Rep. Todd Tiahrt's campaign announced that 23 state legislators in his district are endorsing him in his primary struggle against Rep. Jerry Moran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
The announcement came at a news conference Tuesday at the Wichita Area Builders Association office, featuring Tiahrt flanked by 14 of the lawmakers, all GOP conservatives.
All represent parts of 4th Congressional District, which Tiahrt, R-Goddard, represents in Congress.
Tiahrt also said he's garnered endorsements from within the 1st District, which Moran, R-Hays, represents, including Rep. Peggy Mast, R-Emporia and Larry Powell, R-Garden City.
Sen. Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, praised Tiahrt for "principled, strong leadership" that she said can help "reverse the downward spiral" the country finds itself in.
Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Bel Aire, characterized Tiahrt as "proactive" and Moran as "reactive."
"He (Tiahrt) doesn't wait to see how the vote might go and then jump on the bandwagon," Brunk said.
Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, a farmer and influential voice on agriculture at the Statehouse, sought to cut into Moran's power base in the rural areas of the state.
She said she has "great confidence" that Tiahrt would protect and expand markets for Kansas agricultural, while supporting "practical solutions" on environmental issues.
Moran spokesman Dan Conston said Moran expects to release an endorsement list of 1st District legislators that will be larger than Tiahrt's list of 4th District lawmakers.
"We have over 25 (state legislators') endorsements in the 1st District and that number is still rising," he said.
The 1st District covers 69 counties in western and central Kansas.
The 4th District includes 11 counties in south-central Kansas, including Butler, Harvey and Sedgwick counties.
Sen. Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, is among the 1st District lawmakers backing Moran.
Bruce said Moran "has proven himself to be a very capable leader" and has consistently voted for fiscal restraint, even when it put him at odds with his party's leaders.
Bruce cited Moran's votes against the No Child Left Behind law, establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, and the Medicare prescription drug program.
"I know I appreciated that," Bruce said. "He (Moran) kind of made himself the fiscal conservative in the race."
The primary election is Aug. 3.