Thursday, June 18, 2009

Win in '10: Wanting a big bat from the Big First

This is the second installment in a series of posts entitled "Win in '10", which will be dedicated to electing conservatives at all levels of government in 2010. This post will focus on the First Congressional District of Kansas.

As we've covered here before, 2010 is shaping up to be a huge year in Kansas politics. From Sam Brownback becoming governor on down, the upcoming election has the potential to be a landscape-changing election like we haven't seen in many years.

A big reason for that is the fact that two of our state's current Congressman -- Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt -- are running for Brownback's seat, therefore opening up their respective Congressional seats. Given that both are strongly Republican -- particularly the 1st -- it has set off a competitive primary process simply because open Congressional seats don't come along very often, particualrly extremely safe ones such as District 1.

Today's post will focus on the First Congressional District, where the race is the primary. This is a district where the Democrats have sometimes not even fielded a candidate.

So far, six candidates have declared -- State Senators Tim Huelskamp, State Senator Jim Barnett, former Brownback staffer Rob Wasinger, and three lesser known figures in Tim Barker, Sue Boldra, and Tracey Mann.

In terms of strength of candidacies, we can safely divide the six candidates into two camps -- Huelskamp, Barnett, and Wasinger are the stronger candidates who have a strong chance of winnings, and then Barker, Boldra, and Mann, who probably can't win but could potentially play spoiler roles depending on how the campaign goes and how much traction they can get.

For this post, we'll focus on Huelskamp, Barnett, and Wasinger.

Let's start with Jim Barnett. Jim Barnett, of course, was the Republican nominee for Governor in 2006, getting demolished by Kathleen Sebelius in the general election. Barnett is, to put it bluntly, a man without a compass. For most of his career, he's been a moderate, though perhaps not as far to the left as someone like John Vratil. A doctor, he has been quite involved in health care, taking part in some of the efforts to build up government involvement in health care. He's also been a strong advocate for a statewide smoking ban.

When he decided he wanted to run for Governor, his record and rhetoric took a sharp right turn and he started to sound and vote like a conservative. He also picked well-known conservative Susan Wagle as his running mate. He had a professionally-run campaign but didn't have the resources and credibility and campaign presence to mount a serious challenge to Sebelius, who through a combination of factors had become a pretty safe dark blue governor in a red state.

Immediately after losing the election, in the 2007, 2008, and 2009 sessions, Barnett went back to the left on big government issues, joining with the Morris wing of the Senate, joining with them on many of the government-encroachment legislation that came before the body. The final die was cast when he had a chance to pick a side in the Senate leadership elections when his former running mate, Susan Wagle, was running for Senate President against the liberal Steve Morris. Though the final vote was 18-13, his vote was critical in terms of conservatives getting to the magical 16 number. Barnett chose Morris and with it, threw away any remaining loyalty he had built with the conservatives who put their sweat and tears on the line for him in 2006.

However, towards the end of the session, Barnett again started to show some more conservatism again - for example, he voted against the bloated budget that failed to address our state's budget crisis. It was a bit of a surprise at the time, but of course, when he recently declared for Congress -- the reason became clear -- he was running for office!

It could easily be said now that you know when Jim Barnett wants to run for office because he starts voting conservative. That doesn't mean, by the way, he's a liberal on every issue - he opposes gaming and abortion, for instance. But in the case of health care, big government, and the type of policies that have led to the "government involvement is good" mentality that has put our nation on the road to financial ruin, he's been on the wrong side too many times.

Politically speaking, Barnett resembles a bit of a threat, because it is likely moderate-leaning voters who want a horse might choose him. And, he might garner quite a bit of support from his Senate district, which represents about 10% of the Big First. So he must be taken seriously.

However, in terms of any notion that he is a wise choice for Kansans to send to Washington, we disagree. Jim Barnett is a nice man, but the last thing we need right now is the big government mentality (particularly on health care) in Washington, which is Topeka on steroids. As far as we're concerned, Senator Barnett can keep his smoking bans and big government health care and retire.

Moving on to Rob Wasinger, a Harvard educated former staffer to Bill Graves, Jerry MOran, and Sam Brownback. Here is the experience part of the bio from his site:

After graduation, it was back to Kansas, and this time with a young bride. I went to work for Governor Bill Graves as a constituent services representative. I left Governor Graves’s staff in 1995 to work for Jerry Moran, who was then the state senate majority leader. It was working for Jerry that I learned how to handle a legislative agenda, and coordinate meetings of the Senate Republican Caucus.

A year later I joined Sam Brownback’s senatorial campaign, and after his successful election to the U.S. Senate, I went to work for the Senator, and Kansas, in Washington, D.C. At first my job was to keep Sam up-dated on budget and tax issues, but he also had me focusing on issues of importance to all Kansans: rural health care, education, and Social Security. In 2003 Sam made me his legislative director, and, a bit later, named me his chief of staff.

So, essentially, Rob Wasinger has been in Washington D.C. for the past 15 years, until now, when he has decided to run for Congress. While his resume is indeed impressive and might provide a great deal of insight into the workings of Congress and inside-baseball politics, we have a lack of real knowledge of how Wasinger would approach the job as a Congressman, individual issues, constituent work, and even subjects such as basic representation. How much time will he really spend in the district? How much of a fighter will he really be for the conservative cause? Is he just wanting to be a Congressman now because he's used to Washington and wants to stay there and wants a nice politically career?

This might not sound fair to Wasinger supporters -- but the point is, but without previous experience in elected office or a real record of time living in the district -- we just don't know. Wasinger talks a good game -- he seems to be a conservative and has the endorsement of Fred Thompson, whom this blog is a big fan of. He might even have a real future in elected politics himself. He also seems to have a few supporters out there on the internet -- some have even e-mailed this blog.

Speaking of those supporters, this is another thing that is troubling. A stroll through various websites and blogs covering the race reveals several comments -- from Republicans - quite criticial of his opponent, Senator Tim Huelskamp, who has been a strong and leading voice for conservative principles in the Kansas Senate the entire time Wasinger was in Washington. While Wasinger has every right to run and provide his own perspective to the race, sending out a bunch of hacks to the internet to trash Huelskamp isn't helpful to Wasinger's campaign nor the cause, and furthers any stereotype that Wasinger has as some kind of Washington hack. If Wasinger really believed in the conservative cause, he'd be praising Huelskamp's service.

Wasinger may indeed be a conservative -- we'll assume he is. And, if it weren't for the fact Huelskamp was in the race, Wasinger might be the best choice. But, Senator Huelskamp is, and that's who we will focus on now.

Senator Tim Huelskamp is one of the leading conservative voices in Kansas. For the last 13 years, he has been one of a few lonely reasoned voices in a body -- the Kansas Senate -- lacking in them. He's fought not just on one or two pet issues, but has consistently fought the good fight on a myriad of issue battlefields, from the sanctity of life to fiscal responsiblity to low taxes to the size of government. The list goes on and on.

Just spend some time looking at Senate Journals the past few years. Not only has he been with conservatives on the big issues like the budget, the marriage amendment, and gambling, he has also been incredibly consistent on the "small" issues -- the bills which no one ever hears about nor sees, but nonetheless slowly build up big government. While other conservatives took the safe way out and voted yes on the "little stuff", Huelskamp was willing to be the "2" or "3" in 37-3 and 38-2 votes..or sometimes, 39-1. Such courage and principles should be embraced.

In short, Senator Huelskamp's conservative credentials need no boosting, but if you need proof, simply look up a few liberal blogs and examine the posts and comments. The left hates Huelskamp, calling him every bad name in the book. As far as we're concerned, that's another reason to vote for him.

One criticism of Huelskamp is personality-related -- that he's too aggressive. To this blog, that isn't a criticism -- that's a reason to support Huelskamp. In a Congressman, particularly from a super-safe district such as the Big First, we do not need someone who is a go-along get-along type who will be cautious and try to fit in. We need someone who will take the fight directly to the liberals and their big government, culture-destroying, foreign-policy inept ways. We need someone who won't be afraid to be part of a new conservative revolution.

Senator Tim Huelskamp, unquestionably, has the track record of not only VOTING right, but FIGHTING. He's unafraid to speak up on any issue, no matter the consequences. His record is backed up by the slew of endorsements from fellow conservative legislators like Mary Pilcher Cook, Lance Kinzer, and others, from previous Governor candidates Ken Canfield and Robin Jennision; and the laundry list of conservative leaders such as Jill Stanek. These people don't put their names on the line without cause, and Huelskamp has given them ample reasons to get on board.

In our eyes, Senator Tim Huelskamp would be everything you want in a Congressman, particularly in these times when we need people willing to stand up, speak up, and fight. He knows the district, knows how to legislate, has the personal track record on issues, is independent, and beholden to no one. Most of all, Senator Tim Huelskamp is a direct threat to liberalism, and that's why liberals can't stand him.

And that's why this blog supports him. He is the right man at the right time given the challenges facing this nation. While Wasinger's paper resume may be long, it's Huelskamp's real resume that we prefer -- of conservative action, conservative votes, of unyielding dedication to conservative principles. He will be a big conservative bat and that's what the Big First needs.

In our view, Rob Wasinger may have a future, but he'd be will suited to return to the district and run for the legislature -- and build a record like Huelskamp's. Given the entrance of Barnett, this blog would actually prefer that Wasinger get out of the race and endorse Huelskamp, virtually ensuring that the conservative vote is unified behind one candidate -- Tim Huelskamp.

That said, this blog believes that Huelskamp's record and time in the district makes him the clear favorite, no matter how many candidates are in the race. Much like Barnett, he has 10% of the district that has elected him several times. The conservative base loves him, and his aggressive style of campaigning and clear conservative message and credentials will earn him a strong victory in 15 months.

Congressman Tim Huelskamp -- exactly what this state and nation need.