The shocker of a lifetime would be for Democrat Jay Sidie to unseat Republican Rep. Kevin Yoder, who is seeking his fourth term in the 3rd Congressional District — mostly Johnson and Wyandotte counties.
Yet, some pundits are saying there is a chance. Not a great chance. But a chance for Sidie to prevail. Sidie, an investment businessman from Mission Woods, has several things going for him.
First, he has never held elective office. In the year of the outsider, that normal deficiency could be a plus. In contrast, Sidie describes Yoder as a career politician focused on his political ambitions.
Second, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is getting trounced by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the highly educated 3rd District, according to numerous polls. So, Sidie will attempt to tie Yoder to Trump. Sidie reminds us that Yoder was among the first public officials in Kansas to endorse Trump.
And third, Sidie is trying hard to paint Yoder as a strong ally of Gov. Sam Brownback. The governor’s disapproval ratings are horrendous. Sidie contends Yoder started education cuts when he served in the Legislature, as the House Budget Committee chairman. So, Sidie contends Yoder is partly to blame for current school funding problems, along with his allegedly tight buddy, Brownback.
None of these arguments is convincing.
I like a track record of elective public service, so we have a sense of whether, say, Sidie is a moderate Democrat or a liberal Democrat. At a recent lunch, Sidie was uncomfortable citing policy differences with Yoder. After more than an hour, I came away with no clear understanding on where Sidie is on the political spectrum. As for Yoder’s ambitions, those are undeniable. But is that a flaw? Someday Yoder could become the powerful chairman of the Appropriations Committee. Or maybe Speaker of the House. Would that be so bad for the 3rd District?
Yoder has endorsed Trump, which is unfortunate. But Yoder disagrees with many Trump policies. Yoder is much more of a free trader. Yoder thinks enhanced fencing, not a border wall, is called for. Yoder is concerned about deficits Trump would run up with massive infrastructure spending.
On Yoder’s ties to Brownback, that argument makes little sense. Yoder concentrates on federal issues. Brownback is focused on Kansas issues. Although the two are congenial, it is a far stretch to intimate that they are buddy-buddy. When Yoder voted to cut school funding, Kansas was in a deep recession, and it was a bipartisan decision.
Meanwhile, Yoder has raised more than $2 million, while Sidie claims to have around $100,000 on hand for his campaign.
To elect a Democrat to Congress in this district would hardly be unusual. Democrat Dennis Moore represented the district for a decade until he retired in 2010. However, Moore had tremendous name identification.
Furthermore, Moore’s district then included the liberal city of Lawrence, which has since been carved out and replaced with a sliver of Republican Miami County.
There is an inkling of a chance that Republican distaste for Trump and Brownback could be a real boost to Sidie. Loads of Republicans would have to switch to Democratic votes, or simply stay home, for Sidie to pull off one of the biggest upsets in America.
Steve Rose, longtime Johnson County columnist: firstname.lastname@example.org.