Though the Republican primary is more than a year away, it appears the battle for Kansas Senate District 39 between incumbent Larry Powell and challenger John Doll is already starting to heat up.
On Wednesday, Doll announced his candidacy for the state Senate seat currently held by Powell. The election is in August 2016.
District 39 includes Finney, Haskell, Grant, Stanton, Morton, Stevens, Kearny, Hamilton, Wichita and Greeley counties.
Doll spent the April legislative break meeting with community leaders across the Senate district to hear concerns and gauge support for a change in representation.
Friday morning, Powell issued a statement about Doll’s challenge, pointing out Doll’s change in political party affiliation and endorsement by former state Sen. Steve Morris, whom Powell defeated in the 2012 Republican primary.
“When John Doll ran for Congress as a Democrat against then-Congressman Jerry Moran, he said some pretty disparaging and misleading things about Jerry,” Powell said. “Though he has changed his registration in recent years, John appears to be attacking me in a similar way. While part of me almost takes this as a compliment, the other part is saddened to see ambition and left-wing ideology has led to such lengths.”
Powell added that Morris’ support for Doll should tell the people of the 39th Senate District everything they need to know. Powell said Morris has been on a “crusade” to elect Democrats at both the state and federal levels since his 2012 defeat.
“He endorsed Obama’s choice for U.S. Senate, Greg Orman, and Democrat Jim Sherow for Congress in the Big First. Then again, I guess it is not surprising that Mr. Morris has chosen to endorse another Democrat ideologue in John Doll,” Powell said.
In response, Doll said he was a bit surprised with Powell’s statements. Although, he anticipated Powell would bring up his former registration as a Democrat, and expects it will come up repeatedly during the campaign.
“Because as far as Western Kansas is concerned, my voting record is something that they won’t be able to present. It looks like, early anyway, that Larry’s campaign will be focusing on people. I will focus on the issues facing southwest Kansas such as water, schools, roads and access to healthcare,” Doll said.
Doll said Powell has a different take on his run against now Sen. Moran than Moran has on that race, noting that Moran contributed to Doll’s 2014 House campaign.
“I’d say that Jerry understands in a campaign that differences will be brought up. I tried to do that in that Congressional race,” Doll said.
Doll also felt Powell’s attack on Steve Morris was uncalled for. As a former city commissioner and mayor of Garden City, Doll said he worked with Morris, who was an ally for his district and its people. Losing Morris has been a blow legislatively for western Kansas, Doll said.
“Steve served with the distinction that I hope to mirror. I’m proud to call Steve my friend,” Doll said. “I look forward to this senatorial race and anxiously await debating the issues that concern southwest Kansas with Larry. There is a saying that goes like this: ‘Great minds discuss ideas, small minds discuss people.’”