WASHINGTON — If political clout were a stock, then in Kansas it took a tumble in Tuesday's election.
The state will send three freshmen to Washington in its four-member, all-Republican House delegation. The fourth, Rep. Lynn Jenkins from the 2nd Congressional District, has only been there for two years.
"It is absolutely the case that we've a got very junior delegation here in Kansas," said Mike Pompeo, the Republican congressman-elect from Wichita who will replace Rep. Todd Tiahrt. "Having said that, we've elected a pretty capable group which is prepared to go there to do the things we told voters we were going to do."
Only Sen. Pat Roberts, a three-term Republican, has significant standing now in the Kansas delegation. But he'll still be in the minority since Democrats retained control of the Senate.
"Kansas will suffer a little when it comes to things like grants and earmarks for the state," said Allan Cigler, who teaches political science at the University of Kansas.
The state will be losing veteran
Republicans on the powerful House and Senate Appropriations committees. Sen. Sam Brownback ran for governor and won, and Tiahrt of the 4th Congressional District ran for the Senate instead of for re-election, but lost the primary.
Both have been ranking members of Appropriations subcommittees, which has given them influence over federal spending and opportunities to take care of their states.
A popular way to do that is through earmarking, the controversial practice of attaching projects to budget bills to benefit local communities and special interests. They never receive oversight or approval beforehand.
Brownback designated $25 million in earmarks for Kansas this year; Tiahrt, $5.5 million.
Kansas will also have a new freshman senator. Rep. Jerry Moran won the seat that Brownback is giving up. During seven terms in the House, he gained a reputation as someone who didn't always bend to the needs of his party leadership.
How that might affect his role in the Senate is unknown. But with several new Republican senators elected under the tea party banner, Moran might be the least of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's worries.
As for the Kansas House delegation, its new members could have an advantage in committee assignments, despite their lack of congressional experience.
Party leaderships are sometime hesitant to assign politically weak members to certain committees, like Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Financial Services, where they could be forced to take some controversial votes that could haunt them at re-election.
But the incoming lawmakers from Kansas won their districts with at least 59 percent of the vote.
"You've got to have the political strength to make some tough decisions when you're on those committees," said Howard Bauleke, chief of staff for retiring Democratic Rep. Dennis Moore of Kansas. "The new Kansas members may be perceived as being stronger and they may have a better shot at those, which is good for Kansas."