KCUR News
3:18 pm
Fri July 30, 2010

Hot Race In Kansas 3rd Congressional District As Republicans Try To Pick Up Seat

The 3rd Congressional District in Kansas will be among the most closely watched races in the country this election season. Incumbent Dennis Moore is retiring after six terms, and his wife is among two Democrats vying to replace him in Washington.

Nine Republicans and one libertarian will be on the ballot as well.

It's a year in which Republicans are hoping they will be able to win back a seat in a district they feel has been rightfully theirs for a long time.

THE DEMOCRATS

Stephene Moore knows she's among friends on the campaign trail at a Mainstream Coalition event this week in Lenexa.

"Hi, Stephene Moore. Running for Congress." " I think I can remember that name."

Milling around before a bar-b-que dinner, Pastor Peter Luckey said he'd be supporting the candidate because he knew she was related to his Congressman, a Congressman he'd trusted.

"I know that his wife is running and we're very excited about that. We're very strong supporters of Dennis Moore. We think he brings a moderate voice to Kansas and we're very supportive of that legacy."

Dennis Moore won 6 terms with the fragile coalition of Democrats in Wyandotte and Douglass Counties, and moderate Republicans and independents in Johnson County.

But Stephene Moore knows her husband started each campaign the day after each election was over. She knows the coalition of voters is more fragile than ever in this political climate.

"The atmosphere has changed. People are paying more attention. I'm not a Polyanna, I know I can't make things perfect right away, but I do know I have bridges in places that I can sit down with people and agree to disagree, and move forward."

Stephene Moore has one opponent in the primary, Thomas Scherer. He's a Tea Party Democrat.

He's registered to vote in Florida, his primary residence. He says he prefers the lower taxes there.

Moore is expected to win the primary.

Should she win in November ..she'll be the first spouse in history to succeed a living incumbent. And she recognizes her spouse is both an asset and a liability.

"People tie me to Dennis and his votes. I just hope people voters will take the opportunity to talk with me, get to know me, and know that I'm my own person. I'm a free thinker."

"Does your husband give you advice?"

"He's given me a lot of advice. Do you want to ask me if I've chosen to take it?"

ON THE REPUBLICAN SIDE

Nine Republicans will appear on next Tuesday's primary ballot, each hoping to match his or her resume to what could be a new political era in the District.

State Representative Kevin Yoder emerged quickly as a front-runner with enormous fundraising capacity. With 3 quarters of a million dollars in his campaign war chest - he has far more resources than his closest rival, Patricia Lightner.

But Lightner - a former state representative who's been endorsed by Kansans for Life and has a long conservative track record - has ads that suggest Yoder has adapted for political expediency.

"Are you voting for the Kevin Yoder who's the conservative legislator? Or are you voting for the Kevin Yoder who was a Young Democrat at the University of Kansas?"

But Yoder , a 4-term state representative from Overland Park and Leawood, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, says he has sterling credentials cutting the state's multi-billion dollar budget.

His campaign has turned its focus largely toward Dennis and Stephene Moore, and November.

He says Dennis Moore pretended to be a conservative Democrat when he was really a liberal Democrat like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and that his wife will be the same thing.

"I don't hear a lot of people saying we want a Congressman who is Pelosi-Lite. They want a clear choice. This fall they get a clear choice between a principled, fiscal conservative, who will cut spending, and Stephene Moore and Nancy Pelosi. I think at the end of the day, those liberal economic policies are failing and they're not consistent with the policies of the third district.

THE OUTCOME

The Kansas 3rd has bounced from the "leaning Republican" to the "toss up" column in recent months depending on which poll you read, but it will definitely be in play, says NPR political reporter Ken Rudin.

"Dennis Moore remains popular, and I suspect if he had run he could have been reelected. So the Moore name is still good. But at the same time, Republicans call her Moore of the same,' and that may be more than a pun. It may be reality in a sense that incumbents are running for their lives in the wake of a poor economy and an unpopular president."

Stephene Moore says the reason she's running is to bring her unique experience as a native Kansan, Congressional wife, mother, and nurse to bear on issues of health care, the environment, and to foster bipartisanship.

Meanwhile, Republicans have signed an oath saying they will unite around the winner of the primary. They're hoping to avoid the historic in-fighting that has split their party between moderates and conservatives, and allowed the Democrats to keep control of this Congressional seat for decades.