Jim Ryun is in the race again, and this time the former miler is running a marathon.
The Lawrence Republican who was turned out of office in November seeks to win back the 2nd Congressional District seat, a full 16 months before the August 2008 primaries, and 19 months before the November 2008 general election.
His early entry and campaign fundraising is meant, in part, to ward off possible GOP challengers.
Ryun said he has been working hard to raise funds, and when a finance report is made public April 15 "it's going to turn some heads."
Ryun declined to say how much he has banked, but a hefty political war chest could make some potential Republican candidates think twice about facing him in a primary.
But some say Ryun can't escape competition within his own party.
"Jim is going to have some challenges because he has the baggage of having lost one," said state Sen. Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, who is considering running for the congressional position.
In November, Ryun, a five-term incumbent congressman, was stunned by Democrat Nancy Boyda of Topeka.
Boyda's victory was one of the most unexpected in the national Democratic wave that brought the party back in control of Congress.
Ryun had defeated Boyda in 2004 by 15 percentage points. During the 2006 campaign, President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney stumped in Topeka to shore up his support.
But Boyda prevailed, and the national and Kansas Republican Party have put a big target on her, issuing blistering news releases after nearly every vote she makes.
"The big question in the 2nd District is not Nancy Boyda; it's does the Republican Party want to give Jim Ryun an uncontested primary," said Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University.
"There are probably some in the Republican Party who believe a new face might have a different angle that could be successful against Boyda," he said. "If Jim Ryun opposes her, she looks in the camera and TV ads and says 'Here's what I said I was going to do and I did it, and we don't need to go back.'"
But after 10 years in Congress, Ryun should have an advantage over other Republicans in attracting campaign funds.
Also, Ryun has a built-in name identification advantage from both his political life and earlier athletic achievements as a world-record track star.
But possible Republican candidates say they will make their decision on whether to run regardless of Ryun's plans.
"I will continue to look at the race over the next month or so to gauge support," said state Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie.
"If we feel we're the right candidate, we'll do that," he said.
Tafanelli said a contested primary "is a healthy thing. It's a way for candidates to get their views out and allow the people to hear those views."
State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins of Topeka also said she is seriously considering seeking the congressional seat.
"However, with the lawmakers still in town, she remains focused on her work as state treasurer," said her spokeswoman Jenalea Linn.
Schmidt said the 2nd District, which includes west Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan and much of southeastern Kansas, should be in the Republican column.
"What we have to do is nominate a strong candidate. There is the concern among some Republicans that when they (voters) said no, they really meant it," he said, referring to Ryun's defeat.
But Ryun said he is confident that he can regain the congressional seat.
"I'm the first one to admit I ran a lackluster race," Ryun said of the 2006 campaign.
Ryun was a stalwart supporter of Bush's policies in the Iraq war. He now says about the war, "peoples' patience, as well as mine, is starting to wear thin."
But Ryun said he opposed the recent U.S. House vote on the war that included a mandatory withdrawal of nearly all combat troops by Sept. 1, 2008.
"I want to see if the surge is going to make a difference, and make an observation at that time," he said of Bush's plan to send nearly 30,000 more troops to Iraq.
But Boyda said the House vote, which included troop withdrawal guidelines, was necessary. "After four long years of war in Iraq, the American military is stretched dangerously thin, and our strategic readiness is hazardously low.
"The Iraq Accountability Act sets the stage for a gradual, responsible redeployment from Iraq that will allow America to begin rebuilding our armed forces," she said.
As far as facing Ryun a third time, Boyda's spokesman Thomas Seay said, "Honestly, 2008 is still a long way away. Our office is focused on serving our constituents, not on politics."