Government & Politics

Could super-red Kansas elect a Democrat to Congress?

During a reception Tuesday night, Aug. 9, 2016, at the Overland Park, Kan., Marriott, Rep. Kevin Yoder celebrates his win in the primary election. Yoder represents Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
During a reception Tuesday night, Aug. 9, 2016, at the Overland Park, Kan., Marriott, Rep. Kevin Yoder celebrates his win in the primary election. Yoder represents Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Kansas City Star

Could Kansas elect its first Democrat to Congress in six years?

Democrats have improved the odds in the state’s 3rd Congressional District, according to political prognosticator Larry Sabato, a political scientist and director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder’s suburban Kansas City seat has slipped from “safe Republican” to “likely Republican,” according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

Rep. Kevin Yoder’s suburban Kansas City, Kan., seat has slipped from “safe Republican” to “likely Republican,” according to Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

That doesn’t, though, make businessman Jay Sidie a shoo-in to become the first Democrat to represent Kansas on Capitol Hill since Rep. Dennis Moore retired in 2010.

According to a Public Opinion Strategies poll conducted last Saturday through Monday, Yoder leads Sidie by a healthy 17 points, 53 percent to 36 percent.

Two nonpartisan newsletters, the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, still rate the district as “solid” or “safe.”

Two nonpartisan newsletters, the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report, still rate the district as “solid” or “safe.”

But Sabato cites Donald Trump’s weak poll numbers in Kansas, GOP Gov. Sam Brownback’s overwhelming unpopularity and this month’s Republican primary, which ousted a number of conservative state legislators, as well as tea party U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp.

A SurveyUSA poll conducted Aug. 3 to 7 had Trump leading Hillary Clinton in Kansas by only 5 percentage points, 44 percent to 39 percent. Republican Mitt Romney won the state by 22 points in 2012, and no Democrat has carried Kansas since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Brownback was viewed favorably by only 29 percent of respondents in the same poll.

$2 million What Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan., has raised for his re-election campaign.

Yoder has the advantages that come with incumbency. He’s raised nearly $2 million, according to recent Federal Election Commission disclosures, versus Sidie’s $113,000. Yoder has more than $2 million in cash, while Sidie has only about $73,000.

No outside money has been spent in the district, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington watchdog group that tracks campaign spending.

By contrast, super PACs poured more than $2.5 million into the Kansas 1st Congressional District primary, including those funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Club for Growth. Roger Marshall ousted Huelskamp by a vote of 57 percent to 43 percent.

30 Number of seats Democrats would need to win to regain a House majority.

But that doesn’t mean Democrats won’t make a move for the district if they think it’s within their reach.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has paid for robocalls in Yoder’s district, tying him to unpopular cuts in school funding that have dogged Brownback.

Democrats would need to win 30 seats in November to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Sabato forecasts that they’ll win at least 10 to 15.

Curtis Tate: 202-383-6018, @tatecurtis

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