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Roberts, Wolf Square-Off in KS GOP Senate Primary

Vote by SK(Photo by Stephen Koranda)One of the most closely watched Kansas political races this year is for the U.S. Senate. In next week’s primary election, Republican Kansas Senator Pat Roberts will try to fend off a primary challenge from Leawood radiologist Milton Wolf. KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports on the race.



At a park in Topeka, Milton Wolf departs a decorated bus and meets with a handful of supporters who have gathered to see him.

“How are you? You come here, you give me a hug.”

The stop is part of a tour of Kansas. He asks the people gathered to knock on doors for him, and he lays out one of his main platforms in this race: that Pat Roberts has been in office too long.

“Our county is trouble and we’ve got to change our ways. We can’t keep sending the same people to Washington year after year, decade after decade and hope that we get different results,” says Wolf.

Wolf says he wants to repeal Obamacare and replace it with his own plan, seal the nation’s borders and close down the IRS.

“You know, I believe the IRS is corrupt and we need to dismantle it. And I want to be the one who hangs the going out of business sign on the front door of the IRS. But it’s not enough to be against it, we need have to have positive, conservative solutions like the fair tax to replace it,” says Wolf.

Wolf is the tea party candidate in this race and is trying to portray himself as more conservative than Pat Roberts. But Senator Roberts has also been brandishing his conservative credentials. He says he wants to repeal the federal health care law. He touts his work on ag issues and his efforts to combat the president and other top Democrats in Washington.

“We have to fight the president and end Harry Reid’s reign in the Senate, and together we will do this in November,” says Roberts.

That’s Roberts speaking at a rally for Governor Sam Brownback. Roberts didn’t mention Wolf at the event, but made sure to include himself and the governor when talking about fighting Washington.

“You know our work to cut spending, to lower taxes, to cut regulations and to protect our constitutional rights and to protect our state of Kansas now and into the future. We need your help in this election, we need your votes,” says Roberts.

Wolf and Roberts have been hammering on each other with ads. Roberts has latched onto social media postings made by Wolf that included patient x-rays and some questionable comments.

(audio from ad)

“And, Wolf’s the same guy who posted those private x-rays on his Facebook page and made creepy jokes about them.”

Wolf points out that the x-rays were anonymous. He says he apologizes to anyone he offended with the posts. The Kansas Board of Healing Arts is looking into the issue, but Wolf says the investigation is politically motivated and prompted by Roberts supporters. Wolf himself fires right back at Roberts over the airwaves about Roberts’ long political career and claims that he doesn’t really live in Kansas.

(audio from ad)

“After 47 years in Washington, Kansas is a distant memory for Pat Roberts.”

Roberts argues that he owns property and pays taxes in Kansas. Washburn University Political Science Professor Bob Beatty says Wolf has a message that can work, painting himself as a political outsider. But Beatty says the x-ray controversy has made it hard for Wolf to spread that message. Beatty says some candidates would have pulled out or slowed down after that controversy.

“And Wolf didn’t do that. Wolf is tough, he’s stayed in there, so Roberts has had to slug it out,” says Beatty.

Beatty says this race could be affected by moderate Republicans, some of whom are displeased with state politics.

“The question is: if you have a moderate Republican who comes out in the primary to vote against Sam Brownback, what does he do in the Wolf/Roberts race?” says Beatty.

That question will likely be answered on Tuesday. Also running for the seat are Republicans D.J. Smith and Alvin Zahnter, Libertarian Randall Batson and independent Greg Orman. Two Democratic candidates for the seat will also face off in the primary, Patrick Wiesner and Chad Taylor. I’m SK at the Kansas Statehouse.

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