TOPEKA, Kan. — Senate candidate Todd Tiahrt's campaign accused fellow Kansas Republican hopeful Jerry Moran on Wednesday of trying to hide past votes to raise taxes, while Moran's campaign labeled Tiahrt's tactics as desperate.
The two congressmen sparred over a television ad from Tiahrt attacking Moran on tax votes. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that the ad began airing Tuesday in what appeared to be a light rotation in the Topeka, Wichita and Kansas City markets.
Both Tiahrt and Moran have portrayed themselves as fiscal conservatives, favoring lower taxes and less spending by the federal government. They're vying for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican who's running for governor, and the primary is Aug. 3.
Tiahrt's ad — like his campaign — contends that Moran isn't a true conservative, and it highlights six votes in favor on tax issues from Moran's past. Most were in the Kansas Legislature in the early 1990s, when Moran was a state senator, but one was a vote Moran cast in the U.S. House in 2003 against a GOP budget resolution. [See who is donating money to Tiahrt's campaign.]
Moran spokesman Dan Conston said Wednesday the ad was "a desperate attack." Moran's campaign said he's voted for lower taxes more than 200 times since entering Congress in 1997.
And Moran's campaign noted that two blank tax forms used as a backdrop for Tiahrt's ad are from New York. One is for the city of Yonkers in that state. [See which industries are donating to Moran's campaign.]
"Their campaign appears to be confused about what state he's running for the Senate in," Conston said in an e-mail.
Tiahrt spokeswoman Michelle Schroeder said Moran is trying to avoid a debate about his past votes "in slick Washington fashion."
"When you have no defense for your record — change the subject," she said Wednesday.
Moran represents the 1st Congressional District of western and central Kansas. Tiahrt has held the 4th District seat for south-central Kansas since 1995.
Tiahrt began airing his television ad less than a week after Moran's campaign released the results of internal polling that showed Moran with a big lead over Tiahrt. Moran also began the second quarter of this year with almost $3.5 million in cash in his campaign fund, compared to $1.5 million for Tiahrt.
Tiahrt's ad attempts to undercut Moran's support among Republicans by aligning him with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
It notes that in 2003, Moran was one of 12 GOP House members to vote against the Republican budget resolution — and with Pelosi and almost all of her fellow Democrats. It characterizes the vote as favoring higher taxes, because the resolution assumed temporary tax cuts championed by then-President Bush would become permanent.
But Moran's campaign said he supported Bush's tax cuts in multiple other votes.
The legislative votes cited by Tiahrt include a 1991 vote by Moran for a bill raising the state's sales and income taxes to provide money for public schools and keep property taxes down. Then-Gov. Joan Finney, a Democrat, vetoed it.
Tiahrt's ad also cited votes Moran made in 1991 and 1992 against bills to exempt municipal airport property from taxes and in 1991 and 1993 against renewing restrictions on local governments' ability to increase property taxes. All four bills passed by wide margins, with most GOP state senators in favor.