CNN/TIME AllPolitics Vote '96

Kan.: Brownback Keeps Dole's Seat Republican

TOPEKA, Kansas (AllPolitics, Nov. 5) -- Freshman U.S. Rep. Sam Brownback defeated Democrat Jill Docking in the race for Bob Dole's vacated Senate seat.

The suddenness of Dole's announcement in May that he would resign from the Senate to concentrate on his presidential campaign sent Kansas politics into a tailspin. The result was a second Senate contest that was more closely watched -- and more competitive -- than the regularly scheduled one to fill the Senate seat of Nancy Kassebaum, who is retiring.

Brownback won a bitterly fought special primary Aug. 6 over interim Sen. Sheila Frahm, who had been appointed in June by Republican Gov. Bill Graves to replace Dole. Despite Dole's presence at the top of the ticket and a Republican hold on both Senate seats that dates back to 1938, Brownback maintained only the narrowest of leads over Docking in polls heading into the election.

Brownback's primary campaign exposed an ideological rift within the Kansas Republican Party. A member of the conservative activist wing, Brownback unseated the more moderate Frahm. Then, he had to woo her supporters to keep them from drifting into Docking's camp, while at the same time maintaining the fervor of his conservative base.

Brownback drew strong support from Kansas' Christian conservative movement. He opposes abortion rights while Docking, like Frahm, supports them.

Yet Brownback made some progress in binding his party's wounds. Graves and Frahm ultimately rallied behind Brownback's candidacy and appeared in broadcast ads for the nominee.

Brownback himself emphasized economics and government reform on a par with social issues. A vocal member of the House Republican freshman class, he has argued in favor of what he calls the "three R's": reduce the size of the federal government, reform Congress and return to values. In addition, he tried to brand Docking a liberal.

Docking espoused a centrist message in which she called herself an "independent voice" for Kansas and charged that it is Brownback whose views were out of the mainstream.

Docking, a stockbroker, argued that Brownback has not voted in line with the priorities of middle class and working families, and that he has lost touch with his Kansas roots. She tried to link Brownback to House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and the Christian Coalition.

Based in Wichita, Docking tried to reach out to moderate Republicans, particularly women. She easily defeated former Gov. Joan Finney in the Democratic primary. While Docking herself is a new face in Kansas politics, the Docking name is a familiar one. Her husband, Thomas, was lieutenant governor, and his father and grandfather were Kansas governors.

Congressional Quarterly contributed to this report.


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