Archive for Sunday, July 25, 2004

3rd District GOP candidates poised for bruising primary

July 25, 2004


In recent election cycles, the Republican Party primary battle in the heavily Republican 3rd Congressional District has become a source of curiosity for political observers across the nation.

Conservative and moderate Republicans fight in the primary, a Republican candidate emerges battered and bruised, Democratic incumbent Dennis Moore defeats the candidate by a thin margin, then Republicans argue for two years over who was to blame for losing a Republican district.

This year's GOP primary continues the tradition of Republican infighting.

The three-way lineup in the Aug. 3 GOP primary features former Navy fighter-jet pilot Adam Taff, whom Moore defeated in 2002; Kris Kobach, a law school professor and former counsel to U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, and Patricia Lightner, a state legislator for the past six years.

The district's population bases are in Wyandotte and Johnson counties, but it includes eastern Lawrence and Douglas County -- taking in 33,000 of the 56,250 registered voters in the county.

Taff: 'Finish the job'

After he lost to Moore 50 percent to 47 percent two years ago, Taff, then a political newcomer, almost immediately started campaigning again, "prepared to finish the job."

This time, Taff has declared himself the front-runner and lined up endorsements from House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.; U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; and former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, a Republican from Kansas.

Taff is a moderate Republican with the military experience he says is needed in Congress while the United States is at war with terrorists.

Date of birth: Feb. 28, 1965Occupation: National programs director for National Mortgage Co.Political experience: Unsuccessful congressional candidate in 2002Family: Wife, Beth; no childrenReligion: ChristianAddress: 177 E. Hillcrest Road, Lake QuiviraKey issues: Strengthening military; tax reform; focuses on his background as a former Navy pilot

He supports increasing troop strength and calls for better equipment for troops.

But Taff's commitment to duty and service got him crossways with Kobach when Taff said he was open to proposals that would require young people to perform some kind of government service. Kobach called it a huge government program that would break the treasury.

Kobach: Focus on security

Kobach, a former Overland Park city councilman who worked on immigration and security issues for Ashcroft immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, is a conservative Republican who says he wants to cut taxes and amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

But lately, Kobach has focused more on immigration issues. He represents the Federation for American Immigration Reform in that group's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a new Kansas law allowing some undocumented immigrants to pay the lower resident tuition at Kansas public universities.

"This law is profoundly unfair to U.S. citizens," he said.

He also opposes the Bush administration's proposal to allow foreign guest-workers.

Date of birth: March 26, 1966Occupation: Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of LawPolitical experience: Former counsel to U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, former Overland Park city councilman, unsuccessful state Senate candidate in 2000Family: Wife, Heather; one daughterReligion: EpiscopalianAddress: 9159 Kessler Lane, Overland ParkKey issues: Wants to cut taxes and supports constitutional ban of same-sex marriages. Believes his work in the U.S. Justice Department uniquely qualifies him to help in the war on terrorism

On abortion, Kobach says he supports a constitutional amendment overturning the Roe v. Wade decision, which found the constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman's choice whether to terminate a pregnancy.

But it is on abortion and immigration that Kobach catches heat from Lightner, the other conservative in the race.

Lightner: Cites experience

Lightner also opposes abortion, and says Kobach is a relatively recent convert to the anti-abortion crusade. Kobach says his opposition to abortion has grown over the past few years since his wife had a miscarriage.

Lightner voted for the immigrant tuition bill and says it is a well-crafted plan made after two years of study to improve access to higher education for certain illegal immigrants who have graduated from a Kansas high school, lived in the state at least three years and committed to becoming U.S. citizens.

"It is allowing them to better themselves," she said.

Date of birth: Dec. 15, 1957Occupation: AttorneyPolitical experience: State legislator for past six yearsFamily: Husband, David, two daughtersReligion: CatholicAddress: 9408 W. 106th St. in Overland ParkKey issues: Improving the economy and schools and providing affordable health care. Believes her background as a legislator and elected official make her uniquely qualified for the job in Congress

Lightner points to her experience on the campaign trail; she is the only one of the three with legislative experience and the only one of the three who has won a political race.

Of her opponents, Lightner said "They may know a lot of movers and shakers, but they haven't dealt with the legislative process."

But Lightner's legislative reputation has been spotty. As chairwoman of the House Insurance Committee she angered some colleagues for arguing with witnesses before the committee.

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