Hutchinson After three elections without a Democratic challenger, Republican Rep. Jerry Moran faces one in the sprawling and GOP-dominated 1st Congressional District.
But that challenger, John Doll, the owner of a Garden City lawn care business, is playing down his party affiliation, describing himself as a conservative Democrat who opposes abortion.
"I'm not 100 percent Democrat," he told The Hutchinson News after launching his campaign.
Many Republicans had considered Moran a potential challenger to Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius next year. But in August he said he would seek another two-year term in Congress. Moran was first elected in 1996.
In Washington, Moran was not available to comment on Doll's campaign because of congressional business.
But Doll's chances of unseating Moran appear slim. The last time Moran had a Democratic opponent, in 1998, he still captured nearly 81 percent of the vote. A Democrat hasn't represented western Kansas in Congress since 1963.
The 1st District includes 69 of the state's 105 counties, stretching from Colorado to within 40 miles of the Missouri border along the state's northern tier. It includes Dodge City, Emporia, Garden City, Great Bend, Hays, Hutchinson and Salina.
"I think the task ahead is huge. It's going to be very difficult," Doll said. "It's going to be a lot of footwork, a lot of phone calls."
Doll, 48, grew up in Ingalls, is a former teacher and assistant men's basketball coach at Emporia State University. His father and grandfather helped found a Cimarron-based company that operates feedlots and grain elevators.
He said he will make energy a key issue in his campaign, saying the federal government should nurture the production of ethanol, a grain-based fuel and gasoline additive.
"I'd like to see an ethanol plant in every county if a county would want one," he said. "We could become the fuel-producing area of the world."