Archive for Thursday, August 5, 2004

Patching up the party

After an extremely tight primary race, will Republicans be able to unite behind their nominee in the 3rd Congressional District?

August 5, 2004

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Political analysts will be studying the outcome of numerous election contests this week, trying to determine what may have caused a strong showing by certain candidates or a decisive defeat by someone who had been favored to win.

Were voters trying to send clear messages concerning tax issues, the role of government, funding for education or gay marriage? Will candidates who thought they were fairly safe in their election bids but were surprised by the strength of their opponents modify their campaign efforts for the November general election?

The primary race between Adam Taff and Kris Kobach for the Republican nomination to represent the state's 3rd Congressional District presents an interesting question. At the end of Tuesday's counting, the two candidates were in a virtual tie, with Kobach, the pre-election underdog, enjoying an 87-vote lead. However, thousands of "provisional" ballots remain to be counted, and the outcome of the 3rd District race won't be known until at least Monday.

The Kansas Republican Party division between moderates and conservatives adds an interesting facet to this race. In the past several elections, Republican voters have been so split that those who supported the losing candidate in the primary refused to vote for the GOP nominee in November. That decision has been cited as a contributing factor to subsequent victories by Democrat Dennis Moore, who is seeking re-election for a fourth term this year.

Two years ago, the moderate Republican candidate won the primary, and conservative members of the party refused to get out and work, or even vote, for the moderate nominee. In the two previous elections, many moderate Republicans refused to support the conservative nominee. In fact, it is reported that some Republicans even voted for Moore just to make sure their cousin from the other end of the party didn't win the race.

Many observers point out that Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district and that, if the moderates and conservatives could combine their efforts, they could oust Moore fairly easily.

If Kobach should end up being the winner in the 3rd District primary, it will be interesting to see whether moderate Republicans who favored Taff will follow their own advice of two years ago and join hands in an effort to defeat Moore.

Will moderates help Kobach if he is the primary winner? If Taff ends up with a razor-thin victory, will the conservative wing support him in the battle against Moore?

We -- and Moore, who probably is the person most interested in the primary's outcome -- soon will know how this strange political puzzle falls into place.

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