By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
The norm in Kansas elections is for Republicans at the national level to run unopposed in the primary.
That will change next year when Pat Roberts faces a challenge from Dr. Milton Wolf who signed up to face the three-term Kansas senator who also served 16 years in the House of Representatives.
“I am not excited about being a politician,” Wolf said. “I am a doctor. I’ve never ran for office before, but I know our country is in deep trouble. Career politicians in both parties have failed us. Unless we embrace a citizen legislature, we will stay in trouble.”
Wolf is a diagnostic radiologist currently working in Kansas City but is originally from Lyons.
And while many may see his lack of experience as a liability, he sees it as an asset.
“The three senators I admire most are Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Lee,” Wolf said. “What is interesting about those three, not one served in elected office before the Senate. It’s not a coincidence they are effective. They are not beholden to party leaders. If career politicians want to keep their career, they have to behave the way the party bosses want. Citizens can stand on principle.”
Wolf has been a Roberts supporter his entire adult life.
But the length of time Roberts has served, along with some votes Wolf has questioned, led him to face the Kansas icon.
“In election years, Roberts rediscovers Kansas and conservatism,” Wolf said. “He voted this year for a $600 billion increase. He raised the debt ceiling 11 times. He voted to put (Kathleen) Sebelius in charge of Obamacare. These are not votes a conservative would make.”
Roberts will have a well-funded campaign, something that challengers rarely have. But Wolf said he has been receiving donations that have given him the confidence that he can mount a campaign that will reach all four corners of Kansas.
“He has a lot of money, but it’s other people’s money,” Wolf said. “That is the way of Washington. I don’t need the money he will have. He does things the way Washington does things. We will be competitive. Small donors and large donors alike have flocked to our campaign.”
Roberts has also received the endorsement of some of the most influential state Republicans including local representatives State Sen. Garrett Love and State Rep. Reid Petty.
“Sen. Roberts is playing to his base — politicians,” Wolf said. “He is seeking them all, from governor to dog catcher. I am not reaching politicians, I am asking voters to endorse me. He has wrapped up about 100 votes. I will reach out to 3 million Kansans.”
Typically, Kansas Republican primaries have been races to determine the most conservative candidate. But Wolf said that Roberts’ high marks for conservatism are an election-year conversion.
“Career politicians call themselves conservatives when they are not,” Wolf said. “Heritage Action has (Roberts) in the top five this year. As soon as I came along, he rediscovered Kansas and conservatives. Last year, he was 65 percent. That’s worse than John McCain. He pretends he is conservative when voters pay attention. When they are not, he is a vote for Democrats.”
A review of the records showed that Roberts is currently ranked fifth by Heritage Action in 2013 but was ranked 35 out of 47 Senate Republicans in 2012.
Recently Roberts has called for the resignation of former Kansas governor Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services with the debacle of the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, but Wolf said Sebelius would not have been in that position without Roberts support.
“Roberts voted against Obamacare, but put Sebelius in charge of Obamacare,” Wolf said. “He publicly endorsed her and nominated her and only two Republican senators gave her votes, (Olympia) Snow and Roberts. My message to Roberts is you can’t be against Obamacare when you crown the queen of Obamacare.”
According to the Senate record, eight Republicans, not just two, voted for Sebelius, including current Kansas governor Sam Brownback.
Sebelius went through a controversial nomination process with questions about donations from abortionists, but she was confirmed with a 65-31 vote.
Wolf did not say whether or not he was a Tea Party candidate, but said that “anyone who stands by the Constitution stands by me.”
“America needs to re-embrace the divinely inspired idea of liberty, limited government and free market values,” he said. “Whoever stands by those principles stands with me.”
Wolf added that he would have a self-imposed two-term limit.
“We can’t change Washington until we change the people we send to Washington,” Wolf said.
The primary is set for Aug. 5.