retirement last week, Republicans knew they had a tremendous opportunity to pick up the Sunflower State seat that they had been targeting since the Congressman won his first term in 1998.

“If anything, the challenge is we have too many good candidates,— Topeka GOP consultant David Kensinger said. “As problems go, that’s a pretty good one to have.—

Several of the GOP candidates entered into an informal agreement about the potentially competitive primary in August. In a Nov. 23 meeting, local party leaders and advisers to Sens. Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback encouraged the candidates to file early and start fundraising immediately. The congenial consensus, according to several people in the meeting, was that a frontrunner would emerge by the end of the first financial reporting quarter of 2010.

“This is the opportunity that pretty much all of these people have labored in the vineyards for years to bring to fruition,— Kensinger said. “And the spirit around them is pretty good.—

Former state Sen. Nick Jordan (R), who lost to Moore by 16 points in 2008, was in a good position to hit the ground running after the Congressman’s retirement announcement. He said he had been actively considering another run against Moore for the past two months and was boosted by a poll paid for by some of his donors that showed him with a strong name identification in the district compared with other GOP candidates looking at the race.

“One of the advantages we already have is that we already have the infrastructure all in place,— Jordan said in a phone interview.

A former Moore opponent, state Sen. Jeff Colyer (R), who ran in 2002, is also considering a bid.

Another candidate who had previously been considering a bid against Moore this cycle, state Rep. Kevin Yoder (R), filed an exploratory committee on the day of Moore’s announcement, and soon after state Rep. Pat Colloton (R) and former state Sen. Mark Gilstrap (R) followed suit. More Republicans, including state Sen. Karin Brownlee, former Johnson County commissioner candidate Charlotte O’Hara and Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland, are also said to be looking at the race. Former state Rep. Patricia Lightner, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination in 2004, was already in the race before Moore announced his retirement.

According to a knowledgeable Republican source in Kansas, Jordan and Colyer could be the top candidates because of their fundraising abilities. Colyer, in particular, might be willing to boost his fundraising score with his own deep pockets. Yoder could also be a strong candidate if he can raise the money, the source said.

But if the GOP contest continues to be competitive until the August primary, Democrats could have a great opportunity to keep the seat — that is, if they find a candidate. So far, Democrats are scrounging to recruit someone to run in Moore’s stead.

A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said the group is in talks with several potential candidates, but Kansas sources said there is not a single Democrat actively pursuing a campaign right now. Moore made the decision to retire fairly recently, and Kansas and national Democrats were caught by surprise when a local newspaper broke the news. State House Minority Leader Paul Davis, who said he has not talked to the DCCC, has not made a decision yet. Local sources say he is unlikely to give up his leadership perch in the state House to run for Congress in what is expected to be a bad year nationally for Democrats.

“I’ve received a lot of encouragement to look at the race and have had some conversations with Party leaders, but haven’t … reached any conclusions,— Davis wrote in an e-mail.

But Davis and several other Democrats who have been mentioned as possible candidates pose a geographical challenge for the party: Candidates need to win the populous and growing Johnson County, which accounts for three-quarters of the district’s population.

Davis is from neighboring Douglas County, which is likely to be redrawn into another Congressional district during redistricting in 2011. Wyandotte Mayor Joe Reardon (D) has not turned down a bid yet, but he comes from the Kansas City area — another geographical problem spot for Democrats.

State Rep. Mike Slattery (D), the son of former Rep. Jim Slattery (D-Kan.), was mentioned as a possible candidate, but he put out a statement late Wednesday saying he would not run.