Topeka senator to run for congressional seat

TOPEKA — A veteran Statehouse Democrat announced her bid Friday to unseat incumbent Rep. Lynn Jenkins in Kansas' 2nd Congressional District.

Laura Kelly of Topeka said she will challenge Jenkins, a Republican who defeated incumbent Democrat Nancy Boyda in 2008.

Kelly, 59, has served two terms in the Kansas Senate and is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, which drafts the state budget.

She said supporters encouraged her to enter the congressional race to make a difference on health care and the economy.

"They are tired of leaders tied to a do-or-die narrow partisan agenda that has failed our country for the last eight years," Kelly said in announcing her campaign. "Saying no is not enough in these challenging times."

The 2nd District covers most of eastern Kansas. Jenkins defeated fellow Republican Jim Ryun in the 2008 primary. Ryun represented the district for six terms until losing to Boyda.

Kelly noted in her announcement that she has defeated incumbents before. In 2004, she ousted Republican Sen. Dave Jackson to win her first term by fewer than 100 votes.

The Jenkins campaign didn't immediately reply to a request for comment.

A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee said Friday that Kelly needs to be open with voters about where she stands on major issues, such as health care.

"Kelly promises to be 'independent,' but does she have to the courage to buck her party and oppose their government takeover of health care?" Tom Erickson said.

Kelly was the second Democrat this week to announce a bid for Congress. On Thursday, Charles Schollenberger of Prairie Village announced his bid for the U.S. Senate. Republican Sam Brownback is leaving the Senate to run for governor next year.

Republican Reps. Jerry Moran, who represents the 1st District in Congress, and Todd Tiahrt of Goddard, who represents the 4th District, also are running for Brownback's Senate seat.