Kansas Senate race heats up with new entry and endorsements

Democratic challenger emerges, primary tightens

Sen. Pat Roberts’ battle to defend the United States senate seat he has held for three terms grew more complicated on Thursday, with a democratic challenger finally emerging and Roberts’ primary opponent receiving a major boost from a national Tea Party organization.

On Thursday, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor said he would formally announce his candidacy Friday in Topeka. Taylor was elected district attorney of the state’s third most populous county in 2008 and reelected in 2012.  Taylor faces name recognition and fundraising challenges, but could benefit from a protracted primary fight between Roberts and Johnson County doctor Milton Wolf.

Wolf received a major boost to his insurgent campaign on Thursday, accepting the endorsement of California-based Tea Party Express, a major national Tea Party group which could help him narrow a massive fundraising gap with Roberts, who had $2.2 million in his campaign account at the end of 2013, compared to Wolf’s $179,000, according to FEC filings.

“I'm very proud that the Tea Party express has endorsed me, like so many other tea party leaders around America like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and Rand Paul,” Wolf told 41 Action News at a rally in Olathe.

A story published in The New York Times earlier this month opened a wound in Roberts’ reelection bid, highlighting the Senator’s longstanding ties to Washington and his lack of a permanent personal residence in Kansas. The Wolf campaign seized on the article, releasing a web ad calling Roberts Virginia’s third senator.

But Wolf has had stumbles of his own, including the disclosure last week that he had posted x-ray images of patients on his Facebook page and engaged in joking commentary about gruesome injuries. Roberts’ campaign made that episode the subject of the race’s first television ad, released Thursday. 

A PPP poll released this week showed Roberts approval rating slipping, but also saw the senator holding a 49 percent to 23 percent lead over Wolf.

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