Phil Meinhardt would like to call in a political chip for the initiative he showed in challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Slattery in last year's election, but so far his efforts as a Republican candidate have gone unrewarded.
Although Meinhardt lost decisively in his attempt to unseat Slattery, a four-term incumbent, in the 2nd District congressional race, Meinhardt says he had hoped his candidacy would have helped him land a government job.
Since the Nov. 1988 elections, Meinhardt has been in the Washington, D.C., area, trying to get a political appointment with the federal government.
On Friday, his 55th birthday, Meinhard said his government job search had yielded no results.
"I'm not employed," Meinhard said from his Alexandria, Va., home where he and his wife, Elizabeth moved in January. "I'm trying to get a political appointment with the Bush administration. It's going very, very slow. It's really frustrating. It's been almost a year now."
MEINHARDT said that both U.S. senators from Kansas, Nancy Kassebaum and Bob Dole, as well as U.S. Rep. Pat Roberts of Kansas' 1st District, had supported his job search with letters of recommendation to various agencies.
Besides the Department of Defense, where Meinhardt said he is seeking a job in arms control negotiations, Meinhardt has put in applications with the departments of Agriculture, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development.
He has also put out some feelers in the private sector but said he has not yet given up on a government job.
"I feel qualified in a lot of job areas but, unfortunately, unless you know somebody . . . ," he said.
AT LEAST two of the other Republicans who have attempted to unseat Slattery have landed jobs in government after their political defeat.
Morris Kay, for instance, lost to Slattery in 1982 and is now regional administrator of the Enviromental Protection Agency's Region 7 in Kansas City, Kan. And Jim Van Slyke, whom Slattery beat in 1984, is now working in the Kansas Department of Commerce in Topeka.
Meinhardt, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who listed his residence during his 1988 campaign as Paxico, said he originally planned to run again for the 2nd District congressional seat, saying in the first race he was trying to build name recognition. But Meinhardt said he has learned not to take on an incumbent congressman.
In the 1988 election, Slattery garnered 73 percent of the vote, to 27 percent for Meinhardt.
"Attempting to unseat an incumbent is like searching for the Holy Grail," he said. For him to run again, Meinhardt said, "It will have to be an empty seat."
CATHY WHITAKER, executive director of the Republic Party headquarters in Topeka, said she thinks Meinhardt "is very intelligent."
But she said in running against Slattery, Meinhardt might not have know "what he was getting himself into. This was his first political campaign, and it's tough when you're first campaign is for Congress."
Whitaker said it is always difficult to find candidates to run against an incumbent.
"When 98 percent of incumbents are re-elected, trying to find a candidate anywhere is hard," she said. "And Slattery answers his constituents' mail. He's got a lot of fans."
Meinhardt, who moved back to Kansas from California to run against Slattery and had to defend his Kansas residency during the race, said he spent almost $30,000 of his own money in the campaign. Meinhardt said that spending so much "may have been a mistake" and added that his present lack of funds prevents him from even considering a political race.
"I couldn't afford to move back to Kansas and spend another $30,000," he said. "I've got to have a job first."
MEINHARDT did add, however, that he noticed "with interest" that 5th District U.S. Rep. Bob Whittaker has announced that he will not run again.
"At the moment, I couldn't afford to run again, but I don't rule it out totally," he said.
Meinhardt said because of both technical and political experience, he thought he would be able to land a job with the Department of Defense. But he said the Bush administration has been very slow in filling political appointment positions.
"I have a very broad background with an engineering degree from the Air Force and an MBA in business from UCLA," he said.
"I expected something to happen by mid-July," he added. "That was my worst-case scenerio. Now it's drug on into November."