The next congressional election is more than a year away, but campaigning has already started.
U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, a Lawrence Republican, has sent a letter to potential donors asking for money before Thursday. The Federal Election Commission requires congressional leaders to file campaign finance reports by Thursday, and Ryun said in his letter that a healthy war chest would discourage Democratic opposition.
"The Democrats are working hard to take this seat," Ryun wrote in the letter. "They are recruiting a well-funded challenger and they are laying the groundwork for an unprecedented voter turnout effort."
Ryun was re-elected in November 2004 to a fifth two-year term to represent the 2nd Congressional District, which includes western Lawrence. He beat his Democratic challenger, Nancy Boyda, with 55 percent of the vote.
In the letter, Ryun alleges that the Democrats are recruiting a "wealthy, retired neurosurgeon capable of dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money into the race."
Mark Simpson, director of the Kansas Democratic Party, on Friday laughed off the question of whether the Democratic candidate for the district would be a retired neurosurgeon.
"There are a lot of people who would make very good candidates, but there's not anybody who is ready to have their name out there," he said. "There is not a set candidate. But it's important to find someone good."
Simpson said the fact Ryun is talking about his future opponent without knowing who it will be is noteworthy. It shows Ryun is nervous, Simpson said.
"I think Jim Ryun is just trying to raise money and he'll need it because he's out of step with the district," he said.
But Kansas Republican Party Chairman Tim Shallenburger said the GOP isn't worried about Ryun's ability to withstand a challenge, though he didn't know who a Democratic opponent might be.
Ryun is very popular and represents the 2nd District well, Shallenburger said.
"He's a regular Kansan," he said. "I don't know who the Democrats could run that could beat him."
Calls to Ryun's campaign office on Friday were not returned.
Ryun's letter also stated that Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has announced that the national committee would provide the Kansas Democratic Party as much as $1 million to assist with voter registration drives.
A spokesman with the DNC said the party has provided $2 million to 18 states, including Kansas, to assist with grassroots campaigning.
Simpson wouldn't disclose the amount of money provided by the DNC to the Kansas Democratic Party. The DNC has agreed to partner with the state party to assist with voting efforts, he said.
Shallenburger said Kansas Republicans have known for quite some time that Dean and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, are planning to battle the Kansas GOP.
"I haven't heard any dollar amount, but I know the Democrats are sending out-of-state people into Kansas to register people to vote and that's fine," Shallenburger said. "We encourage people to register to vote. We also trust most Kansans will vote Republican."