Rep. Dennis Moore (D)
Kansas 3rd District
Though its central core is in Missouri, in 2006 about 40% of metropolitan Kansas City’s residents lived west of the state line in Kansas. Some are in Kansas City, Kan., or KCK as it is sometimes called, where the low-lying land near the Missouri River used to house one of the nation’s largest stockyards. This is still a working-class town with lots of modest frame houses, new Latino neighborhoods, a large African-American community and a Catholic ethnic neighborhood. Kansas City’s Wyandotte County has lost 35,000 people since the 1970s, and is 27% black and 22% Hispanic. South of Kansas City and Wyandotte is Johnson County, which is much more affluent and more than three times the size of Wyandotte. The newer neighborhoods are arrayed along the interstates, as subdivisions have replaced croplands. They have grown to the point that Overland Park, Olathe, Shawnee and Lenexa are among the largest cities in the state. These suburbs are not just residential. The Applebee’s restaurant chain is headquartered in Lenexa, and Sprint Nextel is headquartered in Overland Park. Politically, Wyandotte County has an old Democratic-machine style of politics, though its influence has been tempered by the consolidation of city and county governments. Johnson County has long been heavily Republican, but with plenty of moderate and even liberal voters on cultural issues. It has also been a battleground for the fierce fights between the moderate and conservative wings of the Kansas Republican Party, which sometimes benefits the Democrats.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 3rd Congressional District of Kansas consists of Johnson County, Wyandotte County and a section of Douglas County to the west, including the portion of Lawrence that is home to the University of Kansas campus. Douglas County was the only one of Kansas’s 105 counties to oppose a 2005 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The majority of the district residents live in Johnson County, which is expected to become the largest county in metropolitan Kansas City by 2023. This is an affluent metropolitan district in a historically rural state.
Rep. Dennis Moore (D)
Elected: 1998, 6th term.
Born: Nov. 8, 1945, Anthony .
Education: U. of KS, B.A. 1967; Washburn U. Law Schl., J.D. 1970.
Family: Married (Stephene); 7 children.
Military career: Army, 1970; Army Reserves, 1971-73.
Elected office: Johnson Cnty. dist. atty., 1976-88; Johnson Cnty. Comm. Coll. Bd. of Trustees, 1993-98.
Professional Career: Asst. KS atty. gen., 1971-73; Practicing atty., 1973-76, 1989-98.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Dennis Moore, a Democrat first elected in 1998. After winning five subsequent re-election campaigns, Moore announced on November 23, 2009 that he would not seek another term in 2010, saying, "It is time for a new generation of leadership to step forward." His retirement will make it difficult for Democrats to maintain control of this seat. President Barack Obama won the Republican-leaning district with just 51% of the vote in 2008.
|Dennis Moore (D)||202,541||(56%)||($1,868,504)|
|Nick Jordan (R)||142,307||(40%)||($1,114,721)|
|Joe Bellis (Lib)||10,073||(3%)|
|Dennis Moore (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (65%), 2004 (55%), 2002 (50%), 2000 (50%), 1998 (52%)
Moore grew up in Wichita, where his father, Warner Moore, ran for Congress in the 4th District and lost narrowly in 1958. Moore went to college and law school in Kansas, served in the Army, then practiced law in Johnson County. In 1976, at age 31, he was elected Johnson County district attorney and was twice re-elected. He went into private law practice, and was elected to the local community-college board in 1993. Five years later, when national Democrats were recruiting a candidate to run against conservative Republican incumbent Vince Snowbarger, Moore’s electoral success made him a natural choice. The contest attracted outside interest, with the Sierra Club and the AFL-CIO spending heavily on television ads, mailings and phone banks to help Moore. He won 52%-48%, carrying Kansas City and Lawrence by wide margins. But his key wins came in the affluent, long-settled suburbs in northeast Johnson County.
In the House, Moore has styled himself as tightfisted on spending, pro-business, and eager to overhaul entitlement programs and long-term fiscal problems. He is a prominent voice in the Blue Dog Coalition, moderate and conservative Democrats who have sought to move the party toward the center. Moore was the group’s policy co-chairman in the 110th Congress (2007-08). In December 2007, he unsuccessfully urged the House to adhere to pay-as-you-go rules by offsetting the cost of proposed legislation to scale back the alternative minimum tax to prevent it from raising tax bills for millions of middle-income Americans. However, he supported the $787 billion economic-stimulus legislation that passed the House in February 2009, even though its enormous price tag was not offset.
To the dismay of organized labor, he voted for normalizing trade relations with China and for giving the president broad powers to negotiate new free-trade agreements. In 2005, he was one of 15 Democrats who bucked party leaders to vote in favor of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. He led the effort in 2004 and 2005 to raise the death benefit for military personnel killed since September 11.
After Democrats won control of Congress in 2006, Moore was among the lawmakers who voiced hope for a bipartisan response to the nation’s fiscal problems. He was one of 28 House members to sign the “Bipartisan Compact on Iraq Debate,” which advocated the redeployment of troops from Iraq without setting a firm deadline for withdrawal.
Republicans would love to recapture this seat, but have been hampered by the moderate-conservative split in the Kansas party. But Moore has had to fight to hold on to the seat. In 2000, Republicans slugged it out in the primary, a contest between tax-cutting state Rep. Phill Kline and Overland Park Councilman Greg Musil. Kline won the primary 50%-37%, but in the general election campaign, Moore appealed to moderates by portraying himself as a fiscal conservative and a crime fighter. He won 50%-47%. In 2002, the GOP primary was between candidates on either side of the abortion-rights issue. Moderate United Airlines pilot Adam Taff, who supported abortion rights, won 52%-48%. Moore defeated him in the general election 50%-47%. In 2004, Taff ran again in the primary, only to be defeated by the conservative in the race, Overland Park Councilman Kris Kobach, a former top aide to conservative Attorney General John Ashcroft. In the general election, Kobach sought to rally the party base, but Moore had his biggest win yet: 55%-43%. In 2006, national Republicans took a pass on the district.
In 2008, Republicans coalesced behind state Sen. Nick Jordan. Unlike Moore’s previous opponents, Jordan avoided a costly primary fight and was able to unite the party and focus exclusively on beating Moore. He ran ads that claimed Moore, as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, did not do enough to prevent the 2008 financial-markets crisis. But Moore cruised to victory in the strong Democratic year, winning 56%-40%.
After the 2004 election, a Johnson County Republican activist remarked, “Maybe we have to wait for Dennis Moore to retire.” But Moore is probably not secure enough to avoid another tough challenge down the road.