TOPEKA, Kansas — A northeast Kansas prosecutor said Monday he'll conduct a series of listening tours across the state before formally deciding whether to run for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat.
Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor disclosed those plans as he announced the formation of an exploratory committee on his 40th birthday. If Taylor runs next year, he'll be seeking the seat held by veteran Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
No other Democrat has publicly expressed an interest in the race. Roberts, a conservative who's served in the Senate since 1997 and has been a fixture in Kansas politics for more than three decades, already faces a challenge in the Republican primary in August 2014 from Dr. Milton Wolf, a Leawood radiologist.
Forming the exploratory committee allows Taylor to raise money and do polling, but he declined to discuss specific policy issues to avoid being considered a candidate for now. He said he's been urged by people across the state to run because many voters are frustrated with gridlock in Washington, particularly after last month's partial federal government shutdown.
"It is what I would consider to be a high-water mark of frustration with the leadership we have in Washington right now," Taylor said during an interview.
Taylor was first elected district attorney in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012. Leroy Towns, Roberts' executive campaign manager, said Taylor needs to conduct a listening tour "because absolutely nobody in the state knows who he is."
Towns acknowledged that Kansas voters are frustrated with Congress but added they see Roberts as a tested conservative.
"They understand that Pat Roberts is the guy back there fighting for them," Towns said.
Wolf has criticized Roberts for not being conservative enough on tax, budget and health care issues, and said in a statement Monday that most Americans "want to clean house in next year's elections."
Follow John Hanna on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/apjdhanna