Tea Party Challenge Enlivens Kansas Senate Primary

Monday, 04 Aug 2014 12:33 PM

By Andrea Billups

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Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, who has served in Congress since 1981, will see a tough primary battle on Tuesday as he squares off against Tea Party-supported challenger Milton Wolf, a radiologist and political newcomer, in what some fear could be a tougher race than it appears.

As the race draws to a close, Wolf, 43, has positioned himself ideologically as the next Ted Cruz, according to the Washington Post, answering questions about his own background as he hit the campaign trail, including the fact that he is a second cousin to President Barack Obama: his great-great-grandfather is also Wolf's great-grandfather.

Such eyebrow-raising lineage makes for good chatter in Kansas but Wolf has had better success tying his opponent to the president's policies and questioning whether Roberts truly lives in his home state. The residency question began when a story first reported by The New York Times suggested Roberts lived in a $300 rental provided by a political supporter in Kansas, not in an actual home, and spends the bulk of his time living in suburban Virginia.

While the senator, 78, was teased about it in interviews, noting he had "full access to the remote control," it remains a sticking point after Sen. Richard Lugar was ousted from his Indiana senate seat in 2012 for the very same thing, the Washington Post noted.

In recent weeks, Wolf has been gaining ground against Roberts who had a 33 percent lead in June that had dropped off to about 20 percent in late July, according to polling by SurveyUSA, POLITICO reported. About 12 percent of the state's voters remained undecided.

“Roberts … finds himself no longer able to take (the race) for granted,” the pollsters told the Kansas City Star.

As more Tea Party support gets turned to Kansas, Roberts has fought back, reminding voters that Wolf used patient X-ray photos of gunshot victims on his Facebook page, a move that has brought the state medical board in to investigate. Wolf apologized for it but contends it was not an ethical lapse.

Wolf is backed by the Senate Conservatives Fund and its super PAC, while Roberts has seen major donations from the American Hospital Association and the National Rifle Association, POLITICO noted, citing Federal Election Commission data.

Among issues Wolf has raised are votes to raise the debt ceiling, approving a tax deal with Obama and to confirm Kathleen Sebilius, the state's former governor, as Health and Human Services secretary. He has also been vocal about Roberts' refusal to debate him.


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