Kansas Updates: Primary Challengers and a Poll

Former Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R), originally elected in 1994 and representing his Wichita-anchored seat until running unsuccessfully for the Republican senatorial nomination in 2010, is hinting that he may begin a comeback attempt for his former 4th District seat. Doing so would mean launching a Republican primary challenge to sophomore Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS-4).

The former congressman was quoted as saying “… how can we hold Republican incumbent elected officials accountable if they don’t have a primary?” When asked by reporters if he believed he was more conservative than Rep. Pompeo, he simply replied, “yes.”

Proving such may be a difficult task, however. According to the recently released National Journal report, the Kansas members together rank as the most conservative delegation in Congress. According to the DW-Nominate scale of ranking congressional votes, Pompeo ranks as the 63rd most conservative House member, while Tiahrt left the body as number 145. In his first congressional session, (1995-96), then-Rep. Tiahrt ranked 31st, thus showing a voting pattern change in his 16-year House career.

Prior to this latest speculation, no one in either party was coming forward to oppose Rep. Pompeo. Tiahrt entering the race would certainly make this a top tier primary challenge contest.

The Kansas primary is not until Aug. 5. The candidate filing deadline is June 2, so Tiahrt has plenty of time to make a final decision.


Three-term Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka), vice chair of the House Republican Conference, has already drawn credible primary opposition. Freshman state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald (R-Leavenworth) says he is running against Jenkins to send a message to the national Republican leadership.

“I won’t say anything bad about Lynn Jenkins whatsoever, but if you like the current leadership, vote for her. If you are unhappy with the current leadership, I think you deserve an alternative,” Sen. Fitzgerald was quoted as saying.

It is obvious the challenger’s campaign strategy will be national in scope, asking the Republican primary voters to send a message about replacing the Washington leadership through voting for Fitzgerald.

The eastern Kansas legislator was elected to the state Senate last November, unseating incumbent Democrat Kelly Kultala who, ironically, is also running for Congress (3rd District, against Rep. Kevin Yoder (R)). He lost two previous campaigns in 2004 and 2008. In his victorious race he spent just over $72,000, and the aggregate total of his fundraising for his three campaigns is just under $251,000. He will need considerably more to defeat Rep. Jenkins, who began the fourth quarter fundraising period with more than $1.4 million in her campaign account.

It is unlikely that Fitzgerald will unseat the congresswoman, but this campaign may have national implications should his leadership replacement strategy strike a chord with the GOP base voter.

First Roberts Poll

Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, running hard for a fourth term against Republican primary opponent Milton Wolf, released an internal campaign survey that stakes him to a major advantage.

The Tarrance Group conducted a survey for the Roberts campaign during the January 13-15 period of 501 Kansas Republican primary voters. The results find the senator leading Wolf by a whopping 69-15 percent count.

Roberts records a 73 percent favorable job approval rating and, interestingly, does even better among self-identified Tea Party supporters than before the at-large Republican electorate. Seventy-four percent of the latter group supports the senator versus the 69 percent of the entire GOP respondent pool. Among poll participants who know both candidates, Sen. Roberts commands a 58-32 percent advantage.

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