Rep. Jerry Moran (R)
Kansas 1st District
“A prairie is not any old piece of flatland in the Midwest,” writes Kansas-born reporter Dennis Farney. “No, a prairie is wine-colored grass, dancing in the wind. A prairie is a sun-splashed hillside, bright with wild flowers. A prairie is a fleeting cloud shadow, the song of the meadowlark. It is the wild land that has never felt the slash of the plow.” The prairie Farney describes once covered almost all of Kansas. Now only a little virgin prairie can still be found, in the Flint Hills region west and south of Topeka, where you can see 30 miles on a clear day and waist-deep sea of grass waves in the wind as it did when pioneers on the Santa Fe Trail passed through some 150 years ago. The 11,000-acre Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve was created in 1996 to protect this unique landscape, and it is the largest privately owned parcel of land in the National Park system. “The Flint Hills do not take your breath away,” wrote western folklorist Jim Hoy. “They give you a chance to catch it.” Much of the area was grazing land, first for buffalo, then for the cattle driven to Kansas railheads like Abilene and Dodge City in the 1870s and 1880s. This brief moment in history has been recaptured in the Boot Hill Museum of kitschy Dodge City, where Main Street is called Wyatt Earp Boulevard.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
After the harsh winter of 1886-87 wiped out the cattle herds, farmers moved in with plows and barbed wire (commemorated in Lacrosse’s Barbed Wire Museum), which enabled farmers to keep livestock out of their wheat fields. The farmers also brought Yankee civilization to this vacant landscape—schools and churches and some foreign traditions as well, like the Cathedral of the Plains built by German Catholics. Now this civilization is threatened. “My great-grandparents and grandparents were part of the stream of settlers who migrated to western Kansas after the Civil War to become wheat farmers,” writes James Dickenson in his elegiac Home on the Range. “They broke the virgin sod, erected houses, barns, schools, churches and towns, and made the area one of the most agriculturally productive in the world. A little more than a century later, the population has ebbed away from this area and many of the farms, schools, churches and towns lie vacant, dilapidated and boarded up like old boomtowns.” The average age of Kansas farmers has approached 60. But there are also signs of rejuvenation, including growing agri-tourism to supplement farm income. Some towns are attracting new residents by giving away land as homesteads. Big meatpacking plants in Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal (the “Golden Triangle of meatpacking”) have attracted large numbers of Hispanic immigrants, many living in trailer parks. Nearly two-thirds of the schoolchildren in these counties are Hispanic, and Spanish-language radio is prominent. Wind farms have grown on prairie land, though some worry that they may disturb the prairie ecosystem.
The 1st Congressional District consists of most of this expanse of Kansas, almost everything west of the Flint Hills and Abilene, the boyhood home of President Dwight Eisenhower. It contains 66 full counties and parts of three others; only the Nebraska’s 3rd District has more counties. The “Big First,” which stretches 350 miles east from the Colorado border, is roughly the size of Illinois. Population increased from 76,000 people in 1870 to 570,000 in 1890, but it has not grown much since then. With its aging population, it has the most hospitals of any district in the nation. Kansas now has more “frontier counties,” with between two and six people per square mile, than it did in 1890. It also has more farms and more acres in grain-sorghum production than any other state, and more cattle. And from 1995 to 2006, the district received the highest percentage of federal farm subsidies of any congressional district. Politically, the 1st District is solidly Republican. It voted for George W. Bush by nearly 3-to-1 in 2004, and it voted for John McCain by better than 2-to-1 in 2008. But it also voted narrowly for Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, whose late father-in-law, Republican Keith Sebelius, represented the district in the House for 12 years.
Rep. Jerry Moran (R)
Elected: 1996, 7th term.
Born: May 29, 1954, Great Bend .
Education: U. of KS, B.S. 1976, J.D. 1981.
Family: Married (Robba); 2 children.
Elected office: KS Senate, 1988–96, Majority ldr., 1995–96.
Professional Career: Operations officer, Consolidated State Bank, 1975–77; Mgr., Farmers State Bank & Trust Co., 1977–78; Practicing atty., 1981–96; Instructor, Ft. Hays St. U., 1986.
The congressman from the 1st District is Jerry Moran, a Republican first elected in 1996. Moran grew up in Plainville in Rooks County and got his start in politics as an intern for U.S. Rep. Keith Sebelius, which entitled him to a seat at the impeachment hearings of President Richard Nixon. Moran worked as a banker for four years before attending the University of Kansas Law School. He was elected to the state Senate in 1988 and became state Senate majority leader in 1995. When 1st District Rep. Pat Roberts, a Republican, ran for the Senate in 1996, Moran stepped into the race to succeed him. With the help of Republican leaders, he avoided serious primary competition and won with 76% of the vote in the primary, which was tantamount to election.
|Jerry Moran (R)||214,549||(82%)||($2,769,946)|
|James Bordonaro (D)||34,771||(13%)||($6,057)|
|Kathleen Burton (Ref)||7,145||(3%)|
|Jack Warner (Lib)||5,562||(2%)|
|Jerry Moran (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (79%), 2004 (91%), 2002 (91%), 2000 (89%), 1998 (81%), 1996 (73%)
Moran’s voting record is moderate, though he says he sees himself as a traditional Republican. He has sometimes gone his own way in pursuing district causes. To the dismay of Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert, he was one of the 25 House Republicans who opposed the GOP Medicare prescription-drug bill in 2003. “I have never been under such pressure to vote contrary to what I thought was right as I was with this vote,” said Moran, who didn’t think the legislation did enough to reduce drug prices. He has sought to give federal officials negotiating authority to lower prescription-drug costs, a popular Democratic notion, and he supported an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. He bucked the Republican leadership to lead bipartisan efforts to bar the Treasury Department from forcing Cuba, a major consumer of Kansas wheat, to pay in advance for shipments of food and medicine from the U.S.. In 2007, Moran’s amendment to ease restrictions on shipments of food and medicine to Cuba passed the House, though it was removed from the final legislation to avoid a White House veto.
Moran is the ranking member on the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee of the Agriculture Committee. He is a defender of the U.S. system of farm subsidies, which has brought billions of federal dollars to his district. During the debate over the 2008 farm bill, Moran argued that the legislation was diverting too much money away from farm subsidies for nutrition programs and other uses. He also said urban legislators had too much say in the process. “More and more of the farm bill is being written to satisfy the desires of urban constituencies—not by those of us who represent the nation’s farmers and ranchers,” he said. He voted against the final bill because it contained cuts to federal subsidies for farmers.
Each year, Moran logs about 50,000 miles visiting every county in the district; his constituents expect to be able to speak with their congressman without driving to the next county over. He was re-elected in 1998 with a record 81% of the vote and did not face another Democratic challenger until 2006, when he got 79% against first-time candidate John Doll, a former schoolteacher. In 2008, Moran got 82% of the vote. He resisted state party leaders’ pressure to challenge popular Gov. Sebelius in 2006. In November 2008, Moran announced plans to run for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sam Brownback in 2010. He will face fellow Republican House member Todd Tiahrt in the race for the Republican nomination.