WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2014 – Senator Pat Roberts defeated Tea Party challenger Milton Wolf in the Republican primary in Kansas on Tuesday, earning the right to seek a fourth term and possible chairmanship of the Senate Agriculture Committee if the GOP gains control of the Senate this fall.
The 78-year old Roberts is the panel’s ranking member and is likely to take over the committee should he win in November – as expected -- and if Republicans take control in the Senate. Early on Wednesday, the Kansas Secretary of State’s office said Roberts, a former chairman of the House Ag committee, had captured 48 percent to 41 percent for Wolf, who had tried to persuade voters that Roberts wasn’t conservative enough for Kansas. Two other candidates accounted for 11 percent of the ballots.
During the campaign, Wolf, a radiologist from suburban Kansas City, played up the fact that he was a distant relative of the president, telling voters, “If you want to drive Barack Obama nuts, elect his cousin.” He also tried to make an issue out of the 47 years Roberts has spent in Washington -- including time as a legislative aide and 16 years in the House -- arguing that Roberts had lost touch with the folks back home.
Roberts didn’t help himself any when the quick-witted former marine appeared to slip during an interview recently, “Every time I get an opponent – uh, I mean every time I get a chance – I’m home.”
“Tonight, we reaffirmed what we all knew: We are Kansas-loving conservative Republicans, and we are in charge of ours own future,” Roberts told his supporters. Referring to his stumbles, he continued: “My posse did not flinch, even though there were times when their candidate – me – stepped on our message.”
In other Kansas GOP primaries of interest, two-term Rep. Tim Huelskamp defeated former school superintendent Alan LaPolice, and Rep. Mike Pompeo easily held off the man he replaced in the House four years ago. The Secretary of State’s office had Huelskamp with 55 percent of the vote in Kansas 1st District, while Pompeo had 63 percent in the 4th District.
Huelskamp was elected with tea party backing in 2010 ago but fell out of favor with some in his rural district by voting against the farm bill and opposing the Renewable Fuel Standard in a district that’s home to 11 ethanol plants. He pulled out a victory over the much lesser known and underfunded LaPolice by only 7,499 votes, but was soundly defeated in the northeastern part of his district.
Going into the race, Huelskamp enjoyed a huge cash advantage, with over $800,000 on hand last month compared to LaPolice with only about $36,000.
Now, Huelskamp is favored to defeat the Democratic nominee, former Manhattan Mayor Jim Sherow, in their heavily Republican district.
Pompeo defeated Todd Tiahrt, who held the seat in the state’s 4th District for 16 years before giving it up in a failed 2010 primary run against U.S. Senator Jerry Moran. Pompeo’s opponent in the general election will be Democrat Perry Schuckman.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Missouri, the “Right to Farm” amendment won by a narrow margin – 2,528 out of almost a million votes cast. Led by Missouri Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups, rural voters appeared to pour out in droves in an attempt to overcome a strong turnout against “amendment one” in St. Louis and other urban areas. In St. Louis, where opponents like the Humane Society of the U.S. advertised heavily, the amendment was defeated by a huge margin, with 122,066 “no” votes versus 65,549 approving the measure.
The measure would change the Missouri constitution to read:
“That agriculture which provides food, energy, health benefits, and security is the foundation and stabilizing force of Missouri's economy. To protect this vital sector of Missouri's economy, the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in farming and ranching practices shall be forever guaranteed in this state, subject to duly authorized powers, if any, conferred by article VI of the Constitution of Missouri.”
The St. Louis Post Dispatch said a recount is likely.
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