Topeka U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, faces varied and underdog challengers in her re-election effort.
The first-term House member is being challenged on the right by state Sen. Dennis Pyle of Hiawatha in the Aug. 3 Republican Party primary.
The Democratic Party primary features three little-known candidates: Cheryl Hudspeth, of Girard, Thomas Koch, of Leavenworth, and Sean Tevis, of Olathe.
Hudspeth formerly worked in banking and community development and has spent the past several years caring for her husband who was injured in a car accident. Koch is a part-time janitor, and former business owner. Tevis, who builds websites, caused a stir in 2008 when he raised more than $100,000 on the Internet in a state House campaign against a Republican legislative leader. He narrowly lost. Tevis doesn’t live in the 2nd congressional district, but said he plans to move there soon.
Bob Beatty, political science professor at Washburn University, said Democrats need a viable candidate and upwards of $800,000 minimum to have a shot at retiring Jenkins.
“It’s a very difficult race for the Democratic Party,” Beatty said.
The party’s hopes were hurt when state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, who had announced her intention to run, dropped out. “That was key,” Beatty said.
Koch said Kelly’s departure helped propel him into the race. He campaigns on his own, driving to community events to deliver his message.
“She (Jenkins) voted against health care for children based on worries about the budget deficit, but she proposes all these tax cuts, even for the wealthy,” Koch said. “There seems to be plenty of money to give out in tax cuts to the very wealthy but not when it comes to providing services for ordinary Kansans,” he said.
The 2nd congressional district stretches across most of eastern Kansas and includes western Douglas County, Topeka and Manhattan.
Jenkins won the district in 2008, knocking off first-termer Nancy Boyda, a Democrat, who in 2006 had defeated five-term representative Jim Ryun, a Republican.
Beatty said the GOP primary contest should be interesting. He said Pyle is hoping to garner support from the tea party movement. Whether they show up to vote, he said is anyone’s guess.
“It’s very hard to gauge,” he said.
Pyle has criticized Jenkins for not being conservative enough, but Jenkins says that’s not true. She said she has been endorsed by the American Conservative Union.