Politics & Government

‘Cowardly’: U.S. Senate candidate blasts lawmaker who told him to stay home with kids

Kansas Republican Pat Roberts announces retirement

Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, held hands with his wife, Franki Roberts, as he approached a podium to announce that he would retire from public service at the end of his current term.
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Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, held hands with his wife, Franki Roberts, as he approached a podium to announce that he would retire from public service at the end of his current term.

Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner called a state GOP senator and fellow Republican “cowardly” after he tweeted Friday that LaTurner should be at home raising his children instead of running for the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Gene Suellentrop of Wichita stood by his comments, saying that LaTurner’s response shows he isn’t “ready for prime time.”

The unusually public feud between two elected GOP officials suggests a bitter fight ahead as Republicans battle to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts in 2020. LaTurner is the only declared candidate, but a half-dozen other potential contenders may jump into the race for a seat that’s been in GOP hands for decades.

“Jake LaTurner needs to drop the race for Senate. Jake needs to be at home, helping to raise his young children, reading to them before bedtime, helping to coach their sporting activities. It’s not your time Jake!” Suellentrop tweeted Friday morning.

The post came after LaTurner released first quarter fundraising numbers that showed him trailing U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, who is considering a Senate campaign. Marshall raised about $706,000 during the first three months of the year, while LaTurner raised about $300,000.

LaTurner, who is 31 and has four children, responded a few hours later.

“Gene, these comments are offensive, cowardly and beneath you. From what I understand you and your wife have raised four great children. That’s what Suzanne and I are trying to do as well,” LaTurner tweeted.

LaTurner continued on, saying Suellentrop, 67, knows nothing about LaTurner’s family and has never asked for his thoughts on child rearing.

“Instead, like a coward, you took to social media to share your ridiculous comment about my shortcomings as a father because my desire to serve my state and my country,” LaTurner wrote. “Be a man Gene. You have my number. Pick up your phone, call my cell, and give me your judgmental comments personally.”

LaTurner’s campaign later issued a statement from his wife, Suzanne, calling Suellentrop’s comments “repulsive.”

Suellentrop doubled down on his comments. He tweeted that “Jake, by your response, it shows you are not ready for prime time.”

Suellentrop didn’t immediately answer a call Friday.

Bob Beatty, a political scientist at Washburn University, said the personal nature of the exchange is somewhat unusual for Kansas politics. But it may mean a rough Republican primary for U.S. Senate is ahead.

“If we get five to eight very serious candidates, the gloves may come off,” Beatty said.

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Jonathan Shorman covers Kansas politics and the Legislature for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. He’s been covering politics for six years, first in Missouri and now in Kansas. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Kansas.


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