Topeka Nancy Boyda's message is similar to the one she had in running for Congress two years ago: Kansans are ready for change.
Whether voters in the 2nd District are ready to have the Democrat replace Republican Jim Ryun will be decided Nov. 7. Two years ago, Boyda suggested Ryun didn't know what voters were saying about him; this year, she contends they are willing to give her a chance.
"If you notice right now, Americans are lacking a sense of hope about things," Boyda said.
Ryun is seeking his sixth term in Congress, where he is known for his conservative credentials, chief among them his support for President Bush and the war in Iraq. Kansans also remember him as an Olympic silver medalist and one-time mile record holder from Wichita.
"One of my top priorities is to make sure you have a voice back in Washington," Ryun said during a recent forum. "My reason for being there is to represent the entire state and to do what I can."
During their first race two years ago, Ryun beat Boyda for his fifth term, winning more than 56 percent of the vote. The district covers most of the eastern third of the state, except for the Kansas City metro area and part of Lawrence. It includes Topeka, Manhattan, Pittsburg, Leavenworth and forts Riley and Leavenworth.
In making her second run, Boyda is counting on discontent among voters.
It's a strategy adopted by Democrats nationwide on issues such as immigration, high gasoline prices and the war in Iraq, where there's little indication U.S. troops will withdraw soon. Democrats are hoping to regain the House majority they lost in 1994.
Boyda said the Bush administration and supporters such as Ryun have no answers on how to end the war and can't offer a good explanation for the 2003 invasion because weapons of mass destruction haven't been found.
Ryun visited Iraq this summer and maintains that despite the challenges, the U.S. strategy is making progress and conditions are improving.
In 2004, Ryun made issue of Boyda's opposition to the war and her organization of rallies prior to the invasion, with one of his television ads flashing an image of Osama bin Laden to suggest Boyda was soft on terrorism. She maintained then - and does now - that she set aside her concerns about the war once fighting began to support the troops.
Ryun says immigration remains his top issue. He supported House legislation to strengthen enforcement of immigration laws. He does not support granting an easy path to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country.
"My view on citizenship in this instance is that we expect citizens who wish to become American citizens that they learn and obey the law," Ryun said. "And expect them to also know the history of our country, because then they have an opportunity to appreciate what has gone on."
Ryun supports a bill that would grant citizenship more quickly to immigrants who pass civics courses while promising federal funding for such classes.
However, Boyda contends Ryun and other Republicans in Washington have a hard time explaining why they want to get tough on immigration while simultaneously voting for funding of a proposed superhighway from the Mexican to Canadian border.
Boyda claims the 10-lane corridor proposed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry would blast "a quarter-mile hole" in the U.S. border, allowing illegal guns, weapons and immigrants to flow through.
While Texas has a right to set its own transportation policy, Boyda said the issue is of national scope because of the impact on other states.
Ryun said he did vote for a bill that contained funding for a Topeka bridge replacement, but there is no funding, nor are there plans, for a supercorridor that could pass through Kansas. He and others say talk of the corridor is an "Internet story."
Meanwhile, Boyda also said Congress must address health care costs and access, adding that she is willing to look at universal health plans developed in Canada and Massachusetts.
Ryun argued that universal health care would limit access to the care and treatment Americans expect. He prefers health savings accounts, which allow citizens to set aside money, tax-deferred, to apply to medical costs.
"Health savings accounts empower the individuals. I know it's been a very difficult battle," Ryun said, blaming opposition from Senate Democrats.
Boyda said health savings accounts work for only a narrow section of society: "If you're healthy and wealthy."