Roberts faces stiff opposition

I haven’t written much about Jim Slattery‘s race to replace Memory Pills Roberts. Not because it isn’t an interesting race, just because I haven’t had much to say. Slattery knows Kansas and is experienced at winning elections there, Roberts has done a crappy job, and I hope Slattery wins. For more on his biography, check out the MyDD profile.

It’s been encouraging to see polls come out from the Slattery campaign showing Roberts consistently in poor position. An incumbent polling below 50%, as Roberts does in several successive polls, is in sad shape. But internal polls are iffy, not least because the campaign can pick and choose, leaking only the most favorable results.

That’s what’s so encouraging about a new poll released by the Roberts campaign. Based on 541 likely voters sampled on the 22nd and 23rd, Roberts has 51% to Slattery’s 34%, and McCain has only 50% support. This is a Roberts poll. Slatter unquestionably has a good shot at being the first Democratic Senator from Kansas since the 1930s!

These results are the same as in a poll the same pollster took back at the end of March, suggesting that the voters are reacting mostly to names at this point, and that neither candidate has found an issue that is swaying voters.

That could change, though. The GAO report overturning the Air Force’s decision on a new air-refueling fleet has big implications for Boeing workers in Wichita, and Pat Roberts doesn’t come out of this looking good. While he should have been doing everything to get those air tankers to be built in Kansas, Roberts didn’t fight to keep a Buy American provision in the bill authorizing the competition for the new tankers. That made it easier for Airbus to get the contract the first time around.

What also made it easier was that Pat Roberts’ son was lobbying for Airbus and Northrop. And several top staffers in the McCain campaign had previously been lobbyist for the same consortium.

This is an issue that may not seem important outside of Kansas, but Boeing is a huge employer in one of the few areas in Kansas with strong unions and genuine swing voters. Wichita had been electing Democrats at the national level for years, until the rise of the religious right. As that sort of Republicanism crashes and burns, Democrats are wooing disaffected voters. That could work very well for Jim Slattery, and for Donald Betts, who is running against incumbent Republican Todd “Mother-hater” Tiahrt.

Roberts is also on the wrong side of warrantless wiretapping, an issue which won’t go away. Nancy Boyda has been a vocal opponent of that program, and it hasn’t done her any harm. Indeed, early polling gives her a high approval rating and strong position in a rematch against Ryun, or in a matchup against Lynn Jenkins.

And heck, McCain’s numbers in Kansas are about as weak as Roberts’s, suggesting that we could see Democrats winning from the top to the bottom of the Kansas ballot. Hopefully even in the Kansas Board of Education.

It’s also going to be an interesting school board election. Creationist board member (and former chairman) Steve Abrams is stepping down to run for state senate, so that seat is open. Bill Wagnon, the current pro-science board chairman will not run for re-election, and neither are pro-science members Carol Rupe or Sue Gamble. Kathy Martin is running for re-election. She’s the one who assured creationist witnesses in 2005 that she hadn’t read the standards under discussion, and who told a newspaper that “Evolution has been proven false,” adding “ID is science-based and strong in facts.” When pressed, she “was unable to provide examples of scientific facts that back up Intelligent Design Theory.” In 2005, she explained that “Of course this is a Christian agenda. We are a Christian Nation. Our country is made up of Christian conservatives. We don’t often speak up but we need to stand up and let our voices be heard.” She also asked the reporter: “Why shouldn’t theology be taught in the classroom?… Prayer ought to be allowed. Whenever a child wanted to pray in class, I prayed with them. All children believe in God. Even little children whose parents don’t take them to church believe in God.”

My preliminary endorsements for the primaries (based on my reporting and on this excellent resource)will be:

District 2: Mary Ca Ralstin (R), Sue Storm (D)
District 4: Carolyn Campbell (D)
District 6: Pannbacker (R), Renner (D)
District 8: Chappell (D)
District 10: Casanova (D)

Parentheses indicate which primary the person is running in. If one party isn’t listed, it just means I’m not sure which candidate is best. There are candidate forums coming up, and people should show up for those and ask pointed questions about the current standards and exactly what should be taught in science class. Don’t let candidates wriggle out of tough questions.

It’ll be another interesting year. And after the election, it’ll be time to start talking about whether someone ought to mount a primary challenge against Dennis Moore. When his was a seat in constant risk, it was OK for him to sell out on bankruptcy, CAFTA, Iraq, and other core Democratic issues. But at some point, he has to know that the base will get restive, and that either he joins his party’s mainstream, or someone will run against him. Voting for the asinine FISA compromise may not be the last straw, but there can’t be many straws left.

Most of these controversial votes are issues where he voted to bail out industries at the cost of citizens. Free trade as implemented by CAFTA exports American jobs. The bankruptcy bill strengthened the hands of corporations against people who get sick and can’t pay their bills. And the FISA fight lets companies off the hook for breaking the law, and gives them no incentive to do the patriotic thing now and explain who told them to do so, and why they agreed.

People should still vote for him this year. But if he doesn’t figure out that his constituents are getting fed up, he may wake up to an ugly surprise in 2010.


  1. #1 Matt Platte
    June 27, 2008

    A small quibble about a single sentence in an otherwise comprehensive article:

    While he should have been doing everything to get those air tankers to be built in Kansas, Roberts didn’t fight to keep a Buy American provision in the bill authorizing the competition for the new tankers.

    The notion that buying Boeing is somehow better than buying Airbus is to mis-identify the elephant in the living room. Our republic needs no new tankers and the old tankers need no new gaping fighter-bomber mouths to feed in mid-flight.

  2. #2 Josh Rosenau
    June 27, 2008

    Matt, a fair point. I suspect, though, that voters in Wichita would disagree. Not for military reasons, but because of the self-perpetuation nature of the military-industrial complex. These things are done so that voters keep well-paid defense contractor jobs. Similarly, a “Buy American” provision leaves the possibility of getting a worse, more expensive airplane than we need in order to throw a jingoistic and/or pork barrel sop to the voters. If people cared only about defense, a lot of this nonsense wouldn’t get built. The politics of it focus on the decision’s impact on Kansas, though.

  3. #3 Oldfart
    June 28, 2008

    A much more terrifying concept than Osama is the thought that all our military equipment will be outsourced eventually. I can’t imagine the US outsourcing tankers or tanks, yet that may well come. Particularly as more and more basic industries disappear and are replaced by “service” industries which produce nothing.

    As to whether or not we need new tankers, I assume Matt Platte has the figures and the expertise to prove that statement. Frankly, I think Matt really has no idea whether or not we need new tankers. He just makes a knee-jerk anti-Military ASSumption.

    But I can make the following reasonably informed statement: If we DO need new military equipment for any reason, it should be manufactured solely within the borders of the US if only for security reasons.

    Buying our military equipment from foreign countries who may choose not to do business with us in the future depending on our foreign policy or our economic policy or whatever they don’t agree with is not a good idea. Bush has already made us into something of a banana republic – we don’t need to become even more third world.

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