The Capital-Journal - Jenkins Points to Fiscal Experience as Her Strength in Challenge
By James Carlson
Lynn Jenkins has a simple proposition for voters in the 2nd Congressional District: In the current economic turmoil, go with an accountant.
The certified public accountant has quietly but methodically risen through the Republican ranks in the state and is now seeking to go national. Her campaign thinks the economic issues are on her side.
Lynn Jenkins hopes to trade her Kansas state treasurer's title for that of Congresswoman. She is campaigning on a message of change and fiscal prudence.
"As a CPA, I've spent my entire professional career addressing fiscal problems," she said recently.
On the campaign trail and in the first two candidate debates, she savagely attacked anything close to a tax increase and punched at federal earmarks, which she derided as wasteful spending.
She has attempted to connect incumbent Democratic Rep. Nancy Boyda to both of those items and says the freshman lawmaker hasn't delivered on the promises of her 2006 campaign.
Jenkins has grabbed for this election's buzzword "Change" claiming in the primary that former congressman Jim Ryun "had his shot."
In offering herself up as the moderate alternative, she appeared to achieve victory, said Bob Beatty, Washburn University political science professor. But she now has to garner those conservative votes (and money) without appearing too beholden to a relatively unpopular party.
"She's walking that tightrope," Beatty said.
Jenkins remembers driving with her Grandma Irma Higley west on US-36 highway, parallel the Nebraska border, to tiny K-8 highway, turning north and finding a marker a few miles up.
It tells of Brewster Higley, the author of "Home on the Range" and a relative of her grandmother.
"My Kansas roots run deep," Jenkins said.
Family is important to her in an online question-and-answer, she said her hobbies were spending time with her two teenage sons. Ask her about them, and she's likely to tell you about the Washburn Rural Middle School football team winning 32-12 recently.
Twelve years ago, before the state office or even her time in the Legislature, joining the politicos was "the furthest thing from my mind." But she was interested in the issues, and when she was offered the chance to run, she took it.
The economic downturn has relegated cultural issues to the talking-points heap pile in this campaign. And that's just fine with Jenkins.
The CPA has struck fiscally conservative positions, signing a pledge early on to not raise taxes. She and other state Republicans recently attacked Boyda for voting against eliminating the alternative minimum tax.
Boyda responded that she voted previously to fix the tax but only when it was paid for by other budget cuts, such as increasing the tax on offshore hedge-fund managers.
The vote-in-question, however, wasn't paid for and would add more than $60 billion to the federal deficit, Boyda said. She said Jenkins' no-tax pledge would box her in.
"The most obvious loopholes that need to be fixed on behalf of the American taxpayers, that's a tax increase in their books and they can't vote for it," Boyda said.
Democrats point out Jenkins voted for sales and gas tax increases while in the Kansas Legislature, but the treasurer said that was due to unfunded mandates from the federal government. It also was before she signed the pledge, and if elected, she said her biggest priority would be to extend the so-called Bush tax cuts.
Jenkins maintains that current deficits aren't due to revenue (or lack thereof) but rather the other side of the ledger.
"I don't know any country that taxed their way into prosperity, and tax relief is not what is endangering our economic future. It's the reckless spending," she said.
She points to Boyda's earmarks as exhibit No. 1. Boyda said the system isn't perfect, but it's the best way to target dollars to the local level. Also, in a rare move for politicians, Boyda has released all of her earmark requests.
But Jenkins said she wouldn't request federal funding for any local project that didn't have a federal purpose essentially limiting her options to spending on military, and roads and bridges.
"How about we keep that money right here in our own state, in our own pocket and put it where we want to put it," she said.
The "free-market girl," as Jenkins refers to herself, insists in the need to remove government from America's financial systems. She says the current market meltdown wasn't the result of lax regulation, as some have tried to suggest. Rather, it was borrowers who "wanted to live beyond their means" and "greedy executives" who weren't playing by the rules.
On second thought, there is room for some intervention, she said.
"It's not so much regulating, but we need increased monitoring. Somebody was asleep at the switch, I'll give you that," she said.
Who is to blame?
If making the Bush tax cuts permanent and curbing spending are two planks in Jenkins' platform, the third is drilling.
"We need to expand offshore, in the gulf and (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge)," she said.
Boyda voted for a recent bill that opened coastal waters to drilling 50 miles and more from shores, which would have increased drilling areas by about 3 percent. Jenkins labeled the bill hollow.
"There's no drilling in ANWR, no nuclear, no clean coal, no new refineries, no new oil shale," she said.
But she acknowledges the economy is at the top of most voters' minds. Unlike 2006, when Boyda swept in on a wave of anti-Republican, anti-war sentiment, it's the Democrats at the helm during the tumultuous economic times. How that translates to a local ballot box is unclear.
"We know people are unhappy," Beatty said. "The question is whether they're going to continue to blame the Republicans or start blaming the Democrats."