Two Democrats plan to challenge Pompeo for 4th District congressional seat

01/31/2012 5:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:08 AM

Two Democrats have announced their intentions to challenge Republican incumbent Mike Pompeo for the 4th District congressional seat in November.

Wichitan John Willoughby, a retired college teacher and administrator, will officially announce his candidacy at 1 p.m. today in the Southwestern College library reference room, 100 College Street in Winfield. Willoughby, 79, plans to file by petition in his first run for political office since an unsuccessful bid for Cowley County commissioner more than a decade ago.

He will face Robert Tillman, a retired court services officer, in the August Democratic primary. Tillman, 65, launched his second bid for the 4th District seat last April at a party held at his Wichita home.

Neither candidate has formally filed to run yet. Candidates must file by noon June 1 or June 10, depending on when the Legislature finishes redrawing district boundaries this spring.

Saying he is angry with “a dysfunctional Congress,” Willoughby wants to fight extremism in Washington. He said he plans to push for debt reduction by cutting “bureaucratic expenses” and military spending, and simultaneously boosting the economy and reducing unemployment using “some additional, temporary expenses.” He said he hopes to attract votes from Democrats, independents upset with Congress and Republicans tired of Tea Party politicians “trying to kidnap the Republican Party.”

“There’s no way there can be an effective national government by just reducing the expenses,” he said, referring to calls by some for no new taxes.

He does propose to reduce debt by increasing the age of eligibility for Social Security and Medicare and making participation in the programs optional.

He also seeks to reduce the gap between America’s financial classes.

“It’s going to be very difficult to get the United States turned around … to frugality and adequate government, and government that particularly provides a safety net for those who are ill, for children and for the poor,” Willoughby said.

Tillman is taking another shot at the 4th District congressional seat after losing the 2010 Democratic primary to former Kansas state Rep. Raj Goyle.

Goyle, who lost to Pompeo, said Tuesday he has no plans to run for office in 2012.

Tillman said he is running again to give Democrats a candidate who will support the party “100 percent of the time.”

He declined to comment on his first actions if he goes to Congress, but said he is dedicated to helping the president “relieve the oppression on the people of the United States” by supporting healthcare reform, helping citizens facing bankruptcy and foreclosure, and raising taxes for the most-wealthy Americans.

“I see the economy from the (point of view of) 99 percent of the people,” Tillman said.

He added that he plans to focus his campaign on regulating industry and growing the economy by creating jobs. He said he also supports immigration reform and a “pathway to citizenship.”

“To me the Democratic party just needs to do more,” he said. “ … I’m taking on a big, big job here, but I plan to do my best.”

He called the state’s new voter ID law “a step backward” because it requires a photo ID to vote this year and a birth certificate to register to vote beginning next year, which he said might cause problems for poor Kansans.

In campaign literature, he pledged to “register eligible voters to vote democratically in 2012.”

Pompeo has said he plans to seek re-election.

The last day to register to vote in the August 7 primary election is July 17. The general election is Nov. 6.

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