Democrat Dennis Moore won’t seek re-election to Congress in 2010

A decision by Rep. Dennis Moore, D-Kan., to not seek a seventh term in Congress opens up the only seat currently held by a Democrat.

“It is time for a new generation of leadership to step forward,” Moore said in a statement on Monday announcing that he would not seek re-election from his district that includes eastern Lawrence.

Republicans said the move gave them hope that they can recapture the seat — after losing six elections to the former Johnson County district attorney. But Democrats indicated they could keep the district that also includes Wyandotte and Johnson counties.

“I’m very confident that we will have a great candidate, and it will be a good election cycle year for that candidate,” said Larry Gates, Kansas Democratic Party chairman. “Is it going to be Dennis Moore? No, because that’s not going to happen, but the district still, I think, leans Democratic. In 2008, it went for President Obama, and Dennis won by 17 points.”

Moore will not run for any other public office in 2010, Gates said.

GOP reaction

Republicans on Monday, including GOP chairwoman Amanda Adkins, criticized Moore for voting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership. Moore, a member of the fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition, did support a public option as part of H.R. 3962, the health care bill the House narrowly passed earlier this month.

His last opponent also said he was concerned about Moore’s recent support for legislation, including the cap-and-trade legislation, H.R. 2454, that passed the House in June.

“We were bantering back and forth,” said former state Sen. Nick Jordan, R-Shawnee, who lost to Moore in 2008. “The announcement (from Moore on Monday) pretty much changed the dynamics dramatically.”

Jordan said he was definitely running again. He will join an already-crowded GOP field. State Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, also on Monday announced an exploratory committee for a bid. So far, former Kansas Rep. Patricia Lightner, along with Daniel Gilyeat, John Rysavy and Tom Scherer were the only Republicans actively campaigning. Others could also jump in the race.

Moore’s decision, fallout

The decision not to ask voters to return him to Congress represents an apparent change of heart for Moore. Late last year, he dispelled rumors he was not running. He had continued to raise money through the end of September, but recently, Gates said, Moore, 64, talked with family and decided against another rigorous campaign.

“All of this talk about the fact that he was in some kind of trouble (politically), but no one seems to be lining up to take him on, although today they all piled in,” Gates said.

He said Moore was known as a hard worker and campaigner, known in bipartisan circles for his service to constituents.

Political pundits said Moore’s decision at least opens the door for the GOP, giving it the potential to capture all congressional seats in the state.

“I think it would have taken a real, real strong Republican with a lot of money to knock him off, and we hadn’t seen that yet,” said Bob Beatty, a Washburn University associate political science professor.

The National Republican Congressional Committee had ramped up its criticism of Moore in recent months. NRCC spokesman Tom Erickson said because Moore isn’t seeking re-election it proves Democrats will face an uphill battle in 2010.

But Democrats also disputed that notion.

“This is exactly the type of moderate suburban district Democrats have done well in over the past few cycles, and we are in a strong position to hold onto this seat,” said Gabby Adler, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Moore in his statement called the current year the “most intense and busy of my tenure.”

Republican candidate forum

The Kansas University College Republicans will present a candidate forum for 3rd Congressional District candidates. It will be at 7 p.m. today in the Simons Media Room of the Dole Institute of Politics, 2350 Petefish Drive.

GOP candidates John Rysavy, Patricia Lightner, Daniel Gilyeat and Tom Scherer are scheduled to attend. Former state Sen. Nick Jordan said he cannot attend the event. State Rep. Kevin Yoder also is invited, but attempts to determine whether he would attend were unsuccessful.

“This has been the most exciting and frustrating job I have ever had,” Moore said. “Exciting because of the opportunities to do the right thing for our people, especially those who most need our support. Frustrating because of the strident partisanship which too often distracts Congress from squarely addressing the critical issues of our time.”

He will serve the remainder of his term that ends in January 2011.

Names of potential Democratic nominees also began to swirl Monday, and Amy Jordan Wooden, an adviser for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wiggans, of Olathe, said he would not drop out of the governor’s race to seek Moore’s seat.

Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence attorney, said he was not really looking at the possibility of running for Congress.

Davis said Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Joe Reardon would be in position to run, and state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, might be a possibility as well.

“I think that is a district that ideally would like to vote for a moderate Democrat, and I think if we can field such a candidate, we’ve got a good opportunity to hold on to it,” Davis said.