Archive for Monday, November 20, 1995

POTENTIAL CANDIDATES READY TO DIVE IN FRAY

November 20, 1995

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A long list of potential candidates awaits the word from Kansas' most-popular politician that she is retiring.

The Kansas political landscape is likely to take on a different, though unknown, look with Sen. Nancy Kassebaum's anticipated announcement of retirement.

Kassebaum, R-Kan., is scheduled to end months of rumor-mongering about her political future at the Capitol building where her father, Alf M. Landon, launched an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1936.

"I'm tired of the speculation," Kassebaum said in an interview.

The die will be cast at 10 a.m. during a news conference in the old Supreme Court chambers in the Statehouse. Though she has not said it publicly, Kassebaum has hinted for months that she will not seek re-election in 1996.

No one doubts that if Kassebaum wanted a fourth term, it would be hers for the taking. A poll conducted for the Journal-World in June showed 65 percent of Kansas voters would cast ballots to re-elect her next year.

"She is overwhelmingly adored by Democrats and Republicans," said Russell Getter, associate professor of political science at Kansas University. "In my judgment, there is simply no one in the state in either party who could think about challenging her for that office."

Kassebaum, first elected in 1978, was returned by Kansans to the Senate in 1984 -- winning 76 percent of the vote. She once promised to serve only two terms, but Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas and other Republicans persuaded a reluctant Kassebaum to run for a third six-year term in 1990.

Kassebaum, a 1956 graduate of KU, has been urged by supporters in the Republican and Democratic parties to seek another term.

"If she doesn't run, it could open the party up ... for an ultraconservative to get the nomination and go on and win the election," Getter said.

The end to Kassebaum's career in the Senate would open the door in 1996 to a long line of potential candidates.

Sen. Eric Yost, R-Wichita, already declared his intention to run for the nomination if Kassebaum stepped aside.

Other possibilities: Wichita real estate executive Nestor Weigand; state Sen. Dick Bond, R-Overland Park; U.S. Rep. Sam Brownback, R-Topeka; U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Wichita; and State Treasurer Sally Thompson, a Democrat.

Absent from the mix will be U.S. Rep. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who announced last week he wouldn't be a contender to replace Kassebaum if she retired. He will run for a ninth House term representing western Kansas.

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