Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins is seeking her fourth term representing the 2nd District of eastern Kansas. This time around, Jenkins is facing a challenge from Democrat Margie Wakefield, an Attorney from Lawrence. KPR’s Stephen Koranda attended a debate between the two earlier this week and has this report.
During the debate at public TV station KTWU in Topeka, both candidates stressed their Kansas connections and promised to rise above the partisan fray in Washington. But the two also criticized one another for their claims of non-partisanship. Here’s Lynn Jenkins.
“Unfortunately, my Democrat opponent talks a lot about bipartisanship, but she's never done it. She's only served the Democrat Party,” says Jenkins.
Margie Wakefield fired right back, saying Jenkins is overestimating her own bipartisan efforts.
“Her voting record and her actions as a leader of the caucus, the Republican House caucus, is not a bipartisan effort,” says Wakefield.
The two also touched on immigration. Jenkins references a bill that the House passed to secure the border and deal with minors who have come unaccompanied into the U.S.
“Provides compassionate, but really tough solutions to quickly return unaccompanied children to their parents and their homes. As a nation of immigrants, we really need to continue to welcome legal immigrants,” says Jenkins.
Wakefield disagrees on sending unaccompanied minors back to countries they fled. She says she doesn’t support so-called “amnesty,” and she agrees with Jenkins that the nation should secure the border.
“You can count on me to vote to get that job done. We’re not going to depart millions of people, that would cost billions of dollars. That’s not practical, it makes no common sense. We need to make undocumented workers legal taxpayers.”
On taxes, both agree the rules need a rewrite. Wakefield says the U.S. needs to close corporate tax loopholes.
“We cannot allow them to continue avoiding taxes that regular citizens pay, but we also need to set a practical rate for our corporations, to allow them to be competitive,” says Wakefield.
Jenkins says a proposal she’s worked on simplifies the tax code so it’s less costly to comply with.
“It eliminates a lot of the special interest loopholes so crony capitalism goes away in Washington so Washington stops picking the winners and the losers and it levels the playing field for all Americans,” says Jenkins.
During the debate, Jenkins tried to connect Wakefield to President Obama, and Wakefield tried to connect Jenkins to Kansas Gov Sam Brownback. The Libertarian candidate in the 2nd District, Chris Clemmons, tied them both to a two-party system that he says isn’t working.
“We have to stop buying into the idea that there’s some difference between Republicans and Democrats, because at the end of the day, the people they serve are the big money donors that have donated to their campaigns,” says Clemmons.
Patrick Miller, a political science professor at the University of Kansas, says the 2nd District has more Democrats, independent voters and moderate Republicans than some other areas of Kansas, meaning Democrats at least have a shot. He says Margie Wakefield has raised around $750,000, which is significant, but is far less than Lynn Jenkins who has raised over $2 million.
“Challengers are typically vastly outspent by the incumbents. But what’s important for them is if they can spend enough to get their message out, and Margie Wakefield is just about there,” says Miller.
A lot of attention has been focused on Kansas campaigns for governor and the U.S. Senate, and that raises a question: When moderate Republicans and independents show up to vote in those races, how will they vote on the 2nd District candidates? Miller says that could affect the outcome of the race.
“Lynn Jenkins is certainly favored, I think, but given what’s going on at the top of the ticket, I don’t think you can totally rule out an upset there,” says Miller.
The two will both continue last-minute campaigning up to the election next week.