Monday, January 19, 2009

What Matters in Kansas: Avoiding a Conservative Fight in 2010

Kaw & Border is happy to be back from a month long hiatus. With the holidays and the associated responsiblities to family and work, blogging took a back seat. The good news is that we're back with a bang with our newest installment of our "What Matters in Kansas" Series.

For this entry, there were a number of topics we could have addressed: The Governor's State of the State, the state budget crisis, etc. But, with the inauguration of Barack Obama in just twelve hours, the need of Republicans to maintain an effective opposition at the national level took on a preeminent place in our thoughts. In short, Republicans -- particularly conservatives in red states -- must do all we can to expand our numbers in the U.S. House and Senate -- and to do so we must keep the seats we have, particularly ones held by such folks as U.S. Senator Sam Brownback.

As any reader of this blog knows, Sam Brownback has announced he is running for Governor in 2010. This is great news, of course -- as it represents the first real opportunity in Kansas history for conservatives to take control of the Governor's mansion. By bringing our biggest bat -- and one could argue Sam is the biggest conservative bat in state history -- there is great opportunity for real results on a myriad of issues important to the cause. Whethere you are talking about life, taxes, government growth, environmental policy, or education -- Sam Brownback opens up doors for conservatives legislatively and politically.

The only "caution" in Brownback doing this is that it opens up his Senate seat. At first blush, this need not be a negative, as Kansas is a red state and would elect a Republican with no problem, in most elections. However, that picture is painted differently in 2010 as Democrats can use their one big bat in that race in Governor Katheleen Sebelius, who though has had her popularity dip of late, would no doubt be formidable, particularly if Barack Obama's popularity remains high.

Even with her potential entry into the race, though, the Republican nominee would still be at a huge advantage both in terms of registration and ideology. While Sebelius would be the strongest U.S Senate candidate the Democrats have fielded in recent history, a well funded Congressman Todd Tiahrt OR Congressman Jerry Moran would likely be able to hold off Sebelius.

The problem, of course, comes with one tiny word in that previous paragraph -- "OR". As detailed in a recent Kansas Liberty analysis, the two Republican pillars seem destined to collide in an expensive primary that could open up the door for a Senator Sebelius.

If blogs could talk or make noises, this one would be groaning right about now.

Why? Why do we need to do this? Right now, especially, with a potential Governor Brownback and the huge opportunities that brings, particularly for a unified conservative movement. Leave it to us to potentially create a bloody primary when we should be one big happy conservative family.

This, of course, is further proof that there is no vast right-wing conspiracy. For if there was one, surely we could figure this one out.

Now, don't get us wrong -- we understand the issue at play here -- Tiahrt and Moran have both been Congressmen for over a decade, waiting for their chance to move to the Senate whenever the opportunity opened up. Both have solid careers with solid voting records, and one could make a solid case for either of them being an effective Senator. As such, it's tough to decide which of the two should run.

And, to be clear, normally we at Kaw & Border are not typically in favor of kingmaking. Nor do we believe anyone should be the kingmaker. However, it is our desire to see Congressmen Moran and Tiahrt get in a room and figure it out, for the good of the conservative movement.

First of all, the last thing the conservative movement needs in Kansas right now is a bloody primary fight. While we believe one could make a case conservatives have the biggest opportunity in Kansas -- Brownback's candidacy is evidence enough of that -- the fact is, right now, we have none of the five statewide offices and do not have control of the State Senate. A unified conservative slate in 2010, able to focus on the general elections early, would allow us to avoid early distractions and focus on VICTORY rather than internal squabbles.

Secondly, the stakes are too high. We MUST defeat Sebelius. In our eyes, it is Kansas conservatives' duty in the scheme of national politics to ensure that the Obamanation does not reach the Bob Dole Senate Seat.

Thirdly, there is little difference in substance between Tiahrt or Moran. Tiahrt may be a little more conservative, but the percentages are something like 95% to 85%. For all practical purposes, the difference is nil, and conservatives would have every reason to be excited about either candidate.

Fourth, both Tiahrt and Moran should realize there is a second Senate seat in Kansas. Yes, Pat Roberts just won, but there is probably a decent shot he wouldnt' run in 2014 -- that's only four years away. Certainly there could be a gentleman's agreement that one runs now, and the other runs then. Yes, things can change in four years, but when you consider that Sam Brownback has held the Senate seat since 1996, Moran the 1st since 1996, and Tiahrt the 4th since 1994, the likelihood of stability is much more probable.

Finally, we at Kaw & Border don't really like the idea of having to watch conservatives in Kansas having to pick between two sides they both like. We don't relish the thought of having the two candidates nitpick over small differences. And, we don't relish the huge unifiying positive of Brownback for Governor being "tempered" by a needless primary fight.

Unfortunately, egos and ambition often rule the day over reason and smart strategy in politics. And certainly, both have every right to run and have solid records to run on. If it weren't for Governor Sebelius's potential entry into the race, one could make a good case for just letting them fight it out.

But, 2010 isn't an average year, and this is no average Senate seat. Kansas conservatives have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in 2010, in terms of movement unity, grassroots energy, political victory, and ultimate, legislative success. What happens with this seat MATTERS.

While there may be a few differences in both style and substance, the distance between the two is miniscule when compared to the difference between either man and Kathleen Sebelius.

In any event, whether one or both run, may that fact be a guiding light as we head towards 2010.