Rep. Tim Huelskamp officially filed for re-election Tuesday, setting the stage for what is expected to be a crowded Republican primary and a contested general election – a stark contrast to two years ago when the outspoken conservative congressman ran unopposed.
Huelskamp, a Republican from Fowler who represents the 1st Congressional District, was first elected in 2010 when then-Rep. Jerry Moran left the office to run successfully for the U.S. Senate.
This election, three opponents have emerged to challenge him.
Former state legislator Kent Roth of Ellinwood and former school administrator Alan LaPolice of Clyde have announced they will run against Huelskamp in the August Republican primary.
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Jim Sherow, a former Manhattan mayor, is campaigning to represent the Democrats in the November general election for the 1st District seat.
Shortly after announcing his candidacy Tuesday, Huelskamp pegged promoting Kansas farm products overseas and fixing Veterans Administration health care as his main legislative priorities.
Huelskamp has had a tumultuous couple of years in Washington since coasting to re-election in 2012. A highly publicized flap with House Republican leadership over the debt ceiling and the Paul Ryan budget proposal got Huelskamp bounced by Speaker John Boehner from influential positions on the budget and agriculture committees.
Some consider it a blow to Kansas to not have representation in agriculture, particularly for the “Big 1st,” a sprawling, rural and agrarian congressional district that covers a majority of the state’s geographic area.
Huelskamp is unrepentant.
“This idea that if you want to be successful in Washington, somehow you’ve got to let somebody else tell you how to vote, I won’t do that,” Huelskamp said.
Huelskamp now serves on the small business and veterans affairs committees.
He has emerged as a staunch critic of the Veterans Administration, which has come under fire for secret waiting lists and care delays linked to 40 veterans who died while waiting for appointments at the VA hospital in Phoenix.
Huelskamp also is advocating for legislation that would allow veterans who live long distances from VA facilities to receive care in their hometown hospitals. He said his office has had to intercede about 500 times to help constituents with VA red tape.
“Particularly for veterans in rural areas, the system’s failing them,” Huelskamp said. “We have story after story of folk who are required to travel hundreds and hundreds of miles for basic care.”