With 95 percent of the precincts reporting, Boyda had 51 percent of the vote to Ryun's 47 percent. Reform Party candidate Roger Tucker pulled the remaining 2 percent.
"I feel very, very honored," Boyda said in claiming victory. "We may be at a time in history when people are ready to work."
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The defeat of Ryun — once the world record-holder in the mile — was a part of a national trend that had Democrats reclaiming control of the House for the first time since 1994. Though he remained a popular figure, in the end voter dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq and scandals in Congress did Ryun in.
"I am really, really grateful for all that you have done," Ryun said in conceding. "There are so many rich stories and rich memories. I cherish those. I thank God for this opportunity."
He called his tenure "a special time to help all of you in the 2nd District."
The state's three other congressional incumbents, in contrast, won re-election by wide margins, including Democrat Dennis Moore in the 3rd District which includes Johnson, Wyandotte and portions of Douglas counties. He defeated Republican Chuck Ahner 64 percent to 34 percent, with 2 percent for Reform Party candidate Robert Conroy.
Boyda's victory marks the first time since 1994 that Kansas has had two Democrats in the House.
"I don't think it should be too surprising to anybody," Boyda said. "I think across the country, certainly in Kansas, voters are sending a message. They just want someone to get something done. This is about the voters."
In the 1st District, which sprawls over 69 counties, Republican Jerry Moran defeated Democrat John Doll, 78 percent to 19 percent, and Reform Party candidate Sylvester Cain had 2 percent, with 96 percent of precincts reporting.
With all precincts reporting, Republican Todd Tiahrt, who won his seventh term since beating Democrat incumbent Dan Glickman in 1994, defeated Democrat Garth McGinn, 64 percent to 34 percent, with Reform Party candidate Joy Holt pulling 3 percent. His 4th District includes Sedgwick and 10 surrounding counties.
Voters in the 2nd District, which covers parts or all of 26 counties, agreed with Boyda that something had to give in Congress. Ginny Honomichl, 58, an unaffiliated voter and Baldwin City High School teacher, was among them.
"I probably thought she was more positive in her campaign. Ryun didn't do anything until the end," Honomichl said.
Iva Dougherty, a Republican and retired teacher in Baldwin City, said 10 years was long enough for Ryun, though she supported him in the past.
"Mostly, I just think he's been in there a little too long and sort of grew where he didn't have to do too much," said Dougherty, 70.
However, Vern Kyle, an Army veteran and school district employee in Garnett, voted for Ryun because of his support for veterans and the troops currently in uniform.
"He's always voted for us. He's backed the troops 100 percent, as far as I'm concerned," said Kyle, 50, who said he is unaffiliated so, "I can change my mind."
Only a month ago, Ryun appeared likely to win the race comfortably; his margin two years ago was 15 percentage points.
However, Boyda's slogans, "Had enough?" and "Nothing will change until we change Congress," began to resonate.
She had distanced herself from the national Democratic Party, opting to run a campaign heavy on newspaper inserts and frequent appearances across the district, from the Nebraska border in the north to the Oklahoma line in the south.
As the race grew tighter, both national parties paid attention and began airing radio and television spots.
Then came confirmation of the race's competitiveness in President Bush's visit Sunday to Topeka, designed to energize thousands of GOP faithful.
Duke University political scientist David Rohde said the growing anti-GOP sentiment was the only way an otherwise safe GOP seat like Ryun's could be in play.
"Another thing that plays into it is precisely the fact that he hasn't had a lot of competitive races," Rohde said. "There are battle-hardened Republicans around the country that are in trouble that have had tough challengers race after race."
In the 1st District, covering most of western Kansas, Moran, 47, first won the seat in 1996 and never has had a serious challenge.
Doll, 48, grew up in Ingalls, is a former teacher and assistant men's basketball coach at Emporia State University. His father and grandfather helped found a Cimarron-based company that operates feedlots and grain elevators.
Moore's 3rd District encompasses Johnson and Wyandotte counties and eastern Douglas County, including part of Lawrence.
Although Republicans significantly outnumber Democrats in the district, the 60-year-old Moore has managed to retain the seat since he was first elected in 1998, despite the GOP's repeated efforts to target him for defeat.
Ahner, 40, emerged from a four-way primary. He has long been active in the Kansas GOP, but this was his first bid for federal or state office.
Tiahrt, 55, won his seventh term in the 4th District of south-central Kansas. McGinn, 47, a systems engineer from Bel Aire, was running his first campaign.