Saying she’d do the most to fight the federal health care law, Rep. Brenda Landwehr has officially launched a Republican primary challenge for the Senate seat now held by Sen. Jean Schodorf.
Landwehr, who has served in the House since 1995, will give up nearly guaranteed re-election in 2012 to face Schodorf, a 10-year incumbent who placed second in last year’s Republican primary in the 4th Congressional District.
The race offers a clear-cut contrast.
Landwehr is a leader of the House conservative wing and known for long-term opposition to abortion and more recently, the federal Affordable Care Act.
She is chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee and vice-chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Health Policy Oversight.
Schodorf is identified with the more moderate wing of the Republican Party and is considered one of the Legislature’s leaders on education.
She is Senate majority whip and also serves as chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee and the joint Legislative Educational Planning Committee.
Opposition to President Obama’s health-care reform act — which Republicans derisively call “Obamacare” — was an issue that propelled the GOP to sweeping victories in Kansas and across the nation in 2010.
Landwehr is hoping that issue still galvanizes Republican voters.
An outspoken opponent of the Affordable Care Act, Landwehr and said she was motivated in part to seek the Senate seat because of Schodorf’s opposition to full repeal.
She said she attended a Republican congressional campaign forum at Word of Life Church and “Jean Schodorf was the only candidate at that forum to say she would not repeal Obamacare.”
During the congressional race, Schodorf said she opposes the part of the law mandating individuals to buy insurance.
But she supports some of its provisions, such as allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ coverage to age 26 and a prohibition on insurance companies denying coverage because of pre-existing health conditions.
“I’m not a rubber-stamp type of person,” Schodorf said. “I will question and I will study to make sure the issues are good for Kansas.”
Landwehr was the driving force behind the “Kansas Healthcare Freedom Amendment” a proposal to change the state Constitution in an effort to exempt Kansans from the insurance mandate.
The amendment, which would have put the measure to a public vote, passed the House but stalled in a Senate committee.
Schodorf said the Senate never voted on the amendment, but she did vote in favor of a regular statute to exempt Kansans from the mandate.
That bill passed and was signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback, although it is unclear whether it will stand up to federal court challenges.
Schodorf said she doesn’t really plan to campaign much until after the next legislative session, which begins in January and is expected to feature contentious battles over taxes, the school finance formula and redistricting.
Redistricting could loom especially large in the 25th District. It’s currently a meandering swath of territory originally drawn as a Democratic-leaning district, stretching from conservative suburbs such as Maize to politically diverse neighborhoods in Riverside and south Wichita.
Schodorf and Landwehr live within blocks of each other so it’s unlikely either will be drawn out of the district.
But almost 5,000 voters will be moved out to balance population with other districts, which could influence the primary outcome depending on where the new lines are drawn.