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Politics 2010: Kansans ready to stay true to red roots

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International   |   Aug. 1, 2010 at 5:59 AM   |   Comments

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Going into Tuesday's primary, Kansas is solidly in the red column and candidates are trying to outdo each other in establishing their conservative credentials.

A recent Gallup poll said more states were politically competitive this year than in 2009 as fewer Americans nationwide identified with the Democratic party. Kansas was among the top 10 Republican states.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who hopes to trade his office in Washington for a desk in Topeka, already voted in Tuesday's party primary.

Surprisingly, he said he voted for himself, the Lawrence Journal-World and News reported. He declined to who else he supported on his absentee ballot.

The likely Democratic ticket has been painting Brownback as a Washington insider and his running mate, state Sen. Jeff Colyer, as representing the right-wing of the party.

Tom Holland and running mate Kelly Kultala, both state senators, say they represent Democrats and moderate Republicans who want to work together to solve problems, the Lawrence Journal-World and News recently reported.

The seasoned Democratic campaigners, running unopposed, face a formidable challenge against Brownback, who enjoys better name recognition, a sizable advantage in voters' party registration, and much more money.

The Brownback-Colyer ticket is swamping Republican challenger Joan Heffington and her running mate Mark Holick, 73 percent to 19 percent, a recent Survey USA poll of 787 likely GOP primary voters indicated.

Heffington said she believes the CIA conducted experiments on Kansas for decades, and accused Brownback of bribing media to ignore her candidacy, the Kansas City (Mo.) Star recently reported. If elected, Heffington said she will put every piece of legislation to a public poll and a Biblical test before deciding whether to sign or veto it.

Despite her non-mainstream campaign platform, Heffington said she'll give Brownback a run for his money.

"(Washington) has forgotten about us," she said. "They don't care about the people anymore."

Two other candidates for governor -- Reform Party candidate Ken Cannon and Libertarian Andrew Gray -- also will be on the general election ballot in November.

Political observers note the GOP primary race to succeed Brownback has gotten nastier between two of the state's congressional representatives, Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt, as each tried to establish more conservative bona fides as the weeks counted down to Tuesday.

The distinction is critical because there's a "relatively small difference between these two on most substantive roll call issues that have come before the House" political analyst Michael Barone told Fox News recently.

To press his point, Moran has dragged up Tiahrt's nearly decade-old support of the so-called Dream Act proposal that would have provided college tuition for children of illegal immigrants, Barone said.

Moran, who is enjoying a double digit lead over Tiahrt in most polls, says he doesn't "have to out-conservative anybody."

Maybe, but he doesn't have the backing of current conservative darling Sarah Palin, either, the Kansas City Star reported. In June, the 2008 vice presidential candidate threw her support to Tiahrt, calling him a "protector of our Constitution."

And Moran's former campaign manager publicly endorsed Tiahrt, saying Moran is unsure of his beliefs and not "instinctively conservative." A spokesman for Moran said the ex-campaign manager was disgruntled while a Tiahrt spokeswoman called the decision to go public "courageous and principled."

Also running in the GOP Senate primary are Tom Little and Bob Londerholm.

Five Democrats -- Patrick Wiesner, Charles Schollenberger, Lisa Johnston, David Haley and Robert Conroy -- are seeking their party's nomination, but none is as well-financed or well-known as Tiahrt or Moran, and Kansas hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932.

Moran is giving up his 1st Congressional District seat and there are plenty of candidates who want to replace him. USElection.com listed Republican candidates as state Sen. Jim Barnett, Sue Boldra, Marck Cobb, state Sen. Tim Huelskamp, Tracey Mann and Rob Wasinger, Brownback's former chief of staff.

Running unopposed on the Democratic ticket is Alan Jilka, a former mayor and council member for Salina.

Challenging Republican incumbent Lynn Jenkins in the 2nd Congressional District is state Sen. Dennis Pyle, while Cheryl Hudgspeth, Thomas Koch and Sean Tevis are vying for the Democratic nod, USElection indicated.

The field also is crowded in the 3rd Congressional District where Democrat Dennis Moore is retiring.

Hoping to keep the district in the family is Moore's wife, Stephene Moore, who faces a challenge for the Democratic nomination from Thomas Scherer.

On the Republican ticket are Daniel Gilyeat, Dave King, Garry Klotz, former state Rep. Patricia Lightner, Craig McPherson, John Rysavy, Jean An Uvodich and state Rep. Kevin Yoder.

Since Tiarht resigned his 4th Congressional District seat to run for Brownback's Senate seat, five Republicans are vying to replace him -- Jim Anderson, Wink Hartman, Mike Pompeo, Paij Rutschman and state Sen. Jean Schodorf.

State Rep. Raj Goyle and Robert Tillman are the Democratic nominees.

© 2010 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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