KS-Sen: Introducing Jim Slattery
I have dedicated considerable text to outlining why I think Kansas has the potential to be the sleeper competitive Senate race of the 2008 cycle. Pat Roberts is vulnerable. His approvals hover right around the 50% mark. He carries scandal and failure with him from his tenure as Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Meanwhile, the KS-GOP is in bad shape, as shown by its battles with bankruptcy, its legal troubles, the number of high profile Kansas Republicans changing Party affiliation to Democrat (including the current Lieutenant Governor and state Attorney General), and its all-too-creepy Unity Pledge unveiled as a result of those leaving the KS-GOP.
Further, Kansas is growing more Democratic-friendly, as highlighted by Governor Kathleen Sebelius' strong re-election and ensuing high approvals, as well as Nancy Boyda re-capturing Kansas' 2nd Congressional district seat for the Dems.
Before Boyda's 2006 victory, the previous twelve years had seen a Republican hold that seat, between Jim Ryun and Sam Brownback. But before that, a Democrat, Jim Slattery, held that seat for twelve years. While the 2nd district is and was considered a "relatively conservative" district, Slattery handily won re-election term after term, winning his first term by over 11% and winning re-election by no less than 15% in each subsequent re-election bid. His political career came to a hiatus in 1994 when, instead of running for re-election to the House, he ran for Governor against Kansas' popular Secretary of State Bill Graves and lost (of course, we all know what kind of year 1994 was for Democrats).
It recently became public that Slattery is considering a 2008 Senate bid against Republican Bush rubber-stamp Pat Roberts. Indeed this is good news, as anyone who won six Congressional elections in Kansas would surely bring solid competition to the Senate race. So, who is Jim Slattery? Here is some background. (Please forgive citations without links - much of this pre-dates the Internet.)
Slattery learned about struggle and hard work at an early age:
When Jim Slattery was three years old, the family farmhouse burned to the ground. The family escaped but they lost everything. According to a later profile, "Suddenly homeless, already poor, the family struggled back from ruin. Those years of hard climbing, buttressed by the demands of working a farm, helped mold Slattery into a driven young man: intense, hard-working and exceedingly competitive." [Kansas City Star, 10/22/94]Like so many young people at the time, Slattery was drawn into politics by Bobby Kennedy:
As a student, Slattery "volunteered as a coordinator for Bobby Kennedy's visit to Kansas in 1968 after Kennedy announced his candidacy for president. Slattery followed him from stop to stop, awestruck by the crowds that seemed to be packed to the rafters in Ahearn Field House in Manhattan and Allen Field House in Lawrence. On the day an assassin struck Kennedy down, Slattery was home at the farm, packing up and preparing to go to California to work on the campaign." [Kansas City Star, 10/22/94]Slattery graduated from law school in 1974, served as an officer in the Army Reserve and served for over half-a-decade in the Kansas state Legislature, and started his own successful real estate company. He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982. Once in Congress, Slattery developed a reputation as a real fiscal conservative and deficit hawk (all you deficit-spending, national debt-bloating Republicans should take note):
"Slattery has stood out in Washington as a slasher of federal spending and the troublesome deficit." [Kansas City Star's 1994 endorsement of Slattery, 10/29/94]Slattery's Wikipedia page adds:
Slattery served on the Energy & Commerce, Veterans' Affairs, Budget, and Banking Committees. He was a central player on many key issues, including environmental protection, health care, telecommunications, and budget cutting efforts. He worked to limit production of the B-2 bomber, and was the chief sponsor of the successful amendment to terminate spending on the Superconducting Super Collider in 1993.While Slattery enhanced his cred as a fiscal conservative, he also demonstrated that he was progressive on environmental issues:
"Slattery was part of an informal caucus of moderate-to-conservative Democrats, the so-called 'group of nine,' who banded together to try to break a six-year deadlock on reauthorizing the Clean Air Act. Their work formed the basis of many of the clean air revisions finally enacted in the 101st Congress." [Congressional Quarterly's Politics in America, 1992; Associated Press, 3/19/88]Slattery's tirelessness on behalf of his constituents gained plaudits from the media:
In Congress, Slattery "frequently dived into arcane matters such as trade and banking regulation to address problems for his constituents" and keep jobs in Kansas. [Kansas City Star, 9/11/94]Consider his margins of victory from re-election bid to re-election bid (noting also how well Republicans did both before and after his tenure):
|1980||Sam Keys 46.1%||Jim Jeffries 53.9%|
|1982||Jim Slattery 55.6%||Morris Kay 44.4%|
|1984||Jim Slattery 60.0%||Jim Van Slyke 39.1%|
|1986||Page missing from||Congressional Record|
|1988||Jim Slattery 73.3%||Phil Meinhardt 26.7%|
|1990||Jim Slattery 62.8%||Scott Morgan 37.2%|
|1992||Jim Slattery 56.2%||Jim Van Slyke 40.8%|
|1994||John Carlin 34.4%||Sam Brownback 65.6%|
Slattery demonstrated an ability to win in traditionally Republican areas. He could certainly give Pat Roberts and Roberts' poor record a run for their money. Critics would be quick to point out that after his gubernatorial run he moved to Virginia to work at a Washington D.C. law firm. There are numerous examples on both sides of the aisle of people returning to their home state from another address, so it shouldn't be much of an issue, especially given Slattery's obviously deep roots in Kansas. Heck, Elizabeth Dole notoriously used her mother's address in North Carolina in her 2002 bid, and it's questionable if Dole currently officially resides in North Carolina!
Imagine Slattery touring around Kansas with Governor Sebelius and her high approval rating, while Roberts drags around Kansas with special guest George W. Bush, who, even in Kansas, only sees an approve-disapprove of 39-60. Meanwhile, Roberts' Presidential Support Score is just under 90%. While only four in ten Kansans approve of the job Bush is doing, Roberts votes the way Bush wants him to nine out of ten times! I would love to see that race, and see Roberts forced to defend that record. I hope Congressman Jim Slattery gives it serious thought and provides Democrats with an opportunity to unseat yet another Bush rubber stamp.