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Many candidates, only a few differences

Choice is a word you won’t hear much in the current election, and not just in relation to abortion.

Most candidates — particularly Republicans — seem remarkably similar on paper. All, even a few Democrats, give at least lip service to an array of conservative issues: cutting taxes, cracking down on illegal immigration, opposing abortion, and overturning what the federal government plans to do with health care.

Reading between the lines, however, subtle differences emerge. Per long-standing practice, we won’t endorse anyone. But given the bed-sheet nature of the Aug. 3 ballot, some sort of scorecard for state and national races seems in order:

U.S. Senate —The leading Republicans seem to share an identical agenda, but Todd Tiahrt appears more dogmatic and doctrinaire regarding it while Jerry Moran tends to express slightly more nuanced views, reflecting the practicalities of governing. Essentially, Tiahrt is running against President Obama while Moran, similarly opposing Obama, seems to be running more for Kansas. Tom Little, the only Republican who hasn’t slung mud, has interesting but largely impractical ideas and very little chance of winning.

Aside from being pro-choice on abortion, Democrats Patrick Wiesner and, to some extent, David Haley sound like Republicans, while Lisa Johnston, in a progressive sense, and Charles Schollenberger, in a populist sense, espouse more traditional Democratic views.

U.S. House, 1st District — On the issues, precious little separates a huge list of conservative Republicans. Polls indicate that three — Jim Barnett, Tim Huelskamp, and Tracy Mann — are statistically tied for the lead, far ahead of three others — Sue Boldra, Marck Cobb, and Rob Wasinger.

Huelskamp, like Tiahrt, is a more doctrinaire conservative. Barnett, like Moran, expresses similar views but with more nuance. Both are state senators. Mann, a real estate broker who repeatedly cites his experience as congressional intern and student body president while in college, is running as an outsider. He tends to focus a bit more than Huelskamp and Barnett on local as opposed to national issues.

Although polls say they don’t have a chance, Boldra seems to focus more on the common man and woman, while both Cobb and Wasinger tend to offer more Kansas-focused ideas than the typical array of national hot-button issues. Boldra has limited political experience. Wasinger has extensive experience as an aide to several Kansas politicians. Cobb, interestingly, negotiated a U.S.-Russian treaty as a Navy lawyer.

Secretary of State — Republicans are in lock-step on eliminating real or imagined voter fraud. Democrats are in lock-step on increasing voter participation.

Republican Libby Ensley and incumbent Democrat Chris Biggs, the only candidate opposed to a state issued photo ID for voters, have significant experience directly related to the duties of the office, which at times seem so technical as to make one question whether this should be an appointed rather than elected position.

Republicans J.R. Claeys and Kris Kobach and Democrat Chris Steineger would deny it but seem in the race mainly to use the office as a steppingstone.

Attorney General —Ralph Dezago is a career prosecutor who focuses on technical aspects of the office and on cracking down on Internet scams targeting older residents. Derek Schmidt is a career politician with more limited prosecutorial experience who focuses on more hot-button issues like sex offenses, drugs and gangs. Both are Republicans.

Insurance Commissioner — David Powell, who sells insurance, wants to minimize the effects of federal health care legislation until it can be repealed. Incumbent Sandy Praeger talks more about the quality of service residents receive when dealing with her office. Both are Republicans.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified July 21, 2010

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