GOP Husband, Democratic Wife Vie for Kansas House Seat

A husband and wife are running for the same Kansas House seat. Or, maybe they’re not.

The candidates say they offer legitimate political differences. Their conservative critics say it’s a campaign dirty trick.

Jeff Ippel is a Republican, involved in a three-way primary race for a seat in the Kansas House. His wife, Pam, is unopposed in the August Democratic primary — for the same seat.

Pam Ippel, whose platform emphasizes health care and funding for education, said she was the first to enter the race for an open seat from this Kansas City suburb. “The more Jeff thought about it, the more he thought he’d have a better chance,” she said. Better ideas,” said her husband, who is running on a platform of smaller government and fewer illegal immigrants.

Other Republicans accuse the Ippels of working as a team. “Personally, I think it’s a fraud. It’s a deliberate strategy of confusion,” conservative Republican Jeff Colyer said. He says their real goal is to siphon away votes from his campaign to ensure the nomination of a GOP moderate, Sherrelyn Smith. “It’s an absolute sham. They’re trying to confuse voters and manipulate the process,” agrees Republican state Rep. Eric Carter, who is giving up the seat to run for state insurance commissioner.

If we were to take the Ippels at their word, they are both very creepy and rather demonstrably unqualified for office. Even the most honorably run political races are intensely personal; there’s simply no way that running against one another wouldn’t damage the relationship. If they both feel strongly about running for political office, the obvious solution would be to seek different offices.

It’s much more likely that the Colyer-Carter thesis is correct. If so, it’s sleazy but hardly unprecedented. Most voters are woefully uninformed, so they’re easy prey to name recognition confusion. It’s not entirely clear to me, though, why Ippel would draw votes away from the conservative candidate and thus favor the moderate; the opposite strikes me as more likely.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. “Itâ??s not entirely clear to me, though, why Ippel would draw votes away from the conservative candidate and thus favor the moderate; the opposite strikes me as more likely.”

    I suspect Ippel’s campaign rhetoric is the most ‘conservative’ of the three. Tha would make sense if this is really a family shell game.

    On the other hand, if this was legitimate, it would make a great plot for a reality show.

  2. Christopher says:

    James, have you ever heard of James Carville & Mary Matalin?

    But I have to agree with you. I don’t know how a couple can do it. I’m not even sure how they do it, and I think they have been married now for several years.

    Maybe so-called moderates from opposite sides of the isle more easily can be married? Carville is certainly a liberal but would change his stripe’s intensity for a moderate democrat in a minute if he got paid for it. And Mary loves the Bush’s and Cheney’s, who definitely in many regards could be called moderates.

  3. Christopher,

    Having different political views and being married is one thing, running against one another for the same office is another.

    I don’t know how Matalin and Carville manage it, but the above scenario would take the whole idea of mixed political marriages to a whole new level.

    I have seen married couples get into fights when competing against one another playing cards, so katy bar the door if two spouses were to run for the same office.

  4. Jeff Ippel says:

    In last Sunday�s KCStar, there was an article about my campaign for the
    Kansas House that contained quotes from three people who question my
    candidacy; the doctor I�m running against, Eric Carter whose campaign
    literature is being distributed by the doctor, and their friend, the
    Johnson County Republican Chairman, Doug Patterson. I am a life long,
    traditional Conservative. I believe our government�s main responsibility
    is to handle our tax money efficiently, and to pass legislation that
    protects us without excessive limitations to our individual freedoms. I am
    more fiscally conservative than most Republicans currently in the House.
    The Kansas Government�s income is growing at over twice the rate of our
    personal incomes. I support a constitutional amendment that will restrain
    the growth of taxation and expenditures.

    My decision to run was made independent of my wife�s. I believe the
    people in our district need the option of voting for a Republican that is a
    fiscal conservative, a social moderate, and someone that has lived in the
    district for years not just weeks. Without my candidacy the choice would
    have been between an ultra conservative, or a leader in the KNEA that has
    been too close to the teachers� union for too long�