Senator announces presidential bid


Published: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 11:58 p.m.

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback jumped into the 2008 presidential race Saturday, a favorite of the religious right now in an uphill battle against better known rivals for the GOP nomination.

"I am a conservative and I'm proud of being a conservative," he proclaimed.

"My family and I are taking the first steps on the yellow brick road to the White House. It's a great journey," the two-term senator told hundreds of supporters. He pledged to fight on behalf of the nation's cultural values and to focus on rebuilding families.

The 50-year-old Brownback offers himself as a "full-scale Ronald Reagan conservative."

After Saturday's speech, he told reporters: "My positions are at the heart of where the Republican Party is. I'm willing to take those positions with all comers."

Brownback's announcement, planned weeks ago, came hours after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., entered her party's 2008 race with a posting on her Web site with little prior notice.

"I don't know why she did that. I guess she's scared of me," Brownback said.

The Democratic National Committee issued a statement calling Brownback "a stubborn ideologue who places his own political agenda over the needs of the American people."

While Brownback touched on a wide variety of issues, he laced his speech with the themes that have made him a leader of GOP conservatives and a strong spokesman in Congress for socially conservative Christians.

"He has a consistency that others don't seem to have," said Hollie Cook, a 30-year-old mother of three from Walkerton, Ind., a Brownback supporter who was traveling with her family to Texas and decided to stop for Saturday's event.

A fierce foe of abortion, Brownback planned to return to Washington to participate in an anti-abortion rally Monday marking the 34th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that established a nationwide right to the procedure. Brownback also opposes embryonic stem-cell research and gay marriage.

In his announcement, Brownback said the country needs to support the traditional definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman and said most Americans believe in "a culture of life."

"Let's start following our hearts and work to protect all innocent human life at all stages," he said.

He pledged never to sign a tax increase if elected president and proposed scrapping the current income tax law, saying it "should be taken behind the barn and killed with a dull ax."

Brownback faces as many as 10 potential GOP hopefuls, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani — all with the fundraising skills and experienced campaign staff for the long haul.

But Giuliani is a longtime supporter of abortion rights, gay rights and gun control.

In recent weeks, conservatives have expressed reservations about McCain and Romney, wondering whether their past statements on rights for homosexuals reflect a more moderate view. Some conservatives remain upset with McCain for pushing a 2002 campaign finance reform law, which they argue stifled conservative groups' activities.

Brownback, however, can be trusted, said Brenda Travis, a 57-year-old pastor at a Topeka church. She said she likes his views on abortion and gay marriage.

While he is on solid footing on social issues, Brownback has broken with some Republicans on the Iraq war and immigration.

He opposes President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq, saying, "Iraq requires a political rather than a military solution." Brownback also favors an eventual path to citizenship for some of the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants.

He was raised on a farm near tiny Parker, Kan. — population 281 today — where his parents still live.

He was elected to the House in 1994, part of the Republican revolution that gave the GOP control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 40 years.

Two years later, Brownback was elected to the Senate, winning the seat Bob Dole vacated to run for the presidency. Brownback, who promised to serve no more than two full terms, has said he will not seek re-election in 2010.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top