POLITICS: Campaigns

Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt sets off GOP primary fight in Kansas with challenge to Mike Pompeo

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Kansas,2014 Elections,Campaigns,Mike Pompeo,Blake Seitz

Former Rep. Todd Tiahrt started a dogfight in his old Kansas district by announcing he will challenge incumbent Rep. Mike Pompeo in the August Republican primary.

Tiahrt, who represented the 4th District from 1995 to 2011, accused his successor of complacency in losing an important aviation contract for Wichita, Kan.-based Hawker Beechcraft.

"When the Pentagon outsourced our national security jobs to Brazil, where in the world was our congressman?" Tiahrt asked during his campaign announcement at the Kansas Aviation Museum. (Tiahrt's statement is not entirely true. While the contract was awarded to a Brazilian company, the planes were to be built in the U.S.)

Apparently Tiahrt had a change of heart since 2010, when he endorsed Pompeo as a defender of the Wichita aerospace industry. He even spoke from the same venue.

"Mike knows the importance of the aviation industry because he’s lived it and he knows what it will take to create jobs in Kansas," Tiahrt said in 2010. "... Mike has the experience to bring a true change to Washington, D.C. and I’m honored to join him on the campaign trail."

Tiahrt also jabbed Pompeo for voting to fund Obamacare, supporting National Security Agency domestic surveillance and supporting a U.S. military strike in Syria.

Pompeo hit back in a same-day statement: “I am surprised that Todd has chosen to attempt to get back the job he abandoned back in 2010," Pompeo said. He also took issue with Tiahrt's record: "Todd's embrace of the wasteful earmarking system of old Washington stands in stark contrast to my commitment to fiscal responsibility and cutting spending. I look forward to a robust debate of these major differences in the weeks ahead."

Outside conservative groups, for their part, are rallying around the incumbent. Club for Growth President Chris Chocola issued an endorsement of Pompeo: "Congressman Mike Pompeo is a taxpayer hero with a 90 percent on the Club for Growth's congressional scorecard and we hope he is re-nominated by Kansas Republicans."

Both Tiahrt and Pompeo have backgrounds in aerospace, an industry responsible for several thousand jobs in the district. Tiahrt worked for Boeing Co. before entering Congress. Pompeo started his own firm, Thayer Aerospace. He sold it in 2006.

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Blake Seitz

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