Rove, Palin Pick Dumped in Kansas

Wikimedia/<a href = "http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jerry_Moran,_official_Congressional_photo_portrait.jpg">Creative Commons </a>

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


[MoJo has more primary coverage: Read Andy Kroll’s report on Michigan’s gubernational results, and Nick Baumann’s take on Missouri’s primaries for US House and Senate.]

Kansas Rep. Jerry Moran narrowly beat fellow US congressman Todd Tiahrt to secure Kansas’ Republican nomination for Senate following a pricey, vitriolic campaign season in which the congressmen brawled over social conservatism, illegal immigration, and government spending.

Up against an opponent with backing from Kansas’ tea partiers, Moran’s campaign won the primary by bolstering his conservative record and carefully courting the party’s moderate wing. Tiahrt took the opposite approach, and sought out the state’s most socially conservative voters. He scored endorsements from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Bush administration advisor Karl Rove, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and conservative organizer Phyliss Schlaffly, among others. That list of conservative luminaries, though, couldn’t save Tiahrt, who lost the Republican primary Tuesday night by 5 points.

Kansas political consultant Jeff Roe considers Moran “a common-sense, conservative, plain spoken man for western Kansas” and Tiahrt “a touch more idealogue, from Witchita, with an aggressive posture and base.” Not that Moran was particularly timid on the campaign trail. In televised debates and on one TV spot, he accused Tiahrt of supporting “amnesty for illegals” based on Tiahrt’s co-sponsorship of bills seeking deportation protection and lower college tuition for undocumented immigrant students.

Tiahrt, meanwhile, branded Moran a watered-down moderate. In one well-publicized commercial, a former hostage whom terrorists held captive in the Philippines for more than a year endorses Tiahrt while an off-camera voice suggests Moran supported constitutional rights for terrorists. One of Tiahrt’s most punishing jabs at Moran came in late June from surrogate and supporter Karl Rove, who accused Moran of trying to barter a vote for a 2001 fundraiser. (Moran and his staff emphatically denied the claim.)

The most recent polls showed Moran slightly ahead of Tiahrt entering Tuesday’s contest, but this was a lead he held in terms of geography and fundraising from the beginning. Tiahrt’s home district in south-central Kansas has about 168,000 registered Republicans, the smallest Republican registration for any House district in Kansas. Moran’s sprawling district, which covers parts of western and central Kansas, has more than 203,000 registered GOP faithful. Moran also raised more money than Tiahrt in one of the most expensive races in the state’s history; together, the candidates spent more than $5 million.

This November, Moran will square off against Lisa Johnston in a contest to succeed Sen. Sam Brownback. However, Johnston, the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic nomination for Senate and an assistant dean at Baker University, stands little chance against her Republican opponent. Kansas has been electing Republican senators for the nearly 80 years, and Tuesday’s win is a near assurance that Moran will continue that GOP streak this fall.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.