The Buzz

Former U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt not ruling out comeback run for Congress

Updated: 2014-01-27T03:01:05Z

By STEVE KRASKE

The Kansas City Star

Former Wichita-area congressman Todd Tiahrt told The Buzz Sunday evening that he’s not ruled out a comeback run for his old seat this August.

If he was to run, Tiahrt would face two-term fellow Republican Mike Pompeo in a primary that would command top-tier attention. Pompeo succeeded Tiahrt in 2011 after Tiahrt left his seat to run for the U.S. Senate.

He lost in a brutal primary fight against fellow Republican Jerry Moran.

Also this weekend came the news that state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth was challenging three-term Topeka Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, a fellow Republican and, as vice chair of the House Republican conference, the GOP’s fifth-highest leader.

Fitzgerald and Tiahrt apparently would both attempt to convince voters that they are more conservative than the incumbents they were challenging.

What’s amazing about that? The Kansas delegation in 2012 already ranked as the nation’s most conservative.

So Republicans face the prospect of high-profile primaries in two of the state’s four congressional districts.

This is what happens when one party so completely dominates a state’s politics. With Democrats not offering much of a fight, Republicans suddenly are facing the very real prospect of high-profile primary fights.

And Tiahrt and Fitzgerald apparently believe there’s still room to run to the right.

“How can we hold Republican incumbent elected officials accountable if they don’t have a a primary?” Tiahrt said.

Tiahrt, a Republican national committeeman, insisted he’s not made a decision to run. But with 16 years in Congress under his belt, his name ID is through the roof in the state’s 4th District.

And raising enough money to run hard probably wouldn’t be a problem.

On what issues? That’s a big question. On Sunday night, Tiahrt mentioned NSA spying and Pompeo’s aggressive approach toward Syria as two matters that fellow Republicans had brought to him.

Asked point-blank if he was more conservative than Pompeo, Tiahrt said he was. Kansas Republicans appear to still believe that the conservative position remains the high ground.

Fitzgerald said the issue is House leadership under Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. Republicans, he said, need new leaders.

“If she saw this the same way I do, I would not take this on,” he said during an interview after his announcement. “I won’t say anything bad about Lynn Jenkins whatsoever, but if you like the current leadership, vote for her. If you are unhappy with the current leadership, I think you deserve an alternative.”

All this is happening, of course, as GOP Gov. Sam Brownback is facing what appears to be an increasingly competitive challenge this year from Democrat Paul Davis.

If Tiahrt runs, it would be a sign that Brownback and his political adviser, David Kensinger, are losing what had been a very firm grasp on the party apparatus.

Tiahrt, meantime, said he’s not operating on a timetable.

“I'm sitting on the sideline listening to people,” he said.

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