Goyle and Pompeo in dogfight over jets and jobs in Cowley County

The battle for the 4th District congressional seat moved to Cowley County today, with Rep. Raj Goyle, D-Wichita, blasting Republican rival Mike Pompeo’s opposition to a military aircraft engine project that Goyle said supports about 800 jobs in the county.

Pompeo, meanwhile, announced his endorsement by the mayor of Winfield, the Cowley County seat.

Goyle quoted from a Wichita Eagle opinion piece, written by Pompeo, opposing the program for General Electric to develop an alternative engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Goyle said the program serves a necessary function by ensuring the nation’s fighter fleet won’t be dependent on a single engine manufacturer and that it supports jobs at Strother Field, a GE facility between Winfield and Arkansas City.

“The GE engine is supported by members of Congress from both parties, retired generals, GE and labor unions,” Goyle said in a written statement. “The F-35 Alternate Engine Project at GE’s Strother plant in Cowley County will help protect more than 800 Kansas jobs, support our military force in the field, increase competition and can save taxpayer money down the road.”

In his newspaper opinion piece published in September of last year, Pompeo criticized the program as a waste of money.

“Despite recommendations from the military and both the Bush and Obama administrations, Congress continues to spend billions of dollars for the alternate engine for the F-35,” Pompeo wrote. “The Pentagon estimates a cost savings of as much as $5.2 billion by eliminating the alternate engine.”

Pompeo also announced that he had landed the support of Winfield Mayor Tom McNeish.

In a Pompeo campaign statement, McNeish hailed the candidate’s business experience and said Pompeo understands that high taxes and increasing regulation are “destroying Kansas jobs.”

“Mike’s knowledge and experience of actually creating jobs will be good for Cowley County businesses – for example the G.E. Engine Services facility at Strother Field – and the hardworking Kansans who work in the aviation industry in Cowley County,” McNeish said.

Late Thursday, Pompeo issued a statement saying: “Having created hundreds of aircraft manufacturing jobs here in Kansas, I am committed to helping create an economic environment that will allow Strother Field — and General Electric’s facility there — to succeed and grow. I am humbled by the enormous support our campaign has received from throughout the aviation industry all across the 4th District of Kansas.”