Topeka Nancy Boyda says Jim Ryun would be shocked to hear what people are saying about him.
Boyda, the Democratic nominee in the 2nd Congressional District, says many voters are ready to retire Ryun, the four-term Republican incumbent because they're upset with him over education, health care and other issues.
Ryun's response is, simply, "Welcome to campaign season."
He's not sensing that voters are dissatisfied and rejects Boyda's suggestion that he's out of touch. His fellow Republicans are confident he'll be returning to the House next year.
Two influential Washington political reports, Cook and Rothenberg, which watch congressional campaigns, consider Ryun likely to win re-election and don't include his race on their lists of competitive contests. But they also say the race could become competitive.
Boyda received attention earlier this year for her fund raising and attracted the endorsement of Emily's List, a national group that links donors to Democratic women who support abortion rights.
"He can't put it on cruise control," Nathan Gonzales, political editor for the Rothenberg Political Report newsletter said in a recent interview, referring to Ryun. "He has to run a serious campaign."
Boyda, 49, a Topeka resident and a former research and development manager for various pharmaceutical companies, began running for the 2nd District seat almost a year ago, only two months after switching parties.
She has positioned herself as a moderate, though the National Republican Congressional Committee contends she is too liberal for the district, noting the Emily's List endorsement.
Before his career in politics, Ryun was best known as a world-class runner, winning the silver medal in the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 in the 1,500 meters. A 57-year-old Lawrence resident, Ryun was first elected to the House in 1996. There, he has earned high marks from the American Conservative Union.
Also on the ballot is Libertarian Dennis Hawver, an Ozawkie attorney.
The 2nd District covers 23 counties and parts of three others in eastern Kansas and includes the cities of Topeka, Manhattan and Leavenworth, as well as part of Lawrence. Republicans account for more than 40 percent of the district's registered voters and Democrats about 30 percent.
"I think he's a nice man, but what I hear in the district about Jim Ryun, I believe, would shock and disappoint him," Boyda said during a recent interview. "I believe, perhaps, that he's insulated himself."
Ryun said he was hardly out of touch, with his office answering thousands of pieces of constituent mail and his returning to the district each month. He said the district's voters were sensing that the economy was improving, and they're supportive of how President Bush is handling the war in Iraq.
"I think it's going well," Ryun said, but, he added, "There's only one way to run a race, and that is hard from the beginning."