Midwest D-Day: Kansas Senate Tops Balloting

Posted August 2, 2010 at 6:54pm

Correction Appended

Voters are heading to the polls today in Kansas, Michigan and Missouri,
where a slew of retirements are reshaping two of the three Midwestern
Congressional delegations.

Topping the list of races worth watching is the Kansas Republican Senate
battle between Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt. The winner of today’s
balloting is all but assured of becoming the state’s junior Senator next
year.

The three states also feature a number of open-seat House races that
have become crowded intraparty battles, particularly on the Republican
side.

The following is an overview of the most significant primaries on tap
today.

Kansas


Senate Republican primary

The primary between Moran and Tiahrt to succeed Sen. Sam Brownback (R)
has become a nasty affair, and if the two men used to be friends, there is
no evidence that they like one another now.

The Congressmen have sparred over their social conservative bona fides,
taxes and spending, and illegal immigration.

The bickering came to a head in June when former White House political
strategist Karl Rove, who is supporting Tiahrt, claimed that Moran tried to
get a campaign fundraiser with a former Cabinet member in exchange for his
vote on trade promotion authority in 2001.

Polls have shown Moran ahead, and he enters today’s primary as the
favorite to win. But Tiahrt has gone out of his way to woo the state’s
social conservatives. Among his backers are former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
and former Focus on the Family head James Dobson, and in the past couple
weeks of the campaign, he has had more fundraising momentum.

Moran has been boosted by his support from groups such as the Kansas
Farm Bureau, as well as GOP Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.) and Tom Coburn
(Okla.).

By mid-July the campaign had become one of the priciest in Kansas
history. Tiahrt had raised $3.1 million and spent $2.2 million, while Moran
had raised $2.7 million and spent $4.5 million.

Five Democrats are also on the ballot in Kansas, but the state hasn’t
sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1932 and the November contest will be a
cakewalk for the GOP.

1st district Republican primary

Six Republicans are facing off in the western Kansas “Big First”
district that Moran is vacating. State Sen. Jim Barnett has raised the most
money, raking in nearly $1 million through mid-July, and he may be the
best-known candidate because he ran against then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D)
in 2006. More recently, as a practicing physician and chairman of the state
Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, he has garnered attention for
helping pass a law that banned smoking indoors across Kansas.

State Sen. Tim Huelskamp, former Brownback Chief of Staff Rob Wasinger
and realtor Tracey Mann are among the other candidates in contention for
the nomination.

Known for championing social conservative values, Huelskamp was first
elected to the state Senate in 1996. His current south-central district
lies entirely within the Congressional district’s borders. In an ad in
mid-July, Huelskamp said he was ousted from the state Senate’s Ways and
Means Committee because of his fiscal conservatism.

3rd district Republican primary

Retiring Rep. Dennis Moore, the only Democrat in the Kansas delegation,
has been a GOP target since he defeated a Republican incumbent in 1998.
This year his wife, nurse Stephene Moore, is running to replace him.

Her likely Republican opponent is state Rep. Kevin Yoder, easily the
best-funded candidate in the primary. He had raised $840,000 by mid-July
and still had $510,000 on hand. Yoder, chairman of the state House’s
Appropriations Committee, was first elected to represent parts of Leawood
and Overland Park in 2003.

Yoder’s biggest threat in the primary is from former three-term state
Rep. Patricia Lightner, who has painted herself as the true conservative in
the race. She has pointed to Yoder’s registration as a Democrat in college
and activity as a moderate early in his legislative career. Former state
Sen. Nick Jordan, the 2008 nominee, dropped out of the race in April but
chose not to endorse one of his former rivals.

This is likely to be the only competitive general election race in
Kansas.

4th district Republican primary

In the district that Tiahrt is vacating, a contentious Republican
primary has developed between businessmen Wink Hartman and Mike Pompeo and
state Sen. Jean Schodorf. Hartman and Pompeo took to the airwaves early,
firing opening salvos in May over clean campaign pledges. Pompeo questioned
Hartman’s Kansas ties, noting that he had been registered to vote in
Florida for years. Hartman accused Pompeo’s former company of shipping
Kansans’ jobs to Mexico and connected him to major lobbyists.

Schodorf has raised less money, but she earned the endorsements of
former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker (R) and the Wichita Eagle and has built
up name identification as a state Senator. She has hoped the Hartman-Pompeo
shoot-out would create an opening for her.

The two frontrunners ignored their more moderate opponent until the last
week of the campaign, when Pompeo noted her support for President Barack
Obama’s health care overhaul. Tea party flag bearer Jim Anderson has the
same hope as Schodorf but found his support at the conservative end of the
spectrum.

Michigan


1st district Republican primary

There is a crowded GOP field in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Bart
Stupak (D). Six Republicans are battling for the opportunity to oppose
Democratic state Rep. Gary McDowell in November.

Surgeon Dan Benishek and two-term state Sen. Jason Allen lead the pack.
Benishek has never run for office before but had raised $449,000 by
mid-July and still had $131,000 on hand. Allen, who also served in the
state House and is term- limited in the Senate, had raised $253,000 and had
$180,000 on hand at the same point. The state Senator endorsed former
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the 2008 presidential primary but is seen
as more moderate than Benishek, who has some tea party support.

Allen moved from Traverse City to Alanson to be inside the district’s
borders before he filed.

2nd district Republican primary

The Republican primary in this rural western Michigan district is likely
to decide who will replace nine-term Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who’s running for
governor.

Former Pittsburgh Steeler Jay Riemersma, who worked for the Family
Research Council after he retired from the National Football League, is the
money leader in the district, and a poll taken for the Grand Rapids Press
in late July showed him with a narrow lead over businessman Bill Cooper,
former state Rep. Bill Huizenga and state Sen. Wayne Kuipers.

Riemersma earned the support of former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) not
long after he announced his candidacy. Late in July, Cooper sued Riemersma
for allegedly spreading false information about him as his campaign knocked
on doors. In a debate, Cooper also asked Riemersma about ads that have been
run against Huizenga and Kuipers, and Huizenga later accused Riemersma of
coordinating the ads with an independent committee, which the Federal
Election Commission prohibits.

This open-seat race will not be competitive in November.

3rd district Republican primary

The district represented for 13 terms by former President Gerald Ford
and left open this year by retiring eight-term Rep. Vernon Ehlers is the
site of another Republican battle today. The Club for Growth and Rep. Ron
Paul (R-Texas) are among those supporting state Rep. Justin Amash, the
fundraising leader in the race. Yet he came under fire for sitting out the
last three debates of the primary.

Former Kent County Commission Chairman Steven Heacock and state Sen.
Bill Hardiman are among the other Republicans in the race. Heacock got an
endorsement from Ehlers as well as from the Grand Rapids Press and the
Detroit News.

He had raised $293,000 and had $65,000 left as of July 14. Hardiman, a
Vietnam veteran who’s also a former mayor of Kentwood, is the first
African-American Republican to serve in the state Senate since 1932. He had
just $19,000 left with several weeks left before the primary. Rep. Trent
Franks (Ariz.) and former Rep. J.C. Watts (Okla.) are among Hardiman’s
endorsers. State Rep. Kevin Green also endorsed Hardiman when he passed on
the race in April.

7th district Republican primary

Freshman Rep. Mark Schauer will try to hang on to what has traditionally
been Republican territory in November, but this is a district that has
elected a new Representative every cycle since 2004. Former Rep. Tim
Walberg, whom Schauer defeated in 2008, is fighting for the Republican
nomination again, but he’s not a shoo-in for the rematch. Also on the
ballot today are Republicans Brian Rooney, a lawyer whose brother is a
Congressman from Florida, and Marvin Carlson, a real estate developer.

In 2006, Walberg defeated then-Rep. Joe Schwarz in the primary, and
Schauer, then a state Senator, portrayed him as too conservative for the
district. Schauer answered Walberg’s support from the influential anti-tax
Club for Growth with support from unions. It’s likely he’ll make the same
arguments again this year, regardless of who wins the Republican primary.
Rooney, an Iraq War veteran, said he decided to run when Schauer supported
health care reform. Either Rooney or Walberg will be the nominee.

13th district Democratic primary

Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick barely made it out of her 2008 primary
against two well-funded opponents, earning 39 percent of the vote to the
two others’ 35 percent and 25 percent. This year, she has just one credible
opponent, state Sen. Hansen Clarke, and the problems that she dealt with in
2008 remain. She has been closely tied to her son, former Detroit Mayor
Kwame Kilpatrick, who went to jail for obstructing justice and has been
indicted for federal tax evasion.

Kilpatrick has emphasized her strength as Michigan’s only member of the
Appropriations Committee. As a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black
Caucus, she has gotten help from fellow African-American Members, including
Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who campaigned
with her on the last weekend before the primary.

Clarke is well-known in Detroit after his loss to Kilpatrick’s son in
the 2005 mayoral race. He is a longtime state legislator, first elected to
the state House in 1990 and then to the state Senate in 2002. The son of an
African-American mother and a Bangladeshi immigrant father, Clarke serves
as treasurer of the Legislative Black Caucus in Lansing. He drew criticism
for skipping the primary’s only debate a week before the primary.

Missouri


Senate Republican primary

In his quest to replace retiring Republican Sen. Kit Bond (R), Rep. Roy
Blunt is expected to win his Senate primary today. The question is how well
his top opponent, conservative state Sen. Chuck Purgason, will do.

Purgason, first elected to the state House in 1996 and the state Senate
in 2004, has portrayed himself as the fiscally conservative alternative to
Blunt and has tied Blunt to special interests in Washington, D.C.
Accordingly, he has campaigned with Joe Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the
Plumber,” and adopted the tea party label. Blunt answered with an
appearance from Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R). Seven other
Republicans will also be on the ballot.

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan is expected to cruise past two
Democratic challengers today.

This is set to be a high-profile general election campaign, and a close
Republican primary would give Carnahan ammunition in the fall. A St. Louis
Post-Dispatch/KMOV-TV poll conducted July 19-21 showed Blunt leading
Carnahan 48 percent to 42 percent. It had a margin of error of 4
points.

4th district Republican primary

Seventeen-term Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the Armed Services
Committee, is expected to get his first significant general election
opponent in decades. State Sen. Bill Stouffer and former state Rep. Vicky
Hartzler top the field of nine Republicans running.

Both contenders have agricultural roots and have emphasized their
conservatism and their ties to the district. Late in the campaign, they
turned their attention from Skelton to each other, nitpicking votes on tax
increases. Stouffer, a farmer and two-term state Senator, serves as
chairman of the state Senate’s Republican Caucus. Hartzler also farms and
may be best known as the spokeswoman for the Missouri Coalition to Protect
Marriage in 2004. Each had received nearly $500,000 by mid-July. Hartzler
still had $242,000 on hand; Stouffer had $196,000.

This is expected to be a competitive race, regardless of who wins the
primary: The fourth district supported Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) with 60
percent of the vote in 2008 and supported President George W. Bush with 64
percent of the vote in 2004.

7th district Republican primary

Blunt is leaving a solidly Republican district to run for Senate. Eight
Republicans are competing in the southwestern district that includes
Branson and Springfield. Top contenders are state Sens. Jack Goodman and
Gary Nodler and auctioneer and former radio personality Billy Long.

Long, whose campaign biography brags he has been voted “best auctioneer
in the Ozarks for seven years in a row,” is playing up his credentials as
an outsider who runs a small business and grew up in the district. He has
raised significantly more than his opponents.

Goodman, a lawyer who served in the state House before he was elected to
the state Senate in 2005, kicked off his campaign in February 2009 and
portrayed himself as a Blunt ally. Nodler has worked for several of
Missouri’s Republican Members of Congress, including Blunt, and was elected
to the state Senate in 2002. Earlier he lost the Republican nomination to
Blunt when Blunt was first elected in 1996.

Correction: Aug. 3, 2010

The article misstated how and when Kansas state Sen. Tim Huelskamp got
into office. He was elected to his Senate seat in 1996. The article also
misspelled Kansas 4th district candidate Wink Hartman’s name.