Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

Keeping a close eye on developments in the 2008 U.S. Senate races

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Democrats in Kansas

  • Kansas: Kansas hasn't elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1932. So why could one expect that streak to end in 2008? In a nutshell, Pat Roberts, who is running for his third term in the Senate, is weak. His latest approval clocks in at 52%, just over the 50% danger line that he has flirted with in the recent past. And some of that 52% approval is soft, as Roberts earns the approval of 25% of black voters, 38% of Democratic voters, 34% of liberal voters, 42% of pro-choice voters, and 37% of labor union voters, all traditional Democratic constituencies that would likely opt for a viable Democratic alternative to Roberts. Additionally, it doesn't help Roberts that his Party's standard bearer, George W. Bush, currently enjoys a whopping 60% disapproval rate in Kansas.

    Further, Kansas appears more comfortable than in recent years voting Democratic, as highlighted by Nancy Boyda's unexpected 2006 Congressional victory over incumbent Jim Ryun. Also, Roberts turned 71 two months ago meaning that he's no spring chicken, even if 71 might only be middle-aged by current Senate standards.

    Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it doesn't help Roberts' credibility that he was the Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during the implementation of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program and was asleep at the wheel or further enabled Bush on so very many other issues including Iraq mismanagement, intelligence leaks, and torture. Empowering Veterans also highlights Roberts' terrible record on veterans and working families.

    So who do the Democrats have to challenge Pat Roberts?

    Governor Kathleen Sebelius: Governor Sebelius is, of course, the dream candidate, primarily because of her very impressive approval rating. However, she has shown little interest in a Senate bid. Who knows if she is waiting because she wants to play the 2008 Veepstakes or if she simply does not want to run for Senate, at least not in 2008.

    Congressman Dennis Moore: Five-term Congressman Moore is expected to run for re-election to the House.

    Congresswoman Nancy Boyda: First-term Congresswoman Boyda is also expected to run for re-election to the House.

    Lieutenant Governor Mark Parkinson: First-term Lt. Gov. Parkinson is the first of four Republicans-turned-Democrat (RtD) on this list. Parkinson has an interesting resume as a former state legislator and a former Kansas Republican Party Chairman before switching Parties to run as Governor Sebelius' running mate. It would make a statement that the former Chair of the KS-GOP is challenging Roberts.

    State Attorney General Paul Morrison: Though Attorney General Morrison won his 2006 bid by a resounding 58-42 result, I would find it unlikely that he would opt for a Senate bid amid his first term as AG. He is also the second of four RtD's on this list.

    Former Kansas House Majority Leader Joe Hoagland: The third of four RtD's on this list, Hoagland was the Republican Leader in the Kansas state House of Representatives. He considered a 2004 Senate primary challenge to Sam Brownback (I suppose shortly before leaving the Republican Party). I've heard that he departed the GOP over discontent with the Iraq War, though I'm still researching his rationale for switching to the Democratic Party.

    State Secretary of Revenue Joan Wagnon: Secretary Wagnon has one of the fullest career paths of anyone on this list. A former teacher, Wagnon was Executive Director of the Topeka YWCA from 1977 to 1993. Overlapping, from 1983 to 1994, she served as a state legislator from Topeka. She served a term as Mayor of Topeka from 1997 to 2001 before a stint as President of Central National Bank prior to serving as Governor Sebelius' Secretary of Revenue. If she was interested, her experience could make her a formidable candidate.

    Former Lieutenant Governor John Moore: Like Wagnon, Moore, the fourth RtD on the list, has a very full resume. He spent two decades as an executive at the Cessna Aircraft Company before leaving to run with Sebelius on the 2002 gubernatorial ticket, switching from Republican to Democrat in the process. Other roles in which Moore has served include state Secretary of Commerce, Chairman of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and numerous other corporate and philanthropic leadership roles.

    Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman: Secretary Glickman spent 18 years as a Congressman from Kansas prior to his service in President Clinton's Cabinet. In his final term in Congress, Glickman chaired the House Intelligence Committee, which could offer a nice comparison to Roberts' failures in this area. Following his time in the Cabinet, Glickman ran Harvard University's Institute of Politics for a few years before taking over as President of the Motion Picture Association of America.

    Political activist and military veteran Steve Boyda: The loudest rumors of an '08 Senate bid surround Steve Boyda, husband and campaign manager to Congresswoman Nancy Boyda. Nancy's Wikipedia biography mentions that Steve is a Marine Corps veteran and that "several domain names that could be used for a Senate campaign have already been reserved."

    2004 Senate candidate Joan Ruff: Ruff ran for Senate in 2004 to challenge Brownback and generated significant excitement for her candidacy only to inexplicably withdraw from the race before the primary. Without knowing the reason for her withdrawal or what she's up to nowadays, I can only offer her name as someone who has demonstrated a competent ability to assemble a strong Senate campaign despite not following through to the end.

    1996 Senate candidate and businesswoman Jill Docking: Businesswoman and daughter-in-law of former Kansas Governor Robert Docking, she was the Democratic nominee against Sam Brownback in his first Senate run in 1996, to replace Bob Dole. I include her because she is one of three Democratic names (along with Hoagland and Steve Boyda) to be listed on the 2008 Race Tracker Wiki, though I can find no confirmation of rumors of her interest.

    Rumors being what they are, I wouldn't be surprised to hear more rumblings about Steve Boyda and Joe Hoagland. Kansas Democrats might also be doing themselves a favor by reaching out to Joan Wagnon and John Moore to see if either are interested. (It is another bad sign for Roberts that there are now a number of high profile Republicans-turned-Democrat in Kansas.) With several viable Democratic options and Roberts' relatively low approval and lousy record, Kansas could be the sleeper Senate race of the 2008 cycle.


    Blogger Nitpicker said...

    Glickman won't do it. He's happy as a clam in his new job.

    7:13 PM, June 13, 2007  
    Blogger Joseph said...

    Sebelius is probably playing the Veep-stakes. However, with he second temr beign up in 2010 and Brownback already saying there will be no third term for him, I'd be willing to be she goes for the open seat in 2010.

    It's what I'd do . . .

    7:51 PM, June 13, 2007  
    Blogger lorax said...

    Kansas would be a cheap state in which to compete. For just a fraction of the resources that would be necessary to make a state like, say, Texas competitive, Kansas could become interesting.

    8:10 PM, June 13, 2007  
    Blogger KansasJim said...

    You conveniently overlook the fact that the approval rating for congress is the worst it's been in ten years. It has plummeted since the democrats took over. Roberts seat is safe. It's interesting how Bill Clinton's own words leading up to the war, concerning the danger posed by Iraq, are ignored when trying to pin the faulty intelligence shtick on someone like Roberts.
    By all means though, keep up the wishful thinking.

    11:06 AM, June 14, 2007  
    Blogger Sean said...

    I'd rather see Sebelius run for Brownback's seat in 2010. Pat Roberts is popular in Kansas, no matter what the numbers say. Challenging him would be a bit like challenging Jerry Moran, who's just too well liked.

    4:26 PM, July 17, 2007  

    Post a Comment

    << Home