Former congressman Todd Tiahrt wants his old seat back.
In announcing Thursday that he was running for the 4th District seat, he talked about his accomplishments and willingness to work in a bipartisan manner while he served in the House for eight terms.
“You know how hard I’ve worked for this district,” he told a gathering of about 80 supporters at the Kansas Aviation Museum. “You know how hard we’ve worked together.”
He also didn’t waste any time in criticizing Rep. Mike Pompeo, a fellow Republican and opponent in the Aug. 5 primary.
“I’m not happy with what’s going on in Congress,” Tiahrt said, “and I’m very unhappy with what’s happening in the 4th District.”
He accused Pompeo of not doing enough to keep jobs in the district and not listening to Kansans. He also criticized Pompeo for things such as supporting the National Security Agency’s “violation of our constitutional rights” by listening in on phone conversations.
Pompeo replaced Tiahrt in 2011 after Tiahrt chose to run for an open U.S. Senate seat in 2010. Tiahrt lost in the primary to Jerry Moran, who won the general election.
Staff members for Pompeo also attended the news conference and provided their boss with Tiahrt’s comments. Pompeo later issued a response in a statement.
“I am surprised that Todd has chosen to attempt to get back the job he abandoned back in 2010,” Pompeo said.
He noted that Tiahrt had endorsed him in 2010 and for re-election in 2012.
“I’ve already heard from many Republicans who are not happy with Todd’s announcement, as this primary will divert our attention from taking down liberal candidates here in Kansas and all across the country,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo wasn’t available for further comment, campaign spokeswoman Courtney Moore said.
Tiahrt enters the race far short of the $2.1 million that Pompeo has in his campaign fund, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Tiahrt said that as of Thursday afternoon he had about $1,000 in his campaign fund, but he added that he’s not allowed to accept contributions until he completes paperwork.
“I’m confident that we can raise enough money to get our voice out,” he said after the news conference. “I don’t need” $2.1 million.
Tiahrt was introduced Thursday by Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, who lauded him for his efforts to hold down property taxes while serving in the Kansas Legislature.
While Tiahrt acknowledged he may have an uphill battle in attempting to unseat an incumbent, he cited concerns about Pompeo.
“No one is listening to them and taking their ideas to Washington,” he said, “so the grassroots support is out there. And now they have someone to rally with them.”
A key policy difference between Tiahrt and Pompeo is their views on earmarks.
Tiahrt used them regularly while in Congress, including to fund technology to help Wichita police catch the serial killer BTK, build levees in Cowley County and obtain a wind tunnel for Wichita’s National Institute for Aviation Research.
Pompeo opposes earmarks.
“Todd’s embrace of the wasteful earmarking system of old Washington stands in stark contrast to my commitment to fiscal responsibility and cutting spending,” he said.
He said Pompeo is among those “who have bought into the lie that if you don’t have earmarks you’ll decrease spending.”
Spending has increased since the House eliminated earmarking in 2011, Tiahrt said.
Earmarking is now done by the White House, he said.
“Earmarks don’t increase spending, they simply allocate it,” he said. “There are still earmarks today, but it’s the White House that’s doing the spending.
“It the constitutional responsibility of the House to allocate spending. We have lazy congressmen.”
“Significant policy differences” aren’t all that separate the two candidates, Tiahrt said.
“There are also personality differences,” he said. “I like to listen to people. He likes to jet-set around.”
Tiahrt, who lives in Goddard, said he struggled over whether to run as recently as last week.
Since leaving Congress, he said, he has enjoyed running his consulting firm in Wichita. He said he rejected requests to get involved with lobbying in Washington, D.C.
“But I have this call in my heart for public service,” Tiahrt said.
He and his wife, Vicki, discussed that call during a drive over Memorial Day weekend to see relatives in Oklahoma.
“We weighed the costs,” Tiahrt said. “I’m very disappointed with what’s been going on in Washington, with the way they’ve ignored the American public.
“So I feel compelled to run, and it’s the right thing for us to do.”
Perry Schuckman is the only Democratic candidate to have filed so far. Monday is the filing deadline.