Topeka Rep. Todd Tiahrt kicked off his campaign Saturday for the Senate in 2010, jumping into a clash with fellow Rep. Jerry Moran that some Republicans had hoped wouldn’t occur.
They’re seeking the seat held by GOP Sen. Sam Brownback, who’s running for governor. Tiahrt (TEE’-hart), from Goddard, has represented the Wichita-centered 4th Congressional District since 1995. Moran, from Hays, has held the seat in the rural 1st District since 1997.
Both congressmen acknowledged that their records are similar. But Tiahrt portrayed himself as more tenacious, and Moran suggested that he’s more independent politically.
Some Republicans worry the race will become contentious before the August 2010 primary, create hard feelings among party activists and leave the GOP with a cash-strapped nominee. Many also assume that Gov. Kathleen Sebelius will be the Democratic candidate.
“I would prefer not to have divisive primaries,” Brownback said. “If you look at the history of Kansas Republican Party politics, we’ve generally not been very good at that.”
Tiahrt announced his candidacy during a meeting of 4th District Republicans, part of the Kansas GOP’s convention to mark the anniversary of the admission of Kansas into the Union in 1861.
He started by recalling his first race for Congress in 1994, when he unseated veteran Democratic Rep. Dan Glickman.
“We didn’t have the political establishment with us, did we? All I had was you,” he told the GOP activists.
But Moran and his supporters also were working convention gatherings. He announced his candidacy in November — as soon as he’d won the last of seven easy victories in the GOP-dominated 1st District.
Moran begins their race with a fund raising advantage, thanks to years of easy congressional contests.
Federal Election Commission records show he transferred more than $2.4 million from his House campaign fund to his Senate campaign in November. Tiahrt hasn’t filed the necessary paperwork with the FEC to establish a Senate campaign, but he still had almost $913,000 in campaign funds in his House account after his last election.
Tiahrt wasn’t put off by Moran’s advantage, telling reporters that his goal is to close the fund raising gap this year. “I’ve had tough races in the past,” he said.
Brownback probably would have won a third Senate term in 2010, given the state’s Republican heritage. But Brownback pledged to serve only two-full terms after winning his seat in a special election in 1996.
Brownback hasn’t announced publicly that he’s running for governor, but he’s formed a campaign committee and is raising money. Sebelius hasn’t expressed an interest in the Senate race, but Democrats consider her their best candidate.
“It’s unfortunate of our Republican congressmen running against each other,” said state Senate President Steve Morris, of Hugoton. “That will just make it more difficult for us.”
But some Republicans believe a contested primary won’t be as feared and could make the eventual nominee stronger. Outgoing state GOP Chairman Kris Kobach said the eventually nominee get a “running start” on campaigning and more time to get his name before voters.