Mike Andra is a Democratic politician from Kansas who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2022. While he came up short in the primary, Andra’s Senate bid raised his profile in Kansas politics and demonstrated his commitment to public service.
So who exactly is Mike Andra? Where did he come from and what shaped his political journey? This article will explore Andra’s background, his 2022 Senate run, his views and affiliations, and his lasting impact. Read on to learn more about this prairie populist from the Plains.
Early Life and Background
Mike Andra was born in 1961 in Salina, Kansas, a city in the central region of the state. He was raised in a working class family and spent much of his childhood in Salina before leaving to attend college.
From an early age, Andra was interested in politics and public speaking. He participated in forensics competitions in high school, developing skills in debate, oratory, and extemporaneous speaking. Andra also volunteered on local political campaigns as a teenager, getting a taste for grassroots organizing.
After graduating from high school in 1979, Andra went on to study at Kansas State University. He continued to be actively involved in speech and debate programs during his college years.
Education and Early Career
Andra attended Kansas State University in Manhattan, where he studied political science and communication studies. He graduated in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
In addition to his academics, Andra stayed civically engaged in college. He served as student body president during his senior year, honing his leadership abilities.
After completing his undergraduate education, Andra went on to earn a Juris Doctor degree from Washburn University School of Law in Topeka in 1986.
Early Political Involvement
During and after law school, Andra took on roles in several political campaigns in Kansas. In 1982, he worked on the gubernatorial campaign of Democrat John Carlin. He later volunteered for other local and state races, developing an interest in holding office someday.
Andra also served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1988 as a college student. This early involvement propelled his passion for politics and governing.
After law school, Andra worked in private practice as an attorney in Manhattan, Kansas for over a decade. He specialized in civil litigation, building up litigation and courtroom skills.
Andra practiced law with various Kansas firms before opening his own solo practice in 1998. He continued working as an attorney until being elected to the state legislature in 2002.
Election to House of Representatives
In 2002, Andra decided to run for political office himself, launching a campaign for the Kansas House of Representatives. He ran in District 64, based in Manhattan and the surrounding area.
Andra campaigned on traditional Democratic issues like education, healthcare, and workers’ rights. His experience as an attorney, pastor, and community volunteer informed his perspectives.
In the November general election, Andra defeated his Republican opponent by just 17 votes. He was sworn in as a state representative in January 2003.
Committees and Policy Positions
During his first two-year term in the legislature, Andra served on the Judiciary and Taxation committees. He advocated for increased school funding, commercial property tax reform, and affordable healthcare.
In 2004, Andra voted against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Kansas. He established a moderate record on some social issues to match his economic progressivism.
Andra won re-election to the Kansas House in 2004. During his second term, he served as the ranking Democrat on the Taxation Committee. He continued pushing proposals to reduce property taxes and increase education budgets.
Thanks to his district’s left-leaning politics, Andra was re-elected twice more to the Kansas House in 2006 and 2008. He defeated Republican challengers both times despite close races.
During his decade as state representative, Andra was viewed as a champion for public schools, individual rights, organized labor, and other traditional liberal causes. He compiled a reliably progressive record in the statehouse.
2022 U.S. Senate Campaign
Announcing Senate Run
In 2021, longtime Republican Senator Pat Roberts announced he would not seek re-election in 2022. Andra saw an opportunity and officially launched his campaign for U.S. Senate in January 2022.
Andra positioned himself as a populist, vowing to fight for working families, small businesses, and rural communities. He promised to bring Kansas values of integrity, decency, and compassion to the Senate.
In kickstarting his statewide campaign, Andra hoped to unite progressives, moderates, and disaffected Republicans under a big tent coalition.
Primary Campaign Strategy
Andra faced an uphill battle from the start, challenging more established Democrats like state Senator Barbara Bollier. He ran a grassroots campaign focused on retail politics and town halls.
Despite the long odds, Andra believed a long-shot Senate bid was worth it to give voice to the vulnerable and overlooked. He tapped into dissatisfaction with the political status quo and desire for change.
Andra campaigned across Kansas, meeting voters where they were. He conveyed his message through shoe leather and elbow grease more than big ad buys.
Policy Positions and Priorities
Andra ran on a platform advancing bread-and-butter economic issues like jobs, healthcare, education, and tax fairness. He emphasized reversing poverty, inequality, and corruption in politics.
Key policy priorities included protecting Social Security and Medicare, investing in infrastructure and vocational training, preventing outsourcing of jobs, and ensuring paid family leave. Andra blended prairie populism with mainstream Democratic positions.
Andra supported adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act, regulating prescription drug prices, and rural healthcare services. Other priorities included criminal justice reform, veterans’ care, and campaign finance changes.
In the August 2022 Democratic primary, Andra ultimately finished third out of six candidates, capturing 12.6% of the vote. The winner was former Kansas City mayor Mark Holland.
While Andra lost decisively, his 100,000+ votes demonstrated influence as a prairie populist. He exceeded expectations but was unable to break out in the crowded field.
In November, Holland went on to lose to Republican incumbent Jerry Moran by over 20 points in the general election. Moran was re-elected to another Senate term from red-state Kansas.
After the Senate Primary
Reaction and Aftermath
Following his third place primary finish, Andra stayed positive about the experience and did not harbor bitterness. He believed he helped move the policy debate forward.
Andra ruled out running as an independent in the general election, quickly endorsing the Democratic nominee Holland. He emphasized party unity and picking battles wisely.
In the aftermath, Andra reflected on his unconventional grassroots campaign taking on the establishment. He was proud to give voice to those feeling left behind in politics and society.
Future Political Plans
While he fell short in the Senate primary, Andra did not rule out future electoral bids. Given his competitive showing, he emerged as an up-and-coming force in Kansas Democratic politics.
Andra took time after the Senate race to rest and consider next steps. He remained open to serving in public office again or campaigning for other populist Democrats.
At just 61 years old in 2022, Andra still has plenty of time to mount another bid whether for Senate, Governor, or the U.S. House. Expect to hear more from this prairie populist in the coming years.
Political Views and Affiliations
Democratic Party Involvement
A lifelong Democrat, Andra has been actively involved with the Kansas Democratic Party for over four decades since his youth. He frequently served as a delegate at district, state, and national conventions.
Andra generally aligned with the progressive populist wing of the Democratic Party in Kansas. He built bridges between leftists and moderates under a broad coalition.
During his Senate bid, Andra vowed to fight against the far-right extremist factions who had taken over the Kansas GOP in recent years. His old-school prairie populism offered a sharp contrast.
Ideologically, Andra can be described as a prairie populist with views that borrow from both progressivism and moderation. He blends economic leftism with Midwestern centrism on social issues.
Andra supports positions like Medicare for All, student debt forgiveness, increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, empowering unions, and reducing income inequality.
At the same time, he takes more moderate stances on issues like abortion, gun control, and immigration compared to his national party. Andra favors a nuanced, contextual approach influenced by Kansas values.
This prairie populism guided Andra’s Senate campaign as he reached out to working class voters across the political spectrum who felt disillusioned and forgotten.
During his 2022 Senate bid, Andra won endorsements from a number of Kansas-based groups and leaders. This included the National Education Association and other labor unions.
Andra also got backing from prominent Kansas progressives like former Governor Kathleen Sebelius. However, the Democratic establishment largely consolidated around Holland.
Outside Kansas, Andra was endorsed by national progressive groups like People for Bernie and the Sunrise Movement. This reflected his populist policy stances resonating beyond the state.
Family and Residence
Mike Andra married his wife, Kris, in 1987, and they have two adult children together. The Andra family has lived primarily in Manhattan, Kansas where Mike built his legal career.
Andra’s family has been actively involved in Kansas community organizations and progressive politics over the years. His son and daughter assisted on his 2022 Senate campaign.
Outside of work, Andra enjoys spending time outdoors hiking and camping across the scenic Kansas prairie. He and Kris are also avid sports fans who love following Kansas State athletics.
Interests and Hobbies
In addition to the outdoors and sports, Andra nurtures several hobbies and interests outside of law and politics. He is an amateur musician and singer, playing guitar and keyboard.
Andra also enjoys reading history books, especially biographies of past presidents and political leaders. Some of his favorite authors include Doris Kearns Goodwin and Robert Caro.
Volunteering has always been important to Andra since his youth. He spends time giving back by serving food at homeless shelters and reading to children at schools in lower-income neighborhoods.
Legacy and Impact
Significance in Kansas Politics
While he came up short in the 2022 Senate primary, Mike Andra leaves a notable mark on Kansas politics. He brought passion and principle to the race as an unapologetic prairie populist.
Andra gave voice to rural Kansans and working-class voters who often feel left behind and forgotten by the political class. He challenged the Democratic establishment in a long-shot bid.
By exceeding expectations and winning over 100,000 votes, Andra demonstrated his influence. His populist campaign provides a possible roadmap for future Democrats in deep red Kansas.
Impact on Democratic Party
Through his Senate candidacy, Andra offered Democrats an alternative path in Kansas focused on bread-and-butter economic issues and outreach beyond urban strongholds.
His prairie populist message could help Democrats reconnect with rural voters and working people who have drifted toward Republicans in recent decades. Andra showed the power of personal contact and coalition building.
While Andra fell short this time, his populist playbook could inspire more competitive Democratic campaigns in statewide Kansas races over the coming years. Don’t be surprised if his impact is felt over the next decade.
In the high-stakes arena of politics, those who dare to run often teach us as much in defeat as victory. Mike Andra’s long-shot 2022 Senate bid bears this out.
Though he lost decisively in the Democratic primary, Andra leaves an imprint on Kansas politics as a new prairie populist voice. He challenged the establishment and gave fresh representation to the vulnerable and disaffected.
Andra’s journey took him from the classroom to the courtroom to the Capitol and finally to the campaign trail. All along, he communicated effectively and stuck to his core values.
While Andra didn’t achieve his goal of becoming Kansas’ next Senator, his populist playbook provides a possible roadmap toward a more competitive Democratic Party in this ruby red state. Don’t count him out in future contests.
The prairie populism and passion Mike Andra brought to the 2022 race can inspire others to follow their convictions and stand up for their communities. In politics and life, it’s often the courage to begin that matters most.
What Senate seat was Mike Andra running for in 2022?
Mike Andra ran in the 2022 election for one of Kansas’ two seats in the U.S. Senate. The specific seat was held by retiring Republican Senator Pat Roberts.
What was Mike Andra’s background before politics?
Before entering politics, Andra worked as a civil litigation attorney in Kansas for over a decade after graduating law school. He also owned his own solo legal practice.
How long did Mike Andra serve in the Kansas legislature?
Mike Andra served 10 years in the Kansas House of Representatives from 2003 to 2013. He represented District 64 in the Manhattan area.
What were some of Andra’s main policy positions in the 2022 Senate race?
Key policies Andra ran on included protecting Social Security and Medicare, investing in infrastructure and vocational training, preventing outsourcing of jobs, and ensuring paid family leave.
What election did Mike Andra lose and by how much?
Andra lost in the August 2022 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Kansas, finishing 3rd with 12.6% of the vote behind winner Mark Holland.