For the second time in as many cycles, former Rep. Dan Glickman (D) is considering a Senate bid.
“I am looking at it again,” Glickman said in an interview Tuesday. “It is something I have thought about before and I am a natural person for the party to look to as a candidate.”
Glickman currently serves as the director at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University; he represented Kansas in the House for 18 years and served as secretary of Agriculture during the Clinton administration.
Officials at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have talked to Glickman about challenging Sen. Sam Brownback (R) in 2004.
“Dan Glickman would be a formidable candidate, and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if Senator Brownback is shaking in his boots at the prospect of facing the secretary,” said DSCC spokesman Brad Woodhouse.
Brownback chose not to comment directly on a Glickman candidacy.
“Senator Brownback is focused on running for re-election by doing a good job and working hard for the people of Kansas,” said spokesman Erik Hotmire.
One of the strongest potential candidates for Democrats, Rep. Dennis Moore, briefly considered the race earlier this year but instead chose to run for a fourth House term in his swing 3rd district.
Moore has made it clear he would prefer Glickman to be the party’s standard-bearer in 2004.
Glickman, however, has developed a reputation as the always mentioned, never-announced candidate for Sunflower State Democrats.
Last cycle he appeared on the verge of challenging Sen. Pat Roberts (R), traveling back to Kansas to be the keynote speaker at Demofest, the state party’s annual gathering, and huddling with national Democrats about the contest.
The DSCC went as far as to commission a survey on Glickman’s behalf in the summer of 2001 that he termed “encouraging.”
Despite the positive indicators, Glickman bowed out of the race in September 2001, citing the need for unity in the wake of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Democrats were unable to field a candidate against Roberts after Glickman’s decision, and the Senator took 83 percent in his re-election race.
“Sam Brownback is no Pat Roberts,” said Woodhouse.
Several factors may make the former Congressman more willing to join the race this time, however.
The election of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) in 2002 heartened the state party considerably and gave Democrats hope after a decade of increasing Republican dominance.
“If you have a Democratic governor, you have a ready-made organization,” explained Glickman. “Our governor is a very talented politician, and she is very well organized.”
But, Glickman noted, federal races are a different animal from state races.
Kansas has not elected a Democratic Senator since 1930; the closest the state has come was in 1974 when doctor and lawyer Bill Roy took 49 percent of the vote against then-Sen. Bob Dole (R), who was running for a second term.
Another factor that spurs Democratic hopes is that Glickman does not share the personal friendship with Brownback that he does with Roberts.
“I was personally very close with Pat Roberts,” Glickman said, and that closeness was one of the contributing factors to him staying out of the fray in 2002.
Glickman and Roberts were House colleagues for several years.
“I have not had any difficulties with Sam, but I don’t have that relationship with him,” Glickman said.
All of this must be taken with a grain of salt, as Glickman’s interest in the 2004 race has a number of parallels to his past Senate deliberation.
He emphasized Tuesday that he was not “in any kind of active campaign mode” and had not established a campaign committee to begin raising money.
When he decided against the race in 2002, Glickman told Roll Call that he “never really developed an infrastructure to run for office.”
Given the rising cost of Senate races — even in states with relatively inexpensive media markets like Kansas — serious candidates see Labor Day as the outer boundary for getting in or out of races.
“If I were going to do it, I would need to do it soon,” said Glickman, who noted that a race would “involve an extraordinary amount of money, and that has to be in your mind when you look at this.”
Brownback raised $444,000 from April 1 to June 30 and retained $1 million on hand.
The Kansas Senator spent $2.3 million to win the seat in the 1996 special election to replace Dole, who resigned to run for president. Against a much less serious opponent in 1998, Brownback spent $1.7 million.
In addition to his strong fundraising, Brownback has significant personal resources that he could bring to bear on his re-election.
It remains to be seen whether Glickman could put together the fundraising apparatus necessary to compete with Brownback.
In 1994, Glickman raised nearly $700,000 but was swept under by the national Republican wave, losing his Wichita-based House seat after nine terms to Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R).