Schlingensiepen over Eye in Democratic battle in Congressional District 2; will now face Jenkins

? Pastor turned politician, Tobias Schlingensiepen, won the Democratic Party primary in the 2nd Congressional District over Lawrence attorney Robert Eye and Scott Barnhart, a farmer from Ottawa.

Tobias Schlingensiepen, Democratic candidate for Representative, 2nd District, at his election watch party at Serendipty in north Topeka, Kan. Tuesday night Aug. 7, 2012. Schlingensiepen defeated Lawrence attorney Robert Eye and Ottawa farmer Scott Barnhart, and will take on Rep. Lynn Jenkins in November.

Regional voting was key in the close race that went back and forth all night between Eye and Schlingensiepen, of Topeka.

In Douglas County, Eye topped Schlingensiepen 64 percent to 30 percent, while in the larger Shawnee County, Schlingensiepen enjoyed a 64 percent to 26 percent advantage.

Across the district, which stretches through most of eastern Kansas, Schlingensiepen ended with 40 percent of the vote, while Eye had 35 percent and Barnhart, who spent nothing in the campaign, tallied about 25 percent.

Eye’s communications director Virginia Phillips said after the results were in, “Bob will continue to advocate for the public interest through his career.”

Schlingensiepen will face U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Topeka, in the Nov. 6 general election.

He said the focus of his campaign leading to the Nov. 6 general election will be “Jobs. Jobs for the 2nd District and jobs for the people of this country.”

Jenkins, who is seeking a third term, came out swinging against Schlingensiepen. Her campaign manager Bill Roe put out a statement that said, “Congresswoman Jenkins is looking forward to a spirited campaign in which Tobias Schlingensiepen’s support for Obamacare, increased taxes and deep cuts to the military are in contrast to Congresswoman Jenkins and the wishes of Kansas 2nd district voters.”

Schlingensiepen said that statement “doesn’t address our campaign positions at all. People are going to see a clear choice as we go forward in this campaign.”

During the primary battle, Schlingensiepen, a 48-year-old minister on leave from the First Congregational Church in Topeka, criticized obstructionism in Washington, and said his background as a minister would help him bring people together for the common good.

Eye, 60, said his work as an environmental advocate, prepared him for Congress. He was one of the lead attorneys for opponents of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

Barnhart, 39, said his was fighting for small farmers. He has run unsuccessfully for several elective offices in recent years.

Schlingensiepen has entered several high profile political issues recently.

He was an outspoken critic of Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax-cutting proposal, saying it had “a moral problem” by eliminating provisions, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, aimed at helping the working poor. Brownback ended up signing a historic tax cut, but left the EITC alone.

And Schlingensiepen delivered petitions seeking the removal of House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, after O’Neal forwarded an email that referred to President Barack Obama and a Bible verse that said, “Let his days be few and brief.” O’Neal apologized but did not step down.

Last year, Schlingensiepen helped form a coalition to fight Brownback when the Republican governor proposed shutting down the Kansas Neurological Institute, which is a state hospital that serves those with profound disabilities. KNI remains open.

Jenkins, a certified public accountant from Topeka, spent six years as state treasurer before defeating former GOP Rep. Jim Ryun in the 2008 primary and then Democratic incumbent Nancy Boyda, who unseated Ryun two years earlier.

Three federal judges drew new House district boundaries after state legislators and Gov. Sam Brownback failed to accomplish the task during the last legislative session.

In the newly aligned districts, the 2nd District saw some of the most drastic changes. The new lines put Lawrence and Douglas County wholly in the 2nd, and returned Montgomery County to the 2nd, reuniting it with traditional counties of southeast Kansas. Lawrence and Douglas County had been split between the 2nd and 3rd districts for 10 years.

In the campaign finance reporting period running from April 1 through June 30, Schlingensiepen reported raising $37,100, and Eye raised $14,200. Barnhart reported no contributions. Meanwhile, Jenkins reported raising $350,000, with $210,000 coming from political action committees and $140,000 from individuals.