Topeka — Does Democrat Nancy Boyda have a shot at defeating U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun in the 2nd congressional district race?
On Monday, the campaign heated up as Boyda, of Topeka, and Ryun, a Republican from Lawrence, tangled over the airwaves during a radio debate and call-in show.
Boyda blasted Ryun, saying he has been part of a congressional majority that has "fumbled the ball over and over."
She added: "The good news is the American people get to play coach. We get the chance to put new players on the field."
But Ryun, one of the most conservative members of Congress, said his positions of lower taxes and less government regulation were in sync with the district.
Picking a winner
Handicapping the race, however, has been difficult because no public polling has been done.
Several factors working in favor of a Boyda upset include:
¢ Boyda campaign signs seem to be popping up like wildflowers across the sprawling district that includes west Lawrence.
¢ Ryun, a five-term incumbent, has launched a television ad criticizing his Democratic opponent, a possible sign that he feels threatened.
¢ Vice President Dick Cheney is traveling to Topeka next week to hold a fund-raiser for Ryun, another possible indication that Boyda is making headway.
¢ And nationally, congressional observers seem to think Democrats will make significant gains in Congress on Nov. 7.
But Ryun has several factors in his favor:
¢ Since first being elected in 1996, he has won re-election handily, including a 56 percent to 41 percent thumping of Boyda in 2004.
¢ Cheney is coming to Topeka on Oct. 12 to raise money for Ryun.
¢ The national Democratic Party has little traction in Kansas.
¢ And Ryun is a Kansas legend from his world-record track feats as a young miler and Olympian.
Joe Aistrup, head of the political science department at Kansas State University, said if Boyda defeated Ryun, it would have to be part of larger Democratic successes nationwide in congressional races.
"If Jim Ryun gets knocked off by Nancy Boyda, it will mean that a lot of other Republicans went down," Aistrup said.
He said a Boyda upset would be similar to 1994 when Republican Todd Tiahrt defeated Democratic incumbent Dan Glickman for the 4th congressional district seat.
Aistrup noted that he has seen a lot of Boyda campaign signs.
"From a political science perspective, signs are a sign that the campaign has a heartbeat and some funding, but not generally a good indicator on who will win and who will lose," he said.
In her rematch with Ryun, Boyda has focused on more populist themes and said she has rejected help from the national Democratic Party, a move that Aistrup said will help her in Kansas.
A jog for Ryun?
Kansas Republican Party Chairman Tim Shallenburger, however, said Ryun will win re-election.
Shallenburger lives in Baxter Springs in Cherokee County, which is in southeast Kansas and is part of the 2nd district.
"We don't have any sense in Cherokee County, which is a Democrat county, that Ryun won't win big-time," he said.
Cheney's visit doesn't indicate Ryun is in trouble, Shallenburger said.
"It indicates that Ryun is on the Armed Services committee and Cheney wants to help," he said.
On the Jim Cates show Monday on 1440-AM, Ryun and Boyda took callers' questions for about 40 minutes.
Ryun accused Boyda of supporting universal health care "where a bureaucrat in Washington" will decide on treatment. Boyda said she was willing to look at a number of proposals to get control of rising health care costs.
Ryun said Boyda supported amnesty for illegal immigrants, which Boyda said was a misrepresentation of her position.
"I have never stood for amnesty," Boyda said. "This just burns the living daylights out of me," she said.
Boyda accused Ryun of being in the pocket of large oil and gas interests. Ryun blamed liberals and moderates for blocking needed exploration of oil and gas.
Asked by a caller what the candidates would do about global warming, Ryun said: "Much of the global warming issue has been overplayed. We need to work with sound science."
Boyda responded: "If you're going to say global warming is a myth, then everything is going well in Iraq. We need to deal with reality."
On the war, Ryun said progress was being made, while Boyda said the situation was worsening.
Ryun said Boyda would raise taxes, a claim Boyda denounced as another misrepresentation.
The two also argued over plans to expand highways in Texas aimed at moving more trade from Mexico. Boyda said the proposal is a precursor to building a NAFTA super highway through Kansas.
Ryun said no such road plan for Kansas exists and that Boyda was trying to frighten voters.
According to July campaign finance reports, Ryun had a large edge over Boyda. He reported having $421,896 on hand. She reported $163,980.