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Yoder, Kultala Face-Off in KS 3rd District

Vote by SKPhoto by Stephen KorandaMany people this election season are watching high-profile races for governor and the U.S. Senate in Kansas, but those aren't the only races on the ballot. In the greater Kansas City area’s 3rd Congressional District, Republican Kevin Yoder is running for a third term. He’s facing a challenge from Democrat Kelly Kultala (CULT-uh-luh), a former state senator from Kansas City, Kansas. KPR’s Stephen Koranda has more on the race.  


At a campaign event in Overland Park, Democrat Kelly Kultala says Washington is a mess, and to change the game voters need to change who they send to D.C.  

She’s courting a room full of voters in a community center and talking about issues like health care. She tells them about her family’s own financial struggles due to her husband’s health problems.

“And I had to look into filing for bankruptcy, and no family should have to stare bankruptcy in the face because someone gets sick,” says Kultala.

Kultala hits on core issues when talking about what she hopes to do in Washington.

“I want to protect this promise that seniors have been given regarding Medicare and Social Security. I want to support education for all of our children. And finally, let’s get equal pay for equal day’s work for women,” says Kultala.

She’s also been trying to catch the eyes of voters with an ad that takes a comedic tone.

(Audio from political ad)

The skinny-dipping incident was several years ago and Yoder apologized, but Kultala says it’s fair game because Yoder didn’t face a Democratic challenger in 2012 after the allegations came out.

Kansas Public Radio made multiple requests to Kevin Yoder to talk to him about the race. His campaign wouldn’t make him available.

Yoder and Kultala haven’t publicly engaged much in recent weeks with events like debates.

A big part of Yoder’s campaigning is coming through ads. They’re fairly simple ads focused on things like Yoder’s connection to Kansas.

“Sure, I work in Washington, but hard-working families here at home, those are the people that I work for. Too many politicians they're focused on the next election. I’m focused on the next generation,” says Yoder.

Yoder is actually repeating a similar message to his opponent, Kultala, saying Washington is broken.

“I wrote legislation to cut congressional salaries and eliminate lifetime pensions for members of Congress. That’s why when Congress was offered Obamacare benefits, I turned them down. I’m focused on investing in things that matter here in Kansas, like research and education for the next generation,” says Yoder.

Patrick Miller teaches political science at the University of Kansas. He says the 3rd District’s demographics make it more winnable for Democrats than other areas of the state.

He says Yoder will likely need to attract voters who support Democrats in other races. That might explain the basic, simple ads Yoder is running touting his connection to the area and his priorities.

“So if you’re Yoder, you don’t need to be out there, you don’t need to be funny, you don’t need to be outlandish. You just need to have the good image as the good Republican congressman who comes home and pays attention to the voters,” says Miller.

Even though she served in the state Senate, and was the Democratic candidate for lt. governor four years ago, Miller says Kultala has a big fundraising disadvantage compared to Yoder, and that’s a significant hurdle for her in the race. Miller says she needs to get her name out there.

“She has some grit, she has some name ID, but that’s only in part of her district. Certainly, she had been on the ballot statewide, that will buy her a little bit, not very much given that that money hasn’t been there for her,” says Miller.

He says that’s likely why Kultala is running the eye-catching ad. Both candidates will be working to catch more eyes, and votes, before next Tuesday’s election.



The two candidates running for the Kansas 3rd District seat in Congress have been blanketing the airwaves with ads. Patrick Miller is a political scientist at the University of Kansas. He says the demographics of the Kansas City-area district mean it’s one where a Democrat could win. He says Democrat Kelly Kultala (CULT-uh-luh) has a fundraising disadvantage, but she has an eye-catching ad about skinny dipping that uses a comedic approach.

“I think that reminded the public that she exists, a little bit. It gets her name ID out there,” says Miller.

Miller says Yoder needs to attract voters who may not vote Republican in other races on the ticket. Yoder has been running ads that stress his connection to Kansas and his legislative priorities. Miller says that unlike Kultala, Yoder’s ads don’t need to be so eye catching.

“His opponent does, she needs to be funny to get attention. He doesn’t need to, he just needs to remind voters that he’s there and “oh, I do a good job” and get them to think that,” says Miller.

Yoder is running for his third term in office.


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