Op-Ed by Hodge: Big challenges for new 3rd District congressional candidates

Benjamin Hodge writes at Red County:

Both Patricia Lightner and Kevin Yoder have now officially filed for the Republican primary on Tuesday, August 3.

I have not seen any polls lately — the only publicly-released poll has been this one in February from former candidate Nick Jordan — but I’m confident that both Lightner and Yoder are daily, consistently building up support in the form of voters, volunteers, and donors.  If new candidates decide to enter the race between now and the filing deadline on June 10, they enter with some serious disadvantages, particularly if they aren’t willing or able to put $500,000 or more of their own money in their campaigns:

  • Fundraising:
    • Again, it’s a moot point if they self-fund.  But one rumored “celebrity candidate” is not going to self-fund.
    • I’m guessing Yoder has raised about $450,000 that can be used in the primary.  Nobody else is near there, but Yoder’s “blistering pace” — the one that his campaign wrote about and The Star’s Steve Kraske further promoted — slowed down long ago, and Yoder will have a very high “burn rate” compared to more conservative candidates because Yoder has the difficult task of delicately-but-powerfully persuading conservative voters (about 65% of Republicans) that Yoder is, in fact, quite conservative while simultaneously reassuring moderate and liberal Republicans that Yoder is sufficiently inoffensive to them.
    • If a big-name conservative candidate enters, I see him or her being able to maybe raise $200,000 by July 15 (when voting starts), but not much more.  Lightner will likely be at a similar figure — importantly, though, Lightner will generally have raised her money through a large number of small donations, whereas the celebrity candidate will be relying on a small number of larger donations.  That means less passion and fewer votes for the newer conservative candidate.
  • Name ID:
    • In the mainstream media, to which older voters pay attention, Kevin Yoder’s name is mentioned frequently.
    • Kevin Yoder is finishing his role as a four-term state representative.
    • Patricia Lightner’s name is becoming well-known through the lots of attention in the new media, and through Tea Party-type Web sites and Email lists.
    • Lightner was a three-term state representative.
    • Other candidates, like Daniel Gilyeat and John Rysavy, have developed their own base of support and online followings.
  • Appearance of courage vs. opportunism:
    • Only three candidates were willing to run BEFORE it became clear that 2010 was going to be an enormously anti-Democratic year, and BEFORE incumbent Dennis Moore dropped out:  Gilyeat, Lightner, and Rysavy.  Yoder had been publicly considering the race prior to Moore’s exit, and Yoder has been running for many months, at this point.
    • Voters will ask the new candidate:  “Why only now?” and “What issues or personality traits separate you from the current field of candidates?”
  • Volunteer network:
    • Most of the current candidates will have a good-sized group of volunteers that will be helping the candidates walk in parades and meet voters at door-steps.  Volunteers typically volunteer for a reason:  they’re passionate about the candidate and the candidate’s issues.  Because we have a good variety of candidates right now in the Republican primary, I simply don’t consider it likely that there are a lot of people sitting home saying to themselves, “I would volunteer, if only there were a candidate more like me.”  It will be quite a challenge for a new candidate to build a volunteer team in a short amount of time.

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Connect with Hodge on YouTubeFacebook, his Web site, at Kansans for Government ReformTwitter, and Kansas Progress. From 2005-’09, Hodge represented 300,000 voters and 50,000 students at Johnson County Community College. He served in the Kansas House from 2007-’08. His record is recognized by AFP, the NRA, the Kansas Press Association, the Kansas Broadcasters Association, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

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