At some point today we will lace up our Converse All-Stars and walk the few blocks through our picturesque old neighborhood to the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, where we will emphatically cast our votes in Kansas’ Republican primary. Voting is a favorite pastime of ours, right up there with minor league baseball and rock ‘n’ roll shows at sleazy dives and worship services at the West Douglas Church of Christ and the rest of the best of the glorious American heritage, so we never miss an opportunity.
Part of the fun is running into the liberal Democrat neighbors and friends whose votes we are gleefully canceling, but we don’t expect that many of them will bother to show up today. The Democratic party’s slate was pretty much pre-determined at a committee meeting last winter, where they seem to have concluded that this unfavorable election cycle doesn’t call for running any candidates who might come in handy at some later and more fortuitous time, so all the action is on the Republican side. Some of the Republican races have involved in much slinging of mud, a bit of which will stick to even the victor through the upcoming general election, and a few incumbents who would ordinarily cruise to re-election have been forced to dip into their campaign chests to stave off challenges from pesky insurgents, but given the Republican mood in this Republican state these internecine squabbles should not prove a problem come November.
The most noteworthy challenges by pesky insurgents are an odd mix of politics by stereotype. There’s been some national attention paid to the senatorial race, where the facts rather neatly fit the press’ preferred narrative. Sen. Pat Roberts is about as establishment as one can get, having started his career in Washington a full 47 years ago as an aide to Sen. Frank Carlson, a name that only Kansans of a certain advanced age still associate with the the very establishment Kansas Republicanism of long ago, and he’s being challenged by Dr. Milton Wolf, a political neophyte best known but hardly known at all as a distant relative and vituperative critic of President Barack Obama and a radiologist who posted some of his patients’ x-rays on his Facebook page with sarcastic comments. We’ll still be debating the choice as we wander over to Gloria Dei, but at this point we’re leaning toward Roberts. He was always enjoyably salty company when we covered his previous perfunctory campaigns for major state newspaper, and although this Dr. Wolf fellow makes a pretty compelling case about the votes that Roberts and the rest of those longtime Washington guys have made over the past 47 years we don’t know him with the same familiarity. There’s a certain national talk radio host who will deride us as sell-out RINOs if we follow this instinct, but it’s such fun to hear him fulminate about establishment victories.
The state’s two contested congressional primaries turn the familiar narrative on its head. Here in the Fourth District, which is basically the relatively big city of Wichita and the relatively big town of Hutchinson and a lot of sparsely populated small towns and farmland, the impeccably conservative and unabashedly Tea Party incumbent Rep. Mike Pompeo is being challenged by his Bush-era predecessor, former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, who stepped down two terms ago to make an ill-fated stab at a Republican Senate nomination and now is arguing to get his old job back on the old promises of delivering federal spending and favorable “economic development” deals. We’ll march to Gloria Dei with enthusiasm for Pompeo, as we’ve promised the several campaign staffers who have called the house in the past few days, partly because we prefer his free market approach and partly because we find him the far more impressive individual. We hope this will placate that national radio host who fulminates against RINOs, and are fairly confident the majority of the Fourth District will reach the same conclusion.
Over in the First District, which is comprised by that huge empty place stretching from the Colorado border clear into northeastern Kansas, the race pits famously irascible Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp, who became a talk radio sensation and national Tea Party favorite with his full-throated rants about Obamaism, against the more politely Republican Alan LaPolice. The First is close enough to the Fourth that the political advertisements are permeating the local airwaves, and we note that LaPolice is trying to make hay of the fact that Huelskamp lost his seat on the Agriculture Committee by offending the more delicate sensibilities of House Speaker John Boehner and the rest of the RINO Republican leadership. It will be interesting to see how the Republican voters of the First District assess this, but we trust the judgement of a majority voters who can somehow live such enviable lives on the harsh high plains of western Kansas.
There’s an intriguing race between a deal-brokering Chamber of Commerce Republican and a stalwart stingy anti-government incumbent for the Fourth District Sedgwick County Commission seat, too, but that would probably exhaust your interest in our local politics. Suffice to say that we’re foursquare for the nay-saying skinflint, and will almost certainly wind up voting for the Republican in any case. These Democrats that the committee came up with are just awful, and even the most mud-soaked Republicans look good by comparison.
— Bud Norman