Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R)
Elected: 1994, 8th term.
Born: June 15, 1951, Vermillion, SD .
Education: SD Sch. of Mines, 1969-71; Evangel Col., B.A. 1975; SW MO St. U., M.B.A. 1989.
Religion: Assembly of God.
Family: Married (Vicki); 3 children.
Elected office: KS Senate, 1992–94.
Professional Career: Project engineer, Zenith Corp., 1978–81; Proposal mgr., Boeing Co., 1981–94.
The congressman from the 4th District is Todd Tiahrt (TEE-art), a Republican first elected in 1994. He grew up on his family’s farm in South Dakota and got a scholarship to play football for the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. When a knee injury ended his athletic career, Tiahrt transferred to Evangel College in Springfield, Mo., run by his church, the Assemblies of God. In 1976, Tiahrt and his wife moved to the Wichita area to be closer to her family, and Tiahrt went to work at Zenith as a project engineer and then at Boeing as a contract manager on the Air Force One, the Comanche helicopter and several other military craft. In 1990, he ran for the Kansas House and lost by just eight votes. In 1992, he was elected to the Kansas Senate, where he pushed to enact a concealed-weapons law.
|Todd Tiahrt (R)||177,617||(63%)||($964,059)|
|Donald Betts (D)||90,706||(32%)||($210,358)|
|Susan Ducey (Ref)||6,441||(2%)|
|Todd Tiahrt (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (64%), 2004 (66%), 2002 (61%), 2000 (54%), 1998 (58%), 1996 (50%), 1994 (53%)
In 1994, Tiahrt decided to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Glickman, who had been in the House for 18 years. Tiahrt ran ads playing on President Bill Clinton’s unpopularity in the district, showing Glickman’s face morphing into Clinton’s. He also attacked Glickman for voting for gun-control laws. With his base among Wichita’s numerous religious conservatives, who had come to dominate the local Republican Party, Tiahrt assembled a corps of 1,800 volunteers, many from his church contacts. Glickman outspent him more than 3-to-1, but he suffered serious losses in middle-income areas in Sedgwick County. Tiahrt won a solid 53%-47% victory.
In the House, Tiahrt has a strongly conservative voting record and has wielded influence on the Appropriations Committee, particularly on its Defense Subcommittee. Since 2003, he has inserted an amendment into the appropriation bills that restricts access to information on gun sales that is collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the leader of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, voiced opposition to the amendment in 2007 and ran ads in Tiahrt’s district that accused him of putting police officers in harm’s way. Liberal Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island attempted to weaken the data restrictions with an amendment of his own, but Democrats from rural areas joined Republicans to defeat the effort. Tiahrt’s amendment passed the House Appropriations Committee once again in July 2007.
Tiahrt chairs the House Economic Competitiveness Caucus, which seeks to eliminate federal regulations with the goal of making U.S. businesses more competitive in global trade. He has also campaigned over the years to eliminate various government programs he finds unnecessary, including the public-service program AmeriCorps.
Tiahrt has also been active on issues pertinent to his district. He has sponsored measures that help aircraft manufacturers and supported the Air Force’s proposal to buy KC-767 aerial refueling tankers from Boeing. In 2008, he vehemently criticized the Air Force’s decision to award a contract for a new fleet of refueling tankers to Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company. He had lobbied for Boeing to get the contract, which had the potential to add hundreds of jobs in the Wichita area. The Air Force nullified its initial decision and reopened the contract to bidding after the U.S. Government Accountability Office found errors in the awarding process.
After the devastating suicide of his teenage son, Luke, in 2004, Tiahrt created a foundation to help troubled teens.
Tiahrt has been stymied in his various attempts over the years to move up the ladder in the House, and in 2009, he announced that he would run for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sam Brownback in 2010. Fellow Republican Rep. Jerry Moran also had plans to run in the GOP primary. In early 2006, Tiahrt was among several Republicans who wanted to run for party whip when Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri campaigned for Majority Leader. But Blunt lost and remained in the whip’s job. Later that year, senior members of the Republican Study Committee backed Tiahrt as the group’s new chairman, but he lost to insurgent Jeb Hensarling of Texas, whose backers said that Tiahrt was too close to Republican leaders.
Democrats targeted Tiahrt during his early years with well-financed opponents, but he appears to be safe for now. In 2000, Wichita attorney and former Glickman aide Carlos Nolla ran a tougher-than-expected challenge, But Tiahrt won, 54%-42%. In a rematch two years later, Nolla doubled his fundraising with support from national Hispanics, but still lost, 61%-37%. Since then, Tiahrt’s opponents have been poorly funded and gotten little attention.