TOPEKA, Kansas — A northeast Kansas prosecutor on Friday opened his campaign for the U.S. Senate by criticizing three-term Republican incumbent Pat Roberts as out of touch and "carrying the banner of the far right."
Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor became the first Democratic candidate in the race by filing papers with the Kansas secretary of state's office and paying a $1,760 fee. During a kickoff news conference, he described Roberts as a "D.C. insider" who's been in Washington too long to help solve national problems.
Taylor, 40, was first elected district attorney in the county that includes Topeka in 2008, and he was re-elected without opposition in 2012.
Roberts, 77, started his career in politics as a congressional aide starting in the late 1960s; he served in the U.S. House for 16 years before winning his Senate seat in 1996. He's seeking re-election this year, but he faces a GOP primary challenge from Dr. Milton Wolf, a 42-year-old Leawood radiologist with tea party backing.
"The answers do not lie in continuing to do the same thing over and over, nor in electing the same person over and over and expecting a different outcome," Taylor said.
Roberts' executive campaign manager, Leroy Towns, said Taylor will face questions from voters in Republican-leaning Kansas about why they should bolster the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.
"The contrast in this race is going to be clear," Towns said.
He said as a Democrat, Taylor must defend President Barack Obama and the federal health care overhaul.
"He'll run with the party, and he'll defend it," he said of Taylor.
Republicans used Obama as a political foil in sweeping all statewide and congressional races in 2010 and 2012, and the president received 38 percent of the vote in Kansas when winning re-election two years ago. No Democrat has won a U.S. Senate race in the state since 1932.
Roberts portrays himself as a tested conservative and has endorsements from key anti-abortion and gun rights groups. He's repeatedly called on U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a former two-term Kansas governor, to resign over the troubled rollout of the federal government's online health insurance marketplace, though Roberts voted to confirm her appointment in 2009.
Wolf issued a statement Friday saying Kansas voters want "a consistent conservative." He said during a campaign rally Thursday in Topeka that Roberts had an "election-year conversion" to conservatism and mocked the incumbent as being "on Cruz control," a reference to tea party icon and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
In his Friday news conference, Taylor suggested that Roberts' shift to the right is hurting Kansas and contributing to gridlock in Washington.
"Our present senior senator has abandoned his Midwest Kansas values in favor of carrying the banner of the far right in order to salvage his political career," Taylor said.
Chad Taylor's campaign: http://taylorforussenate.com/
Pat Roberts re-election campaign: http://www.robertsforsenate.com/
Milton Wolf's campaign: http://www.miltonwolf.com/
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