Kansas Congressional Race: Seasoned Kansas Conservative vs. Wash DC Insider

Dwayne Horner
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Posted: Mar 09, 2009 6:28 PM
The list of "top 10 races" compiled by "The Hill" last week, included several interesting races -- but none more interesting than the race shaping up to replace Jerry Moran in Kansas' the huge 1st District. 

The primary is fascinating for a few reasons.  First, it pits seasoned conservative state senator/farmer Tim Huelskamp against a highly-connected Republican Capitol Hill staffer, Rob Wasinger.   Second, whoever wins the primary is almost guaranteed to win the general election (even in the tough year of 2008, Republican Jerry Moran garnered a whopping 81 percent of the vote). 

It hits home because I have family in the 1st Kansas Congressional District and they're concerned about a Washington DC insider not representing their values like a known Kansas Conservative with a solid voting record would. Some might ignore this race because it's a "safe" seat, but at a time when we have to have solid conservatives - we must ensure a reliable conservative wins the nomination.

Honestly, from what my family says, the odds are pretty strong that State senator Tim Huelskamp will pull off the win.  Why do I think he's likely to win...both his popularity  and his strong record for his district. Having authored the Kansas Marriage Amendment, spearheaded numerous fights against judicial activism, and having sponsored and written the nation’s first Taxpayer Transparency Act, Huelskamp has proven himself to be an effective conservative legislator.   He has also been named "Top Friend of the Taxpayer from the Kansas Taxpayers Network," "Taxpayer Champion Award from the Kansas Chapter of Americans for Prosperity," and has a career A rating from the National Rifle Association.  With Huelskamp, we won't have to wonder how he will vote once he gets to Congress.

In addition, it is hard to underestimate the importance of Huelskamp's actually having lived in the district.  Transient areas may welcome newcomers (or people who move home after 15 years and immediately  run for Congress), but rural areas -- like Western Kansas -- tend to favor leaders who have worked the fields, so to speak.

Wasinger, on the other hand, having served as a staffer for Sam Brownback (and manager of his disasterous presidential campaign), benefitts from the insider connections one accrues when they spend years in places like Massachusetts and Washington, DC.  But he also suffers from a lack of personal experience (despite his Harvard education and time in Brownback's office, he has never cast a vote for anything, himself)  -- as well as from the perceived carpetbagger issue.

It is unclear whether or not Wasinger (or his family) have actually moved back to Western Kansas, but word has leaked that they were attempting to sell their $850K   home.  (While I oppose class warfare, one still wonders how the pricetag of the home will play in a district where many nice homes sell for less than $40K).

Even more unclear is whether or not Wasinger will be able to translate his DC insider connections into garnering votes in Kansas.  Already, he has struggled to raise money from Kansans.  In fact, despite having raised almost $100K last year, Wasinger failed to raise even one dime from the First District

As "Roll Call" Reported:
" ... according to campaign finance records, Wasinger did not report any itemized contributions from the mostly rural 1st district. Wasinger defended his fundraising, saying he expects to raise more in the district once he expands his campaign."
And while Huelskamp has staked out clear positions in opposition to the bailout -- and in opposition to the nomination of Kathleen Sebelius as HHS Secretary, Wasinger has remained silent. 

Interestingly, from illegal immigration  to the UAW bailout to supporting the nomination of Pro-Choice governor Kathleen Sebelius, Wasinger's old boss, Sam Brownback, has recently found himself at odds with conservatives.  It would be very interesting to see whether or not Wasinger agrees with Brownback that pro-choicer Sebelius should be running HHS.  Sadly, nobody knows where he stands.

It remains to be seen whether Kansas will be represented by a conservative state senator/farmer or a former staffer who decided to use his connections to become a Congressman (or by someone else who "sneaks" into the seat while these two beat each other up). 

One thing, though, is for sure:  Kansas' First District will be a heated contest to keep an eye on!