The Star's recommendations for U.S. House in Kansas, Missouri
The Kansas City Star
Congress is deadlocked, stymied by partisanship and a big target for voter discontent, expressed in record-low approval ratings. Yet area incumbents likely have the upper hand. It shouldn’t be so in all cases.
Here are The Star’s recommendations for local contested congressional races:
Cass County Prosecutor Teresa Hensley, the Democratic challenger, far outclasses Republican incumbent Vicky Hartzler. Voters should evict Hartzler, who in her first term showed no interest in compromise or moderate views.
Hensley has a shot at accomplishing what voters often say they want: Beating an incumbent and offering a thoughtful approach to the nation’s ills. New boundaries stretch the district from Harrisonville to Columbia, and add the more progressive Boone County.
Hensley, of Raymore, emphasizes help for small businesses, including breaks on costly regulations, as the best way to boost job prospects in the largely rural district. Her record as prosecutor speaks well of her ability to pull people together. She’s created child abuse response teams as well as arson and DWI task forces. As she says, prosecutions aren’t partisan, and she pledges to keep that attitude in Congress.
She backs alternative energy efforts, public education improvements and reforms to the tax system, including higher taxes for those who earn more than $1 million.
Hartzler’s family is a long-time recipient of federal farm aid, yet she likes to bash U.S. spending — for others. She’s a tea party voter with no hint of compromising in her future. She’s ducked debate offers and avoids joint appearances. There’s a reason. Hensley’s thoughtful ideas would expose Hartzler’s weaknesses.
Hensley would effectively serve the district formerly represented for decades by Ike Skelton.
U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver offers Kansas City area residents growing clout through his seniority in the House, plus his leadership of the Black Congressional Caucus. The Democrat’s civility campaign, conducted pastor-style in weekly email missives, has sparked some bipartisan love.
Cleaver, a former two-term Kansas City mayor, has boosted a promising public-private investment in energy efficiency on the city’s East Side. He supports efforts to help the middle-class and lower-income Americans. He has significant business backing as well.
For the fourth time, Cleaver’s opponent is the earnest but unimpressive Republican Jacob Turk.
Cleaver is a voice of compassion who works well with Republicans. He deserves a fifth term to win more adherents in Congress.
Republican incumbent Sam Graves is on cruise-control to re-election. We disagree with his hard-right positions on virtually every issue, and he embarrassed himself by supporting Todd Akin for the U.S. Senate, even when his GOP compatriots were asking Akin to step aside.
Our best hope is that Graves will choose to become a more moderate voice of reason seeking compromise on the challenges facing the nation.
But that’s a long shot, so voters should consider his Democratic opponent, Kyle Yarber, of Gladstone, who used a master’s degree research project to get to know the sprawling northern district. The former teacher needs political experience, but deserves extra credit for visiting 140 towns to discern the area’s needs and opinions. He’d bring an open, well-educated mind to Washington.
Another fine opportunity to toss a partisan incumbent exists in this eastern district.
Republican Lynn Jenkins toes the party line without question. She’s an acolyte of Grover Norquist, whose no-tax-hike pledge handcuffs the GOP and prevents compromise as the nation races toward a fiscal cliff. As the Simpson-Bowles bipartisan task force recommended, it will take both spending cuts and added revenue to tame the deficit. Jenkins cannot be expected to help mend fences.
We much prefer Democratic challenger Tobias Schlingensiepen, (pronounced schling-in-zee-pen) who is on leave as the pastor of Topeka’s First Congregational Church and a chaplain with the Topeka Police Department.
Schlingensiepen fought to save the Kansas Neurological Institute, which serves severely disabled Kansans, from budget cuts favored by Gov. Sam Brownback. Schlingensiepen is campaigning as a moderate who can bring people together. He favors greater investment in education so more Americans will be qualified to fill high-skilled jobs.
He also favors a balanced approach to reducing the deficit and limits on congressional campaign fundraising, a needed break from the free-for-all that now exists.
Ah, the trials of Kevin Yoder. Our boy wonder incumbent bared all in the holy land, leaping naked into the Sea of Galilee on a congressional junket paid for by the conservative American-Israeli Political Action Committee.
The junket aspect is more troubling than the unencumbered swim by the freshman Republican.
That said, Yoder is better qualified than his Libertarian opponent, Joel Balam.
Yoder, a former KU student body president and former Kansas state lawmaker, likely has a long career ahead. We hope he tames his conservative rhetoric and votes to better reflect the politically moderate Johnson County and Wyandotte county district.
And shame on the Democrats for letting their side of the ticket go naked in this race.
Coming Sunday: The Star’s U.S. Senate race recommendation in Missouri.