Friday, April 25, 2014

Jenkins, Ryun questioning each other’s records

By CHRIS GREEN, Harris News Service | 7/24/2008

TOPEKA — Republican rivals Lynn Jenkins and Jim Ryun both say they want to crack down on illegal immigration, hold the line on taxes and cut back on wasteful federal spending.

But the two GOP contenders for eastern Kansas’ 2nd District congressional seat are each highlighting what they see as inconsistencies in the other’s record on those issues.

TOPEKA — Republican rivals Lynn Jenkins and Jim Ryun both say they want to crack down on illegal immigration, hold the line on taxes and cut back on wasteful federal spending.

But the two GOP contenders for eastern Kansas’ 2nd District congressional seat are each highlighting what they see as inconsistencies in the other’s record on those issues.

The war of words is part of the duo’s battle to win credibility with Republican voters going into the Aug. 5 primary. The winner will advance to the Nov. 4 general election against Democratic U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, who upset Ryun two years ago.

In a debate broadcast live on a Topeka TV station Tuesday, Jenkins, the state treasurer, accused Ryun of voting in favor of amnesty for illegal immigrants and pork barrel spending projects.

In turn, Ryun, the former five-term congressman, blasted Jenkins, who’s signed a pledge not to raise federal taxes, for voting in favor of 12 tax increases while serving as a state legislator.

Both campaigns offered up documentation in support of their claims. And each candidate vigorously challenged the other camp’s assertions.

“Kansas voters have seen Lynn Jenkins fail them when it comes to keeping taxes [low],” Ryun spokeswoman Jacqueline Harrison said. “Raising taxes on Kansas families is the real Lynn Jenkins record.”

But Jenkins put the blame back on Ryun, saying Congress saddled state government with unfunded mandates as it struggled to emerge from a budget deficit.

“We were at your mercy, babe,” Jenkins told Ryun during the debate.

The Jenkins campaign provided examples of four occasions in which it says Ryun voted in favor of amnesty for illegal immigrants, a charge Ryun denied Tuesday.

The votes cited by Jenkins included Ryun’s support of programs to help Haitian, Cuban and Nicaraguan refugees or asylum seekers, as well as legislative extensions to a previous amnesty program.

Ryun’s campaign manager Kyle Robertson said the votes raised by Jenkins had little validity and smacked of desperation on the part of her campaign.

Jenkins also cited Ryun’s votes in favor of pet projects she considered wasteful, including a $500,000 swimming pool in California and a $1 million aquarium in Cincinnati.

While Jenkins said the votes were straight up or down, Ryun contended that they were probably tied to other measures worth supporting.

Meanwhile, Ryun criticized Jenkins for favoring increases in taxes on gasoline, income, insurance premiums, tobacco and alcohol while in the Legislature. Ryun’s campaign said the increases Jenkins supported totaled $335 million in 2002 and $31.4 million in 2001.

But Ryun’s camp doesn’t note that most of those votes came when the state was trying to climb out of a $700 million budget gap. And Jenkins blames federal mandates from the Congress in which Ryun served for making the job tougher.

‘Amazingly’ similar positions

The back and forth over voting records comes at the same time that both candidates are striking “amazingly” similar positions on many issues likely to rank high with GOP voters, said Joe Aistrup, a Kansas State University political scientist.

Ryun and Jenkins tend to mostly echo each other on immigration, taxes and federal spending.

On abortion, Ryun describes himself as “pro-life” while Jenkins has favored restricting abortion but wants exceptions for rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother.

In the absence of substantial differences over many issues, the race appears to be boiling down to which candidate best fits the Republican mold and who has the best shot of beating Boyda in November.

“It’s a combination of who’s going to win and who’s acceptable by passing the Republican conservative litmus test,” Aistrup said.

Jenkins is trying to win the approval of right-leaning GOP voters while Ryun is calling her conservative credentials into question.

“She’s been trying to respond to that critique since the campaign began,” Aistrup said of Jenkins proving herself conservative enough.

While few appear to doubt the conservative nature of Ryun’s positions, he faces questions about whether he can beat Boyda after losing to her two years ago, Aistrup said.

Jenkins argues that the GOP needs new leaders and that Ryun lost the support of the district two years ago.

“She’s saying he doesn’t get over the second hurdle,” Aistrup said of the potential for a third battle between Ryun and Boyda.

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