The following are The Eagle editorial board’s recommendations in the contested primaries for U.S. Senate and U.S. House. We offer these recommendations as information to consider as you make up your own mind about the candidates.
Sen. Pat Roberts is the clear choice in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate. Roberts represented the 1st Congressional District from 1980 until 1996, and has served in the Senate ever since. During his long tenure, Roberts has been particularly valuable on agricultural issues, helping craft the nation’s farm policies. He hopes to become chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee if Republicans regain control of the Senate. Roberts’ past chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee also makes him an important voice on national-security issues. Roberts is pragmatic and knows how to get things done for Kansas. His experience matters. Though he drifted to the far right during the past year, any suggestion that Roberts is not conservative is ridiculous.
His chief challenger, Milton Wolf, argues that Roberts has been in Washington, D.C., too long, but hasn’t made the case for why he would be better in the job. The Leawood radiologist’s claim to fame is that he is a distant cousin of President Obama who hates Obamacare. He is oddly proud of the fact that he has no political experience and is “not a politician.” If elected, he wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. departments of Education and Energy, and dramatically reduce the size and scope of the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s highly improbable. Instead, Wolf’s no-compromise style would be a recipe for even more gridlock and dysfunction. Besides, Wolf has enough to worry about in Kansas, as the Kansas Board of Healing Arts is investigating his posting of X-ray images of fatal gunshot wounds and other medical injuries on a personal Facebook page several years ago.
Two other GOP candidates are also running, Alvin E. Zahnter and D.J. Smith.
Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor is the pick in this race to see which Democrat will try to end Kansas’ 76-year run of sending only Republicans to the Senate. Taylor, in his second term, is known as a tough prosecutor and a watchdog on government transparency, but also has valuable experience in private practice and the energy industry. He’s troubled by the failure of leadership on Capitol Hill and especially Sen. Pat Roberts’ recent votes against the farm bill and a spending bill that included funding for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility – two pieces of legislation crucial to Kansas’ agricultural producers and economic future. Taylor’s top priorities would be promoting “nonexportable job growth” and reducing federal deficits, including by following the pay-as-you-go budgeting rules. Though he acknowledges the Affordable Care Act needs reform, he is unafraid to defend its coverage of more young adults and people with pre-existing conditions.
The other Democrat is Patrick Wiesner, a Lawrence attorney whose candidacy is mainly focused on simplifying the tax code, collecting more of the taxes due and getting the U.S. out of debt.
The winning Republican and Democrat will face Libertarian Randall Batson and independent candidate Greg Orman in the general election.
Two GOP heavyweights are battling it out to represent Wichita and south-central Kansas in Congress. The best choice is Rep. Mike Pompeo, because of his intelligence, professionalism and superior understanding of the issues.
Pompeo is completing his second term in Congress and is already making a name for himself. He was appointed to the House Intelligence Committee and to a special committee investigating the Benghazi attacks. He also is a leading voice in Congress on energy issues. Though he can be too ideological at times, Pompeo has shown pragmatism in recognizing when to take what he can get in legislative negotiations. He also has proved that he knows how to get things done – and not just vote 57 times to repeal Obamacare. Pompeo worked with the aviation industry, federal regulators, Democratic lawmakers and labor unions to craft a bill to streamline the certification process for general aviation manufacturers. It was one of the few bills – and the only one by a Kansas delegation member – to clear Congress and be signed into law in recent years. If re-elected, Pompeo wants to continue working to limit the size and scope of government. He wants to restore the capacity of people to make their own decisions, and he says that there is no one who will “more effectively and vigorously work to get government out of the way.”
His challenger is former Rep. Todd Tiahrt, who represented the district for 16 years before losing a U.S. Senate bid in 2010. While in Congress, Tiahrt was very successful at directing federal funds to Kansas projects. He was tenacious in fighting for south-central Kansas. But he hasn’t made a good enough case for why voters should return him to office. His campaign has had muddled messages, appealing to tea party concerns while defending earmarks. And he and his financial backers have been shameless in their misleading and inaccurate criticisms of Pompeo. It is also unclear how effective Tiahrt could be if he returned to Congress, given the procedural changes limiting earmarks. Tiahrt should be proud of his past service, but GOP voters should stick with Pompeo.
The winner will face Democrat Perry Schuckman in the general election.
The best pick for Republicans in this vast district spanning western and north-central Kansas is Alan LaPolice of Clyde. A school superintendent and Gulf War veteran, LaPolice has more going for him than the fact that he isn’t the incumbent – though that’s almost enough (“What could I possibly do that’s less effective than zero?” LaPolice asks). He is a smart, conservative guy who has good experience in family farming, the military and public education, and who understands the issues, including what Congress can do to affect the district’s farmers and bioscience and renewable-energy sectors. He wants to get Kansas back on the House Agriculture Committee, repeal Obamacare and let states replace it, and shrink government.
LaPolice would be far preferable to two-term Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler. His service has been defined by his zeal to be seen on cable TV criticizing the Obama administration and his inability to get along with others even in his own party, which led to House leadership dumping him from the agriculture and budget committees in 2012. Kansas’ 1st District congressman should be writing the farm bill rather than voting against it, as Huelskamp did (along with the rest of the Kansans in the House). That’s surely why, in the year’s most telling nonendorsements, the Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Livestock Association stayed silent on this district.
James E. Sherow, professor of history at Kansas State University and a former Manhattan mayor and city commissioner, is the obvious choice for Democrats in this heavily Republican district. Sherow, who is K-State’s Kansas historian, understands the district’s challenges related to agriculture, the Ogallala Aquifer, environmental regulation and Fort Riley, and wants to restore Kansas’ representation on the House Agriculture Committee and to help Congress start working in a cooperative way.
The other Democrat is Bryan R. Whitney.
Thursday: Kansas House
Friday: Sedgwick County Commission, District Court
Saturday: Kansas governor, secretary of state, insurance commissioner
Sunday: U.S. Senate, U.S. House
Endorsements can be read online at Kansas.com/opinion.