Republican National Committeeman Mike Pompeo survived a bruising GOP primary and Rep. Raj Goyle of Wichita steamrolled his Democratic opponent to set up the general election battle in the Kansas 4th Congressional District.
Pompeo took the podium just after 10 p.m. Tuesday, leading with 40æpercent of the vote, to cheers from the hundreds of people at his watch party.
"There are still a few votes to count," Pompeo said. "An enormous number of people came to vote and I think it shows how many people want change in America."
He defended his campaign’s performance in a rough-and-tumble race against Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, and businessman Wink Hartman.
"The Wichita Eagle said this campaign was ugly,” Pompeo said. “I think you are beautiful. I think you ran a beautiful and hopeful campaign."
Goyle, meanwhile, easily handled underfunded challenger Robert Tillman.
At his standing-room only victory party, Goyle drew repeated applause when he vowed to work to end tax subsidies that help corporations outsource American jobs overseas.
He also drew loud applause when he promised to “hold greedy Wall Street bankers and reckless CEOs accountable” for their actions that plunged the nation into recession.
But his biggest applause line came when he talked about the Republican campaign. He said that Pompeo and Hartman had engaged in an "unprecedented campaign of attack ads and mudslinging."
He promised his supporters "we will respond to any and all attacks vigorously and factually, because the voters of Kansas deserve nothing less."
After his speech, he said "I've heard from thousands of voters who were put off by the tone of the (Republican) campaign."
Pompeo said he expected the campaign against Goyle to be more about issues and ideology.
“We have more of contrasts to our view of the role of federal government,” he said afterward.
In his speech to supporters, Pompeo began trying to draw parallels between Goyle and the current Democrat-led administration.
"I can't believe Kansas voters would elect someone whose first vote will be to keep Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House," he said.
Hartman took the loss philosophically.
“I’m just as happy today as I was yesterday,” he said.
He wouldn’t say whether he plans any future runs for office or if he’ll endorse Pompeo.
With a sore throat and fever, Hartman said he planned to “get a good night’s sleep, get up and decide what’s my next step.”
Schodorf congratulated Pompeo for hard work and fundraising, and complimented her other opponents.
“While the election didn’t go the way we hoped it would, I felt good about what we did,” she said.
No election on the ballot offered more drama, or, if the polls are to be believed, more lead changes, than the Republican primary in the 4th District.
State Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, appeared to be the early front-runner with an endorsement and campaign appearances from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the runaway winner of the Kansas GOP presidential caucus in 2008.
But Kelsey dropped out of the race in March, saying he was concerned by health problems afflicting his wife.
Polls then showed Hartman — an oilman, restaurateur and owner of the Wichita Wild football team — flashing to the front of the pack.
But as Pompeo’s campaign took hold, he steadily closed the gap. A month or so ago, it looked like a two-man race.
That’s when the rhetorical knives came out.
Both the Pompeo and Hartman campaigns claimed the other side started it, but regardless, both campaigns began carving on each other.
Hartman blitzed the airwaves with ads accusing Pompeo of being a “Washington insider,” shipping jobs to Mexico and running a small business out of business while he was CEO of Thayer Aerospace early this decade.
Pompeo pounded away at Hartman’s 1987 bankruptcy and a 1981 quote complimenting Planned Parenthood. Pompeo’s campaign also questioned Hartman’s commitment to Kansas, pointing out he had registered to vote and gotten a driver’s license in Florida before deciding to run for Congress.
The increasingly negative tone of the campaign — and a well-timed endorsement from Kansas GOP icon and former Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker — put Schodorf into the mix. By last week, she either slightly trailed or slightly led Pompeo in the polls.
Worried by Schodorf’s surge, two outside groups — Americans for Prosperity, a group with deep ties to Koch Industries, and Common Sense Issues, an Ohio-based political group — jumped in and spent tens of thousands of dollars in the final days of the campaign, attacking Schodorf and hailing Pompeo.
Tea party enthusiast Jim Anderson ran an energetic — if underfunded — campaign, but couldn’t quite bootstrap himself into contention.
Engineer/rancher Paij Rutschman entered the contest late and never seemed to catch traction with voters.
Things were kind of up-and-down on the Democratic side as well.
From the time he entered the race, Goyle has been seen by Democratic leaders as their best chance to snatch a congressional seat from the Republicans.
Drawing on local and national resources, he amassed a more than $1.2æmillion war chest, far more than Tillman, a retired court services officer whose campaign leaned heavily on person-to-person contact. But as recently as July 15, the SurveyUSA/KWCH poll showed Tillman with a 40-36æpercent lead.
Goyle cranked up his campaign and two weeks later, had sprinted out to a 63-19æpercent lead in an identical poll.
As they exited the polls, Republican voters offered a variety of reasons why they picked the candidates they did.
“I always vote pro-life,” said Sheila Croninger of Clearwater, who said she supported Pompeo.
While several candidates expressed equally anti-abortion views, Pompeo won the endorsement of the state’s most powerful anti-abortion group, Kansans for Life.
Charles and Constance Davis of Valley Center said they picked Schodorf because they didn’t like the primary campaigns of Pompeo and Hartman.
“It was nasty,” Charles Davis said.
“I did not care for all the nasty, negative ads. Hartman, Pompeo and (Senate candidate Todd) Tiahrt will never get my vote, period,” he said.
Shane Bush of Bel Aire picked Anderson.
“I liked what he has said and I am praying if he gets in, he would hold to what he says,” she said.
Pompeo, she added, didn’t earn her trust or her vote.
“Just the fact that I had a feeling about his association in Washington, D.C., I don’t think we are being told the whole story with what is going on there,” she said. “And this is a woman thing — but his eyes bothered me. So, it is just a feeling.”