Election 2020

Kansas Congressional Candidate Banks on 'Barbarism' as Dem Threatens to Flip Seat

State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald speaks during debate in Topeka, Kan., on Feb. 17, 2017. (Thad Allton/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

One of the Kansas GOP’s best chances of saving the state’s 2nd congressional district seat from being flipped to Democrat Paul Davis is a Republican who said, “Outside of Western civilization, there is only barbarism.”

Mike Stieben, co-chairman of Kansans For Life’s political action committee, told an audience at a Kansas GOP convention prayer breakfast in February that if they aren’t worried about Democrats winning the House seat now held by retiring Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.), they should be.

“If the election were held today, (there’s) a 70 percent chance Davis gets elected,” Stieben said as an empty KFC bucket was passed around the room to collect donations. “He’s ahead. Wake up. We cannot elect Paul Davis.”

Davis is a former minority leader in the Kansas House who almost beat former Gov. Sam Brownback in 2014. Although he didn’t win the gubernatorial election four years ago, Davis carried the 2nd congressional district in 2014.

Davis’ name is more recognizable than any of the seven Republicans whose names are on the August Kansas GOP primary ballot. And if he doesn’t have more money than God, Davis certainly has more greenbacks in the bank than any of the Republican candidates he’ll face in November: more than $1 million.

Three top GOP contenders had to write personal loans of at least $150,000 to move their campaigns close to what’s needed for a competitive primary election.

Also, Davis isn’t going to have to spend much of his cash before August. No other Democrats are on the ballot. The Kansas Democratic Party has coalesced around Davis, hoping he will do in Kansas what Conor Lamb accomplished in Pennsylvania.

However, the 2nd congressional district has been a Republican stronghold for at least a decade. Maybe this is much ado about nothing, just GOPers worrying about the Blue Wave washing up on their shores in 2018.

Well, maybe not. Newest polling from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics showed the Kansas GOP’s 2nd congressional district paranoia was justified. The Center for Politics’ Larry Sabato moved the 2nd district from “likely Republican” to “tossup” in his Crystal Ball rankings in June.

“Republicans, generically, have the wind in their face,” Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas, told Real Clear Politics. “If this were 2010 or 2014, we wouldn’t even be talking about the 2nd District.”

Kansas GOP Chairman Kelly Arnold admitted he’s worried about the 2nd district.

“(Davis) has name ID,” Arnold said. “We don’t know where we’re at with our candidate because we don’t know who it is yet.”

Maybe it will be Steve Fitzgerald, the state senator who told the world via CNN that except for those of us who live in western civilization, the world is filled with barbarians.

“We are being told that Western civilization is the problem in the world,” Fitzgerald said during a speech to a July 2 meeting of the Kansas Republican Party; CNN explained a “Democratic Party operative” gave the cable network a video of the speech. “Outside of Western civilization, there is only barbarism.”

“Our Judeo-Christian ethic is what is civilization,” Fitzgerald also said during the speech. “And that is what is under attack here and abroad. It also goes by a different name: Christendom. It’s under attack. And even speaking about it can bring you under attack. It has brought me under attack.”

Fitzgerald also took on Planned Parenthood during the speech, as he told the audience about someone donating money in his name to the organization. Fitzgerald, when he learned of the donation, compared Planned Parenthood to the Nazi concentration camp Dachau.

During his July speech, he doubled down on that argument.

“It was a firestorm. I got calls from everywhere, ‘How dare you? How could you? How could you compare it to Dachau?'” Fitzgerald told his audience. “I said, you are right, ‘Dachau really wasn’t one of the bigger killing camps, and these guys’ numbers are way beyond anything that they did.’”

Fitzgerald told reporters 10 days after CNN ran the video, which was also posted on the Leavenworth County Republicans’ Facebook page, that his remarks were intended to focus on the issue of abortion and he was not going to back down.

“Our society is being degraded by a move away from our values, which respect life, respect the dignity of individuals, respect human rights,” he said. “It is a disrespect of human life that we do not defend the unborn, and we do not have the respect for the dignity and human life of other people.”

Davis told the Lawrence Journal-World Fitzgerald was just throwing red meat at the GOP base, something he said most Republicans do during a primary race.

“Oftentimes the most outrageous statements get attention and attract Republican primary voters, and I think that’s probably what Steve is trying to do,” Davis said.

Think Fitzgerald is as worried as Mike Stieben was when the Kansans For Life leader passed around that KFC bucket to collect donations from Republicans back in February? Think again.

Fitzgerald is so confident that he included a poll released by the Davis camp showing the Democrat is ahead of the GOP pack by “only 5 points.”

“(Davis) holds this lead even though he has more than double our name ID,” the press release reads. “Fitzgerald is the only candidate who can stand toe to toe with Davis and win.”