Washington Fewer than four months have passed since the last general election, but Kansans in Congress already have $1.5 million socked away for major races in 2002 even though some remain undecided about which offices they will seek.
Along with all four U.S. House seats, on the ballot two years hence will be U.S. senator, an office occupied by Republican incumbent Pat Roberts, who says he intends to seek a second six-year term. Voters also will choose a new governor, a race with a wide-open field of candidates because Republican Bill Graves is finishing his second and final term.
Recent Federal Election Commission reports show that whether they are seeking re-election or higher office, the congressmen and two senators clearly believe in the political necessity of money, with its ability to broadcast a candidate's message over the airwaves, through the mail and by word of mouth.
Aside from Roberts, the House members Republicans Jerry Moran, Jim Ryun and Todd Tiahrt and Democrat Dennis Moore have not committed to run for re-election. Moran and Tiahrt have been mentioned as possible contenders for governor.
The Republicans all have healthy campaign war chests, according to Dec. 31 FEC reports. Moran, who had no Democratic challenger for his third congressional race, leads the pack with $465,616 cash on hand. Close behind is GOP Sen. Sam Brownback, whose term ends in 2004 and whose name Kansas conservatives circulated recently as a gubernatorial prospect with $383,549.
Tiahrt reported surprising cash reserves of $225,957, despite a Democratic challenger who spent half a million dollars against him last year, and Ryun reported $223,595 on hand. Roberts, an eight-term congressman who raised nearly $2.3 million in his 1996 Senate race against former Democratic state Treasurer Sally Thompson, had $171,993 on hand. A challenger to his bid for a second term has yet to emerge.
Moore, who waged one of the toughest congressional campaigns in the nation, was left with $48,840 after raising and spending nearly $1.8 million to win his second term.
It's important to remember that Kansas law prevents these federal campaign funds from being spent on state races, although some of the money might find its way to a state party to benefit an array of candidates.
Still, the campaign cash can ward off potential challengers and sends a strong signal, in general, about a candidate's fund-raising prowess.
"Jerry Moran and Sen. Brownback in particular are two people who, if they made the decision to run for governor, would be able to raise incredible amounts of money in a short period of time," said state GOP Chairman Mark Parkinson who himself has been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor.
And Tiahrt, while his schedule of Kansas appearances has not ranged nearly as far from his Wichita-area district as Moran's and Brownback's, has developed a habit of contributing to local candidates around Kansas through a state-based fund-raising operation he created. Brownback has a similar Kansas-based political action committee.
Of Republicans, thus far, only former Junction City Mayor Lloyd Parker has announced his candidacy for governor, while other possibilities include Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer, State Treasurer Tim Shallenburger and Kansas House Speaker Kent Glasscock. Democrats, meanwhile, are rallying around Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius for the job.