Debate on reason for, impact of Dennis Moore’s retirement from Congress

The national media on Monday used Rep. Dennis Moore’s decision to retire as an opportunity to examine a potential storyline about Democratic House members exiting to avoid tough challenges in 2010.

Michael Barone says Moore would have faced an “uphill race” in the 3rd congressional district of Kansas in 2010, and he runs through some interesting scenarios for eastern Douglas, Wyandotte and Johnson counties.

But Larry Gates, the Kansas Democratic Party chairman, said that Moore was not in trouble politically and that the six-term congressman made the decision not to run after consulting with family and opted not to go through another rigorous campaign.

Larry Sabato, director for the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, criticized the national media on his Twitter account for implying Moore’s retirement could lead to a national trend.

Former Kansas Sen. Nick Jordan, R-Shawnee, the last candidate to lose to Moore acknowledged the political climate was tough for the GOP in 2008, especially with the enthusiasm surrounding Obama’s candidacy.

“That was kind of a wind we were running against. That was very difficult,” Jordan said.

On Monday, Bob Beatty, a Washburn University associate political science professor, said when looking at the Republicans who were in the race before Moore announced his retirement — former Kansas Rep. Patricia Lightner, along with Daniel Gilyeat, John Rysavy and Tom Scherer — he didn’t see Moore in immediate danger.

However, now that he has decided not to run, it does open things up in the 3rd district. The number of Republicans who expressed interest on Tuesday also exploded. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, formed an exploratory committee.

Jordan said he has seen numbers that gave him reason to be optimistic about his chances for election to Congress, and Moore’s decision not to run helped push him over the top to throw his hat back in the ring.

Others will likely take a hard look or enter the race. Kansas Rep. Pat Colloton, a Leawood Republican who was John McCain’s chairwoman for the 3rd district last year, announced Tuesday morning that she also has formed an exploratory committee for the bid.

It’s too soon to tell whether other House Democrats in moderate districts also will retire, but at the very least, Moore’s decision adds another intriguing race to what promises to be an interesting year in Kansas politics.