The ideological fire burns hot among the many GOP candidates for Congress in the 1st and 4th districts, who have full faith in the power of conservatism to turn the country around and have full-throated criticism for President Obama and the Democrat-controlled Congress.
The Eagle editorial board held group meetings last week with the Republicans vying to succeed Reps. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, and Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard. The impression of the six in the “Big First” — state Sens. Jim Barnett and Tim Huelskamp and Tracey Mann, Rob Wasinger, Sue Boldra and Marck Cobb — and the five in the 4th District — Mike Pompeo, Wink Hartman, state Sen. Jean Schodorf, Jim Anderson and Paij Rutschman — was how like-minded they were. Most reflect the tea party zeal that has energized the party in the past year and swept many newcomers into politics across the country promising smaller government, less regulation and lower taxes. They may be running as Republicans, but they sure sound like Libertarians.
It’s no wonder why some of the campaigns have disintegrated into character spats, given how imperceptibly close most of the candidates are on the issues.
And how each would fare as a freshman lawmaker faced with real-world challenges and choices is uncertain. But their willingness to pick up where Tiahrt and Moran leave off in opposing all things Obama seems assured.
Only the current administration’s strategies in Afghanistan and Iraq drew endorsement, and then only without a “date certain” for withdrawal in Afghanistan. Cobb stood out for viewing both wars as examples of the wrong use of military force and calling for a withdrawal of troops, Pompeo and Huelskamp for expressing concern about the limiting rules of engagement in Afghanistan.
Health care reform, financial reform, the bank bailout, the stimulus package, the cap-and-trade legislation — almost no one among the Republicans can see any good coming from any of the above.
By and large, they’d prefer to repeal the health care reform, having variously judged it as unconstitutional and unaffordable. There was no explanation for how the free market could be the only answer now (after it has failed to make health care accessible and affordable for so long). Nor was there a recognition of the political impossibility of repeal until at least 2013.
Only Schodorf endorsed the financial bailout as necessary to avert a global depression. Other ideas that at least stood out from the pack were the Fair Tax (Anderson) and the New Homestead Act, to encourage rural development (Wasinger).
In keeping with Americans’ deepening worry over the nation’s debt and deficit spending, most of the candidates were eager to ban earmarks and unconcerned about what their districts would do without them, confident that worthy projects would prevail if subjected to the hearings and other formal scrutiny of the appropriations process. But whoever is elected will have to weigh the aversion to earmarks against the reality of what they have brought Kansas since just 2008: 135 earmarks worth more than $200 million that were either sponsored or co-sponsored by Tiahrt, and 64 earmarks worth nearly $77 million that were either sponsored or co-sponsored by Moran.
All in all, the Republicans offer a rich array of business and life experience and, in the 1st District, a good understanding of agriculture. These are historic primaries that deserve Kansas Republicans’ full engagement. The districts’ history shows a willingness to let new congressmen settle in and serve for a long while. Voters who aren’t choosy now risk long-running disappointment later.