Topeka — Freshman House Republicans went to candidate school Thursday in the Statehouse.
They heard from their legislative leaders, Gov. Sam Brownback's political lieutenant, and a campaign consultant about how to strengthen their positions in the run-up to their re-election campaigns in 2014.
House Majority Leader Jene Vickrey, R-Louisburg, told the freshman class the more campaign contributions they collect this year the less likely they will face a challenger next year.
He said lobbyists are watching the political landscape. "If they see that you are strong and aren't going to lose, when you're opponent asks XYZ lobbyist for money, they are not likely to send them a check," Vickrey said.
Vickrey added, "The two things that you can do for your election coming up to avoid a tough opponent is raise money and communicate with your constituents."
Legislators have returned to Topeka for the wrap-up session to write a state budget and work on tax issues.
Karl Hansen, with the campaign direct mail firm Singularis Group, which works only with Republican candidates, said the general impression with voters of what Republicans in the Legislature are doing has been formed by their opponents and allies in the media.
"We've slashed education, we're up here playing around with guns … and we're going to raise property taxes. We all know that is false, but our constituents don't, so you need to get out there and start pushing your message," Hansen said.
He told the freshmen to make sure they are using their taxpayer-paid franking privileges to get information to people in their districts.
"It's not about campaigning. It's about informing them what you've been doing," Hansen said. "Being fiscal conservatives," he encouraged them to use black and white material instead glossy color ones.
And he said state legislative candidates should use telephone town hall meetings, which are frequently used by congressional candidates. "It essentially works like talk radio. You're the Rush Limbaugh," he said.
Brownback's former chief of staff David Kensinger said Brownback and U.S. Sen Pat Roberts, R-Kan., who will both be on the ballot n 2014, "are proud to lead the Republican ticket. We're interested in helping you succeed."
House Speaker Pro Tem Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, told the GOP freshmen to respond to constituent requests. "We were elected to be public servants. This is really a position of service to others," she said.
Republicans hold a 92-33 advantage in the House. Forty new Republican members were elected to the chamber in 2012.