With dueling news conferences, Sen. Pat Roberts filed for re-election Friday while his Republican primary opponent Milton Wolf tried to get him kicked off the ballot.
Wolf sent a letter to Secretary of State Kris Kobach asking Kobach to reject Roberts’ candidate filing, saying the incumbent is not legally a resident of Kansas.
Wolf, a physician backed by the Tea Party Express political group, has pinned much of his campaign on claims that Roberts, elected to the House of Representatives in 1980 and the Senate in 1996, can no longer claim residency in Dodge City.
Roberts owns a duplex in Dodge City that is rented out, and his voting residence is a room he rents at the home of a friend.
Wolf acknowledged Roberts owns property in Kansas but said the senator’s real home is in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia.
“Being the landlord of a Kansan does not make you a Kansan,” he said.
Wolf said Roberts has been in Washington so long that he “has left Kansas behind.”
Roberts supporters at his news conference included Gov. Sam Brownback, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and Kobach.
“I’m a fourth-generation Kansan,” the longtime senator said. “Your home is where your heart is and my heart is in Kansas.”
Beyond that, he said, he meets all the legal criteria to keep running.
“I own property in Dodge City, I pay taxes in Dodge City, I vote in Dodge City, and I’m a legal resident of Dodge City,” he said.
After the news conference, Kobach said he couldn’t legally grant Wolf’s request to deny Roberts a spot on the ballot.
Wolf now has three business days to file a formal complaint over Roberts’ residency.
If he does, his complaint will be heard and decided by a panel of three officials: Kobach, Colyer and Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
Colyer said he would recuse himself if it comes to that, to avoid the appearance of impropriety because he has endorsed Roberts.
Wolf did not commit to taking formal action at his news conference.