Showing up as the topic of David Letterman’s Top 10 list usually isn’t a good thing.
Unfortunately, that’s where U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., found himself Monday night.
Becoming the butt of the talk show host’s barbs was just one example of the unwanted attention that rained down on Yoder and Kansas Monday after news broke about Yoder’s decision to swim naked in the Sea of Galilee last August when he was on a official congressional fact-finding mission to Israel. It seems more like the kind of incident that would have been reported when Yoder was the Kansas University student body president than when he was a member of the U.S. Congress.
The skinny dipping reportedly lasted about 10 seconds, but the fallout is likely to last considerably longer. Interestingly, though, it is unlikely to seriously endanger Yoder’s chances of being re-elected in the 3rd Congressional District. That’s because voters don’t have a lot of options in that race. Yoder’s sole opponent is Libertarian Joel Balam of Overland Park. There is no Democrat in the race.
On Monday, Kansas Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon decried Yoder’s behavior as “inexcusable,” and issued a statement calling for him to step down. She also promised that Democrats would field a strong candidate against Yoder in 2014 and would remind voters of the incident.
Good luck with that. Yoder’s behavior might or might not have become a significant campaign issue this year, but it is unlikely to resonate with voters two years from now if no new incidents occur. Wagnon acknowledged that it was too bad there was no Democrat in the race this year but added, “it isn’t for lack of trying.”
Granted, the last-minute redistricting decision handed down by a panel of federal judges made this an unusually difficult year for party operatives, Republicans and Democrats, to make sure their slates were filled. However, it was unlikely that Johnson County would have been drawn out of the 3rd District, which meant the Democrats had a pretty large population base to mine. Johnson County also is a center of conservative Republican power, which would have been daunting to a potential Democratic challenger, but the news of this week is an important reminder of why it is so important for both parties to field viable candidates in races as important as those for the U.S. House. Even when a candidate looks like a shoo-in, things can change.
Both Yoder and 1st District Congressman Tim Huelskamp have no major party opposition this year, which is too bad, because it leads not only to less choice for voters but also to a campaign that may not include a vigorous discussion of key issues facing the nation.
Maybe Yoder will be able to get back to some of those issues before the Nov. 6 election, but it will take some time for him and the state to get past the recent unflattering and embarrassing news coverage.