Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: June 10, 1963, Holton .
Education: KS St. U., A.S. 1985; Weber St. U., B.S., 1985.
Family: Divorced; 2 children.
Elected office: KS House, 1999-2001; KS Senate, 2001-03; KS treasurer, 2003-08.
Professional Career: C.P.A., 1984-98.
The new congresswoman from the 2nd District is Republican Lynn Jenkins, who brought the seat back to the Republican Party by defeating Democratic Rep. Nancy Boyda in 2008. Two years earlier, Boyda had pulled off one of that year’s biggest upsets by unseating Republican Jim Ryun, but she could not overcome the district’s Republican tilt in a second election. Jenkins was born in Topeka and grew up in the rural town of Holton on a dairy farm, where her parents still live today. After graduating from college, she worked for close to 15 years as a certified public accountant. Her shift to public service began with her first successful run for the state House in 1998 and proceeded at a breakneck pace. She served one term in the House and one in the state Senate and in 2002, was elected Kansas Treasurer. In 2006, even as Kansas re-elected popular Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius at the top of the ticket, they returned Jenkins as treasurer. Shortly into her new term, she set her sights on the 2nd District House seat.
|Lynn Jenkins (R)||155,532||(51%)||($1,666,239)|
|Nancy Boyda (D)||142,013||(46%)||($1,760,726)|
|Lynn Jenkins (R)||34,278||(51%)|
|Jim Ryun (R)||32,966||(49%)|
Before she could take on the incumbent, Jenkins had to first get past the person Boyda defeated, former Rep. Ryun, who had held the seat for five terms and wanted it back. Ryun had barely left office in early 2007 when he announced plans to reclaim the seat. Jenkins’s announcement also defied much of the state’s Republican establishment, which looked at Ryun’s loss as an anomaly that would be easily corrected through a rematch with Boyda in 2008. It also threatened to rupture the latent divide between the two wings of the state GOP. Ryun was one of the most conservative Republicans in the House during his career, while Jenkins had built a more moderate profile as a pro-business and pro-abortion rights Republican.
The primary proved spirited but largely avoided the self-immolating tendencies that had emerged in previous intraparty contests in the state. Ryun called on Jenkins to sign a “clean campaign pledge,” and after she declined, he attacked her for voting to raise taxes as a member of the state Legislature. But Jenkins effectively turned Ryun’s arguments against him. Calling him her “friend” all the way through the primary, she countered that Ryun had run up a large tab in Congress by adding earmarks for special projects to spending bills, and she promised to limit the number of earmarks she sought for the district. Although heavily outspent by Ryun, she eked out a win by just over 1,300 votes. Eager to dispel any notion of bitterness from the contest, Ryun heartily endorsed her.
Despite the strong GOP tilt of the district, Jenkins nonetheless faced an uphill battle in the general election. Swept into office on a Democratic wave, Boyda had carefully crafted a voting record mostly in line with her constituents’ views. She sought to distance herself from her party in July 2008 by publicly renouncing the support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, although she had accepted $10,000 from the committee. But Jenkins still tied Boyda to liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi every chance she got and accused the incumbent of supporting tax increases by voting for Democratic budgets that phased out the Bush administration’s tax cuts in the top income bracket.
The strategy ultimately paid off. By portraying Boyda as out-of-step with the district, Jenkins turned the come-from-behind winner in 2006 into one of the rare Democratic losers of 2008. She won 51%-46%. However, her personal life hit a sad note three days after her election victory, when her husband filed for divorce.
Although Jenkins railed against earmarks during the campaign, she soon succumbed to their political, constituent-pleasing appeal. The Club for Growth, a national anti-tax group, removed her from its “Sworn Off Earmarks” list in April 2009 after she submitted requests for 23 projects totaling $70 million to the Appropriations Committee. Like other self-described budget hawks who’ve had to contend with the contradiction of their active pursuit of earmarks, Jenkins responded that she would request money for legitimate projects in her district as long as earmarking remained the status quo in Congress.
A few months later, Jenkins garnered more negative publicity with her remarks at a town hall meeting in Hiawatha, Kan. In August 2009, just a few months after the election of the nation’s first black president, Jenkins touted the future prospects of several young GOP leaders and then added, “Republicans are struggling right now to find the great white hope.” Jenkins promptly apologized for her word choice.