Voters in the 2nd Congressional District have a clear choice between U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, a Republican from Lawrence, and Democrat Nancy Boyda of Topeka. The two disagree on most issues.
They even exercise differently.
Boyda is an avid bicyclist who has biked across Kansas nine times. Ryun runs, although at a slower pace than when he set world records as a young man and former Olympic miler.
The district includes western Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan and a large swath of southeast Kansas.
Ryun, 58, one of the most conservative members of Congress, is seeking a fifth term, saying he wants to help continue President Bush's domestic and foreign agenda.
"I don't feel like my work is completed," Ryun said. "There is still much to do."
Boyda, 49, a political novice who two years ago was helping stage anti-war protests, set her sights on Ryun, saying he had lost touch with the district.
"Jim doesn't understand the real struggles that are going on around here," Boyda said.
A third candidate is Dennis Hawver, a Libertarian attorney from Ozawkie, who opposes drug laws, income taxes and the war in Iraq.
Despite Boyda's newness to the 2nd District -- she moved to Topeka from Johnson County a little more than a year ago -- most political observers agree she has waged the strongest challenge ever against Ryun.
In the money department, she has raised $686,000, including a loan to herself of $265,000, to Ryun's $839,000.
In the campaign department, she fired the first shot at Ryun with a television commercial that accused the Republican of siding with insurance companies over soldiers in a dispute over improper insurance sales.
Ryun denied the charge, and returned fire with an ad insinuating Boyda agreed with a group that opposed the search for terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Boyda said the charge was a lie, and some wondered whether Ryun's strident response was evidence he felt politically threatened.
Neither campaign has divulged polling information to show whether he should.
But Ryun has been much more active on the campaign trail during this race, and has enlisted help from other Republican officeholders, including U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., wife of former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, and Republican State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins.
Ryun sits on a thick cushion in voter registration, with 43 percent of 2nd District voters registered as Republicans; 30 percent Democrat; 26.3 percent unaffiliated, and the rest various minor parties.
But in 2002, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and attorney general candidate Chris Biggs, both Democrats, received more than 50 percent of the vote in the district against conservative Republican opponents.
For her part, Boyda has tried to paint Ryun as someone who votes lockstep with conservative Republican leadership, while saying she would be more moderate.
Ryun said Boyda misrepresented his positions, and maintains he has done a good job in Congress of serving his constituents' needs.
On the issues, the two are far apart.
Boyda said one of her main reasons for running was the 280,000 Kansans without insurance.
She said her background in the pharmaceutical industry best qualified her to push through changes to reduce the cost of prescription drugs. She supports using purchases of Medicare and Medicaid as a negotiating tool to win drug discounts, and limiting how much drug companies can spend on advertising.
Ryun said he favored Bush's health savings accounts, where consumers make tax-deductible contributions to special savings accounts.
On Social Security, Ryun supports allowing workers to invest a portion of payroll taxes into private accounts. Boyda says such a proposal would privatize Social Security, and she opposes that.
On education, Ryun voted against the No Child Left Behind law, then sided with Republicans in chastising Kansas educators when they complained they weren't getting enough funding under the law. Boyda said it was an example of Ryun being out of touch.
Boyda said she would support legislation that would allow states to opt out of the education law.
On the war in Iraq, Ryun has been a wholehearted supporter of Bush's policy, saying the invasion has made the United States safer from terrorists.
Boyda protested Bush's run-up to the war, but said once the invasion started she supported the troops and wants to bring them home as soon as possible.
On the issue of tax cuts, both Ryun and Boyda have said they support eliminating the marriage penalty and making permanent the $1,000 child tax credit.
|Nancy BoydaAug. 2, 1955Pharmaceutical careerMarried, two children, five stepchildrenMethodistDegrees in chemistry and education, William Jewell College508 SW 10th St., TopekaParty: DemocratPolitical experience: NoneKey issues: Strengthening the Kansas economy, lowering the cost of health insurance, and homeland security.Jim RyunApril 29, 1947U.S. representativeMarried, four childrenEvangelical PresbyterianBachelor's, KUP.O. Box 826, LawrenceParty: RepublicanPolitical experience: Four terms in the U.S. HouseKey issues: Making President Bush's tax cuts permanent; working on a new mission for Forbes Field in Topeka and homeland security|