In mid-October a year ago, Democrat Jay Sidie had his moment.
Less than a month before Election Day, a new poll showed the political newcomer within 4 points of Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder for Kansas’ 3rd District congressional seat in Johnson and Wyandotte counties.
It was a heady moment, and Sidie appeared to have all the momentum in the world running in a district that Hillary Clinton carried over Donald Trump.
Yoder still won by more than 10 points, thanks to a late anti-Sidie blitz courtesy of the Kansas Republican Party.
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Now Sidie is aiming at a 2018 rematch, but he’s got a serious problem — and that’s his ability to win the 2018 Democratic primary. Last year, Sidie was able to grab the nomination over two little-known contenders with nearly 42 percent support.
Even that was no cakewalk, and Sidie won’t have it as easy this time around. In fact, the early soundings suggest that Sidie faces an uphill climb against fellow Democrats Tom Niermann, a teacher; Andrea Ramsey, a former health care executive; and labor lawyer Brent Welder.
Also running are Chris Haulmark and Reggie Marselus, who’ve raised little money.
I’ve attended events with Niermann, Ramsey and Sidie and had a conversation with Welder. My conclusion: This is a race loaded with newcomer political talent. These are the type of fresh-faced candidates who are appealing because they come off as regular folks who’ve grown frustrated with Washington.
In a midterm cycle where the president’s party is almost destined to suffer a kick in the backside, Yoder should be skittish. The question now is whether Sidie can capitalize on his 2016 bid.
On the plus side, Sidie is far more forthcoming about where he stands on big issues. In the run-up to last year’s election, I wrote that Sidie had gone underground and that he wasn’t returning phone calls or texts. Public events disappeared from his schedule, too.
Sidie was hoping that Yoder would implode for backing Trump and slide in the back door. Obviously, it didn’t work. Sidie says now that he backs a single-payer health-care system, a $15-an-hour “living wage” and aggressive efforts to stop global warming.
He suggests, too, that his competitive showing against Yoder is worthy of a second try.
“I gave Yoder a heckuva run,” he told the crowd.
But the crucial third-quarter fundraising period showed Sidie just what he’s up against. Niermann generated a healthy $181,592. Ramsey’s total was about $138,000, though a personal $100,000 loan to the campaign boosted that number to $238,000.
And Welder was in the hunt, too, with about $110,000 raised, though he, too, made a loan to his campaign of nearly $21,000, bringing his total to $130,000.
Sidie raised but $3,238, and had about $65,000 in his campaign account.
Niermann has already has amassed an unusually impassioned team of supporters. Ramsey has deep ties to Wyandotte County, which will matter in a Democratic primary, and offers an impressive corporate resume and an aggressiveness that will be essential in a four-way fight.
Welder was an early backer of Barack Obama’s and an enthusiastic Bernie Sanders supporter. That will energize a faction of the Democratic Party, and his labor roots should pay dividends, too.
Sidie? His support shapes up as a work in progress.