KS-04: Best Betts for Red to Blue “October Surprise”

As the election season heats up and the races for state and federal offices begin their final mad rush through October toward the November 4 finish line, the overall theme appears to be one of much needed change.  It’s time to dispense with the ideas that have wrought two wars, undermined our constitution, diminished critical federal oversight and cast us into an economic tailspin of failure, corruption and greed.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Red to Blue initiative has helped bring the Democratic 50 State strategy to fruition by helping candidates in competitive races get a leg up on funding and support.  It’s a start, but it’s incomplete.

There are some other bets worth placing, like in Kansas Congressional District 4, for example: candidate and Democratic State Senator Donald Betts, vs. Republican incumbent Todd Tiahrt.  It’s a race that has the potential to unseat Tiahrt, a stalwart Bush/Cheney supporter who has been closely tied to both Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff.  I had the opportunity to speak with Senator Betts earlier today. I’ll post the interview tomorrow; meanwhile, read on, learn about the race and help out if you can.

Some folks might wonder how I can state

It’s a race that has the potential to unseat Tiahrt

and be completely serious about it, particularly given that past elections have shown Tiahrt to win by as much as 30 percent?


House 4 – Todd Tiahrt (R)

    2002: Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R) 61%, Carlos Nolla (D) 37%
    2004: Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R) 66%, Michael Kinard (D) 31%
    2006: Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R) 64%, Garth McGinn (D) 34%

Democratic State Senator Donald Betts has about as much chance of winning this overwhelmingly Republican seat as Mike Tyson does of winning the White House. I’m surprised he was even able to raise $154,000.

I can say it with all seriousness because the winds of change are in the air, and Senator Betts represents an almost polar opposite to Representative Tiahrt’s deeply entrenched self-interests as a stalwart Bush Republican:


Todd Tiahrt has voted with a majority of his Republican colleagues 92.9% of the time during the current Congress. This percentage does not include votes in which Tiahrt did not vote.

If citizens of Congressional District 4 — Republican or Democrat — are better off now than they were 8 years ago, then Tiahrt and his support of the Bush Administration and Republicans in Congress probably isn’t that upsetting.  If citizens of Congressional District 4 — Republican or Democrat — are better off now than they were 4 years ago, then Tiahrt’s ties to Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff1,2, and his support of Northrup Grumman over KS-local Boeing (not to mention his alleged inclusion of several Airbus lobbyists as campaign advisors) shouldn’t be too upsetting either.3

A Little History — State Senator Betts

There’s a fascinating history about Donald Betts on the KS blog Everyday Citizen; a slightly shorter version can be found on his campaign website. Here’s two significant excerpts from the Everyday Citizen:


A native of Wichita, Kansas, state Senator Donald Betts is a young man who overcame early obstacles to become a leader in the Kansas legislature. When he was a child, Donald, his mother and his brother were homeless several times until they moved to Las Vegas where his grandfather offered them a place to stay. While in junior high and high school, Donald lived in that city’s projects which were filled with violence, drugs and prostitution. He attended school and worked in casino arcades to support his family. He saw his school friends succumb to drugs and crime. His brother eventually spent time in prison.

After Donald graduated from high school, he returned to Wichita where he worked his way through college at Friends University and was elected student body president. Upon graduation he became a counselor for at-risk juveniles working in both the juvenile justice and Wichita public school systems. He has served his state legislative districts in both the Kansas House and Senate.



A man of faith, Donald has strong family values. With his help, his mother and brother now live and work in Wichita. He is newly married to Tania, an Australian businesswoman. They met when he was chosen by the American Council of Young Political Leaders to study government in Australia. Tania is in the process of becoming an American citizen. Donald is a member of St. Mark Methodist church in Wichita. He is a Wichita alumnus of Kappa Alpha Psi. We are all absolutely thrilled that Donald plans to keep his blog at Everyday Citizen.

You can also go read his blog archives there.

Those excerpts tell me that he has some direct experience to help shape his understanding, policies and decisions regarding education, social programs, middle and lower income families, financial hardship and immigration.

That sounds a lot like what we’ve been missing for the past 8+ years.

And In THAT Corner, The Incumbent — Rep. Todd Tiahrt

Tiahrt won his seat in a close race after a controversial round of Republican redistricting (a DeLay tactic), and has held onto it relatively easily ever since.4   Remember redistricting?  That’s a policy and practice hammered home by Tom “The Hammer” DeLay.  Tiahrt’s sense of self-preservation — by voting against accountability — is all-too-familiar a theme in national politics today.

Tiahrt’s record isn’t exactly a sparkling example of national service, either.  From Congresspedia:


Tiahrt voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 that started the Iraq War.


Tiahrt was notable in the 109th Congress as a champion of proposals to create sunset commissions, unelected commissions with the power to recommend whether programs live, die, or get realigned. In 2006, he introduced the Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies Act (H.R. 2470), which was supported by the Republican Study Committee.


He was elected to the Kansas State Senate in 1992. After only one term, he won the Republican nomination for the 4th District and was elected to the House in an upset over 18-year  Democrat incumbent Dan Glickman. A major factor in the win was the 1990s round of redistricting, in which Hutchinson, Kansas and surrounding Reno County were shifted to the “Big 1st” District. Hutchinson was replaced with more reliably Republican Montgomery County, Kansas. After a tough reelection bid in 1996, he has been reelected four more times with little difficulty, including 68% of the vote in 2004.

Tiahrt serves as a Deputy Majority Whip. He is the only Kansan on the House Committee on Appropriations.

Tiahrt also voted against SCHIP.

Check out Rep. Tiahrt’s voting record, via the Washington Post US Congress Votes Database.

It looks to me like Rep. Tiahrt is a strong candidate for removal — even though past elections, bolstered by the redistricting ploy, have given him strong margins in the past, the people of Kansas are hungering for change.  During the course of my interview with Senator Betts, he remarked that he’s seen a surge of excitement everywhere he’s appeared.  I believe it.

Speaking of which…

Here are a couple of YouTube videos of KS State Senator Betts. He’s young (30), but don’t let his good looks fool you — he’s smart, too.

People Over Politics, Demofest, 6 Sept 2008

Senator Donald Betts — An Introduction

Senator Donald Betts — On Education

Progressive States Network — Washington, D.C., 19 April 2007

Let’s give the GOP an “October Surprise” of our own — help support Betts4Congress.  Here’s the ActBlue page. Donate today if you’re able; volunteer tomorrow if you’re able.

There are bound to be other Congressional races where we can help a good candidate take advantage of the public’s awakening to the realities of Republican failure over the past 8 years. If you know of any such candidates, please help out by contacting their campaign and helping them get the word out in places like the ePluribus Media Community, DailyKos, Docudharma and any other progressive sites you think will make a difference.

Thank you.

Crossposted liberally. Please BuzzIt if you are so inclined.




  1. Redistricting and Tom DeLay:  2003 Texas Redistricting, via Wikipedia; THE OHIO GERRYMANDER.; WHAT A PROFESSION OF REPUBLICAN “FAIRNESS” RESULTED IN., New York Times; The Tom DeLay Scandals: A Scorecard, Slate; Republican Congressmen Ryun and Tiahrt Hold Close Ties to Indicted Tom DeLay, Kansas Democratic Party website.
  2. Jack Abramoff: Congressman who defended DeLay says three fundraisers with Abramoff associates went unreported, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW);
  3. _____

    In addition to this legislation opening the process to foreign companies, it is important to note that in 2001, both Representative Tiahrt and Senator Roberts started receiving contributions from Grumman’s Political Action Committees (Grumman is the partner with EADS (Airbus) on the tanker project). Shortly thereafter, McCain mounted a campaign to force the Congress and Air Force to drop the Boeing tanker leasing deal introduced in October 2001. McCain bragged during the 2008 campaign for President that he had “saved” the American taxpayer 30 billion dollars by forcing the cancellation of the contract. In May 2003, Roberts voted for the John McCain amendment to the Fiscal Year 2004 military budget (Senate Bill S1050) allowing the Department of Defense to buy military equipment and services from foreign companies, including EADS, undermining the “Buy American Act”. It passed with a 50-48 largely Republican party line vote.

    Senator Roberts and Representative Tiahrt are on the Senate and House sub appropriations committees for military spending, yet there is no evidence that they spoke out or tried to stop the cancellation of the Boeing contract in May 2004.

  4. Via The Idiot Factor: Todd Tiahrt’s Folly:


    Recently the local paper pointed out that Rep. Todd Tiahrt is one of the main financial supporters of Tom DeLay, who is now facing corruption charges. Tiahrt’s own history of corruption makes him an easy target for whoever runs against him in the next election. He has openly made a fortune off the office and has sold his votes on a number of issues to the highest bidder. Beating him should be easy. But don’t count on it.

    The Democrats have been missing in action for sometime.

    The Idiot Factor blog is not unfamiliar with Rep. Tiahrt; its entire existence centers on the goal of exposing Rep. Tiahrt’s graft, corruption and abuse of power. From the main page:


    Rarely has it been necessary to dedicate an entire blog to the stupidity and ignorance of one House of Representative member, but Kansas’ own Todd Tiahrt is just such a man. Using fundamentalist churches for support and relying on pure graft and corruption to keep his office, this man needs to be exposed at all times for his ignorance and miss-use of his position.