U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo faces a trio of challengers this election but holds a significant cash advantage in a Republican-leaning district.
The challengers are Democrat Dan Giroux, an attorney who opposes abortion and wants to reduce the national debt; independent Miranda Allen, a businesswoman and former Republican who strongly supports abortion rights; and Libertarian Gordon Bakken, a retired aerospace engineer who doesn’t think Congress has the authority to legislate on education or health care.
“Dan Giroux and Miranda Allen are actually running pretty good ground campaigns. Neither of them are phoning it in,” said Russell Fox, a political scientist at Friends University. “But I don’t see anything happening … that would lead me to believe that somebody like Pompeo in some place like the 4th District isn’t going have an easy re-election.”
Republicans account for 188,370 of the district’s registered voters. Unaffiliated voters make up 138,552 of the district’s voters. There are 97,328 Democrats and 3,473 Libertarians.
Pompeo has a huge fundraising advantage, with more than $1.4 million in his campaign coffers at the start of October. Giroux had less than $32,000 at the start of the month, while Allen had less than $5,000.
Bakken does not appear to have filed a report with the Federal Election Commission.
U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, Republican: The 52-year-old Wichita Republican was first elected to the U.S. House in 2010.
His major policy achievement during his current term was the passage of a GMO labeling bill, signed by President Obama in August, which will require food companies to label genetically modified ingredients but also pre-empt a stricter law in Vermont and ensure those products are allowed to be sold nationwide.
Pompeo touted it as a win for Kansas farmers, who can continue to produce bioengineered products and sell them nationwide, and consumers. “We wanted to make sure that Vermont’s law didn’t drive up the cost of food for ordinary Kansans. … Fifteen, 20 bucks a month doesn’t matter much to some people on their food bill, but for others it does,” Pompeo said. “It matters an awful lot and we managed to prevent this enormous cost increase to food.”
Pompeo worked with Obama administration officials on that bill. He has been one of the president’s most outspoken critics on a host of other issues.
The U.S. House has voted more than 60 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature policy achievement, and Pompeo expects those efforts to continue no matter who wins the White House. Pompeo said the ACA has failed in its primary objectives of lowering health care costs and increasing access.
“There’s going to be a big fight about the Affordable Care Act. It’s inevitable. It is a disaster. It was known it was going to be a disaster. It is at the end of its life,” Pompeo said. “No one in the Democrat party wants to admit it quite yet … but the truth of the matter is it is an utter disaster for Kansans.”
Pompeo wants to get rid of the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s plan to lower the country’s emission standards in an effort to slow climate change.
“We can scrap the Clean Power Plan, which is going to impact Kansas dramatically over the next few years,” Pompeo said, contending that it will lead to increased energy costs that will make Wichita manufacturers less competitive.
Pompeo does support the Obama-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries, something that could bring him into conflict with Donald Trump if the Republican, whom Pompeo has endorsed, wins the presidency.
“It has imperfections,” Pompeo said. “TPP is not a perfect deal. But goodness gracious if America doesn’t enter into a trade arrangement with those dozen … nations, the Chinese will. And that’s bad for Kansas. We need our nation to have the best deals with those countries so we can sell our products there.”
Dan Giroux, Democrat: The 42-year-old Wichita attorney worked in the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office from 1999 to 2003. He serves on the board of the Center of Hope, a homelessness-prevention charity, and founded the Wichita Gladiator Dash, a 5K charity race that raises money for the Child Advocacy Center and Newman University, his alma mater.
“We really need to elect a Congress based on the type of person that you’re sending, their character, someone who is willing to put party platform aside and be able to roll up their sleeves and work with both sides,” Giroux said. “For example, if I’m elected and Trump’s president I’m not going to have any problems working with him, just like I wouldn’t have any problems working with Hillary if she were elected.”
One area where Giroux breaks from his party’s platform is on abortion rights, a stance he says has caused some pushback.
“I am pro-life and a lot of people will characterize it as a Catholic thing, but for me it’s beyond a Catholic thing,” he said. “It’s a human thing.”
Giroux also takes a fiscal-conservative stance when it comes to spending, saying the country needs to “learn to live within our means.”
“I just think there’s a lot of redundancies in government,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of overlap in government and there needs to be a lot of bloodletting in government.”
Giroux supports making changes to the Affordable Care Act, saying that “one thing it did not do was address the spiraling cost of care” and that it has also increased operating costs for small businesses. However, he said, other parts of the ACA, such as allowing people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 and preventing insurance companies from denying people based on pre-existing conditions, need to remain in effect.
Giroux opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “It doesn’t protect the American worker. It doesn’t protect manufacturers,” he said.
Giroux said the United States has to “take a lead on climate change” as a country.
“But there’s a balance there,” he said. “If you look at the Clean Power Plan or some of the new rules on navigable water from the EPA, I do think there is some overreach there.”
Miranda Allen, independent: The 38-year-old Kiowa resident is the CEO of Radiofrequency Safety International, a company that helps telecom companies comply with safety standards. She is also the co-founder of a nonprofit called Project Pink, which provides housing and other services for pregnant women who are fleeing domestic violence or living in poverty.
She made an unsuccessful run for the Kansas Senate in 2012 as a Republican before becoming an independent.
“The first thing that we need to do is get to know each other as human beings,” Allen said, contending that political parties have driven polarization. “The first thing we have to do is bridge that gap. Being an independent allows me to go up with no labels. It allows me to be that collaborative force.”
Allen was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, an experience that has informed her positions.
“What I saw in the chemo lab were people that didn’t have health insurance, they didn’t have the peace of mind. And the struggle for me was hard enough, but not knowing how you’re going to pay the bill and not knowing if you’re going to get life-saving treatment, that’s cruel. That’s inhumane. And that is not what a Christian or a compassionate, civilized country does.”
She called the repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act ridiculous, but said both parties need to pass additional legislation to control health care costs.
Allen supports abortion rights, saying that it’s “about trusting a woman to make a decision about what’s for her and her family.”
She also criticized Pompeo for voting against the farm bill over his opposition to the spending levels for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. She linked that back to the abortion issue.
“Mike Pompeo says that he’s for children, but yet he voted against the farm bill because of supplemental nutrition. Well, that’s what feeds children,” she said. “That’s what puts milk in babies’ mouths.”
Allen called the Clean Power Plan a good start, saying the nation needs to adopt a nationwide preference toward renewable energy.
“Kansas really prospers with renewable resources,” Allen said. “Those are jobs that can’t be outsourced overseas. And if America would become the leader in renewable, we can get manufacturing.”
Gordon Bakken, Libertarian: The 77-year-old retired engineer would like to significantly shrink the size of the federal government.
“I’d like to burn it down. Get rid of it totally,” Bakken joked. “That’s the humor.”
Bakken said Congress should be restricted to the duties laid out in the Constitution. “What they’re not supposed to do is run education, run welfare, regulate business, even build highways, they’re not supposed to do,” he said. “If it’s going to be done, it should done by the states, according to the Constitution. That’s not my idea that it should be the states. That’s what the Constitution says.”
Bakken would like to end the country’s military involvement in the Middle East and use the savings to pay down the national debt.
“We are far more of a threat to the Middle East than they are to us,” he said. “I think the threat of terrorism is extremely exaggerated and if we would leave them alone, they would probably leave us alone.”
Bakken has made unsuccessful runs for the Legislature in the past. His main purpose in running for the congressional seat is to spread awareness of the Libertarian Party.
“I’d like to say, of course, I have a 98 percent chance of winning. And my wife tells me I’m supposed to think that way,” Bakken said. “But anybody with good sense would say my chances are essentially zero.”