Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

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):

1980Sam Keys 46.1%Jim Jeffries 53.9%
1982Jim Slattery 55.6%Morris Kay 44.4%
1984Jim Slattery 60.0%Jim Van Slyke 39.1%
1986Page missing fromCongressional Record
1988Jim Slattery 73.3%Phil Meinhardt 26.7%
1990Jim Slattery 62.8%Scott Morgan 37.2%
1992Jim Slattery 56.2%Jim Van Slyke 40.8%
1994John 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.


Blogger katiebird said...

Oh, I'd LOVE it if Slattery ran for Senate!

8:41 PM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger Jason said...

i think a slattery run would be an excellent thing for the Democratic party in Kansas...I think Roberts will be hard to beat, of course, but I think Slattery is one of the best possible candidates

8:57 PM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger VA Blogger said...

I'm going to give the Democratic Party the same advice you give the Republican Party in Massachusetts: Invest all of your money into winning this seat. With millions and millions of dollars, you can do it! You can defeat an incumbent with a Virginian in Kansas who lost an open seat election by 20+ points!

9:49 PM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger JeremiahTheMessiah said...

Well VA blogger, with Virginia looking to be the free and easy pickup (Note Mark Warner can and Will self fund his race) We just might have the money leftover to put a couple million into Kansas.

I mean, come on. Gordon Smith's approval numbers... Colemans... Those are looking to be cakewalks. Don't worry, I know you'll still refuse to admit it. You're guessing 1-3 senate seat pickup... I'm guessing 5-7.

10:02 PM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger Matthew said...

VA Blogger,

It would be nice to spend money on this race, but first we need to spend money on Virginia to challenge Tom "Pat Robertson" Davis... who votes with the Christian Coalation 70% of the time... I hope the DNC tries to define him during the primary... sort of a frontal attack... because then he will be an extremely weakened general election candidate... and then we go after Collins, Sununu, Coleman, Smith... which would be five... the propspests are looking really, really good.

So VA Blogger, Kansas is farther down the list... but if we can get a landslide going on the incompentence of the Administation, maybe we can spend some leftovers as Jerry says.

11:39 PM, September 12, 2007  
Blogger jak said...

va blogger, you don't read so good. Jim Slattery was born in Kansas, raised in Kansas, attended school in Kansas, obtained his law degree from a Kansas university, practiced law in Kansas, represented Kansas in the state legislature and Congress for a combined 18 years, and spent all but the last few years in Kansas. You can keep repeating your lies over and over again, but nobody with an ounce of integrity would call Jim Slattery a "Virginian."

So what's your point? Here are some real carpetbaggers: Norm Coleman (R-MN), born and raised in New York. George Allen (R-VA), born and raised in California. Linda Lingle (R-HI), also born and raised in California. George W. Bush (R-TX), born and raised in that countrified state of Connnecticut. Are public servants of foreign birth, like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mel Martinez, to be barred from pursuing political office altogether?

When the best you can do is lie about a candidate's place of origin, then hold up the lie as supposed proof of their electoral inviability (or, more likely, as a pathetic attempt to foment prejudice in the minds of voters), well, your lectures on credibility, here and on SSP, ring rather hollow.

1:04 AM, September 13, 2007  
Blogger Paul said...

I was afraid he'd be ancient, but he's only 58 or so. That's not too bad. That's six years older than Mark Warner, eight years younger than Harry Mitchell, two years older than Mark Udall, and one year younger than Jeanne Shaheen (I am the god of wikipedia). The fact that it's been 13 years since he held office is interesting, but I'm pretty sure there's precedent for that.

Even in the worst case scenario, in which he's another Ken Lucas, he'll cost the GOP money. And I certainly agree that he could, with a strong campaign, beat Pat Roberts... although that would be a much easier task in a midterm election than in a presidential. Anyway, I'll bet he's not even the last name we hear in the mix before this is all over.

I'm glad to hear serious people are taking a serious look at this race. Like you, I was afraid it wouldn't happen. Now it looks like it might.

-- texas dem

6:53 PM, September 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat Roberts has a worse non-kansas resume then Slattery. Roberts left Dodge City as a teenager and the state of Kansas when he was 22. He worked as a congressional aid in DC for decades. He set up an address in a Dodge City strip mall to run for congress. Of course he has not been a bad Kansas, Bob Dole like republican. Moderate by republican standards, nothing like the right wing crack pot Sam Brownback is.

10:59 PM, September 13, 2007  
Blogger Ryan said...

Let's not debate who is more from Kansas, rather who has dedicated more of their lives to public service for Kansans. Senator Roberts has been in Washington for some time- always working for a Kansas Senator, Representative, or representing the state himself. He took a brief hiatus to teach school and get his master's degree, as well as serve in the United States Marine Corps. His outstanding record of public service throughout the state is not easily forgotten by Kansans. Mr. Slattery, on the other hand, has spent the last 13 years making millions off of telecommunications deals. Of course, this might be important to you out-of-stater's who live and breathe by your blackberries, but I have a feeling most Kansans won't forget the great things Senator Roberts has done for our state.

1:55 PM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger tim said...

I am sure Slattery feels very good right now, allowing the DNC to stroke his ego with thoughts of running against Roberts. I think that when Slattery cashed out to make his money on K Street, he left the people of Kansas behind. Kansas has forgotten about him, much like he has forgotton Kansas

2:05 PM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger Emily said...

Slattery as Roberts opponent would give Roberts an easy in for reelection. Dems accuse Roberts of being too 'DC', well there's no one more 'DC' than Slattery. He would be completely out of touch with Kansans. Roberts is untouchable

2:40 PM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger Wendi said...

Once someone has been out of politics as long as Slattery has, it just makes me doubt whether they really want this, or whether they are re-paying a favor of some sort. I mean, if I had given up a congressional salary to make millions as a lobbyist, I don't think I'd go back!

The Dems have a habit of bringing back "has beens". See Mondale and Lautenburg. I dunno, not trashing, but just saying that if they were serious, they'd already have a candidate by now. If they were serious, it'd be Sebelius, not Slattery, who is "thinking" about running. At least that race would be interesting.

One other comment: I think some of your early points aren't even worth mentioning if you're trying to persuade me to vote Slattery. If I really believed all the conspiracy crap about Bush, I'm probably not going to be voting for Roberts, either.

Of course I don't believe everything I read about people hating Bush or Roberts, or that Bush caused 9/11, or Bush is listening to my phone calls, etc. Frankly, I'm getting very tired of that way of thinking, and I just wish this election could be about issues important to Kansans like me.

I'm undecided at the moment, but the way the Dems handle certain things makes me think that they care about themselves and getting elected, not about Kansas.

You may say Roberts is beholden to Bush, but Bush leaves office the same day the person elected to this seat starts his term. So the question isn't "Do I want someone who is beholden to Bush" but rather, "Do I want someone who is beholden to"

3:44 PM, September 14, 2007  
Blogger jak said...

Wow, "ryan," "tim," "emily," and "wendi" - quite an impressive display of astroturfing, concern trolling, and sock puppetry - all within a two-hour span no less! Now should we trace your IP address back to Roberts campaign headquarters?

8:50 PM, September 24, 2007  
Blogger Mike said...

Slattery's chances at winning this race are decent with a well run, highly funded campaign.

RYAN, Roberts acts of service are anything but. As the head of the senate intelligence committee during the lead up to the war, it was his duty to ask the tough questions, which he clearly did not. Thanks to his rubber stamping "public service" thousands of americans have died to remove WMDs from a country without them. Costing american lives for a fool's errand...what service!

As for your cheap shot on, then, Wiley Rein and Fielding's success...did any republicans poke fun at your current White House legal counsel? Who would that be again...oh Fred Fielding (name partner of said law firm).

By the way, when did making money in a capitalism based country become a bad thing? It shows he is good at his job...unlike "no-comment" Roberts.

4:15 PM, September 28, 2007  

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