Topeka Two Kansas congressmen seeking the Republican nomination for Sam Brownback’s Senate seat are accusing each other of negative campaigning in a race that seems to get nastier by the day.
The latest flap is over a telephone poll that appears to praise Todd Tiahrt while undermining enthusiasm for Jerry Moran, it was reported Thursday.
Moran’s camp has labeled the latest phone calls a “push poll,” which is regarded as a negative form of telemarketing disguised as research, and suggested Tiahrt should disavow it.
John Dietz, a partner with Magellan Strategies, which handled the poll, declined to say who sponsored it but he said “it was definitely, positively not associated with the Tiahrt campaign.” He also said it was designed to test messages, not influence voters.
Yvonne Starks, a Republican Party activist from Olathe, said she received one of the calls on Tuesday. Starks, one of more than 1,000 Kansans who received the automated call, said she is going for Moran.
“That poll last night was the clincher,” she said. “There were half-truths, contorted lies. That is despicable.”
She said the call began with innocuous questions about policy issues and partisan affiliation before making declarative inquiries about abortion and gay marriage.
Moran and Tiahrt are running for the seat held by Brownback, a conservative Republican who’s running for governor instead of re-election to the Senate. A third candidate is also campaigning actively, Tom Little, a Mound City accountant.
Moran, of Hays, serves the massive 1st District of western and central Kansas, while Tiahrt represents the 4th District of south-central Kansas, which includes Wichita.
Moran spokesman Dan Conston said it is significant that Tiahrt’s staff isn’t disavowing the telephone poll because Tiahrt’s staff accused Moran of conducting a push poll in May.
“This is just the latest typical Washington hypocrisy from Todd Tiahrt,” Conston said. “His campaign makes screaming accusations about push polling when there wasn’t one. When a push poll in his favor is actually confirmed, his campaign condones it.”
Tiahrt’s spokeswoman, Michelle Schroeder, said she thinks it’s ironic that Moran objects to the latest poll when he has been engaging in negative campaigning with a series of brochures that attack Tiahrt. “Congressman Moran is trying desperately to have it both ways,” Schroeder said.