Politics & Government

Former candidate Milton Wolf confronts U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran at town hall

Milton Wolf confronts U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran at a town hall in Wamego on Monday (Aug. 10, 2015)
Milton Wolf confronts U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran at a town hall in Wamego on Monday (Aug. 10, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

WAMEGO – Milton Wolf confronted U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran at a town hall meeting in Wamego on Monday over whether he had any involvement in leaking information about Wolf to the Topeka Capital-Journal last year, which helped sink Wolf’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

Wolf, a Leawood radiologist, announced last week that the Kansas Board of Healing Arts has dropped an investigation into his medical practice, which was prompted by a Topeka Capital-Journal report that Wolf had once posted X-rays of dead and injured people on his Facebook page with morbid commentary.

Wolf has repeatedly accused board member Anne Hodgdon, an appointee of Gov. Sam Brownback’s, of involvement in leaking the information to the Capital-Journal. During the bitter campaign, U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts ran television ads that highlighted the fact that Wolf was under investigation by the Board of Healing Arts. Wolf ran against Roberts in the 2014 Republican primary, receiving 40 percent of the vote to Roberts’ 48 percent.

The Board of Healing Arts has not confirmed Wolf’s assertions that the investigation has been dropped, nor has it responded to the accusations he’s levied at Hodgdon. Kathleen Lippert, the board’s executive director, said in an e-mail that “the agency is prohibited from providing any information that violates confidentiality statutes.”

Wolf refused to release the letter he received from the board telling him the investigation had been ended, arguing that he had a right to privacy. He said that the board failed to ensure confidentiality during the campaign.

Midway through a town hall meeting at the Wamego Telecom Co. – with about 60 people present – Wolf stood up and asked Moran, as chairman of the National Republican Senate Committee during the last election, about whether he had any advance knowledge of the X-ray story before it was published last year.

“We know she’s a contributor of yours. She’s stated publicly that she’s ‘all in for you,’ ” Wolf said to Moran about Hodgdon, after handing the senator a stack of papers.

“That’s a very easy question to give a straightforward answer to, and the answer is no,” Moran said.

Moran said that he didn’t even know that Hodgdon was on the Board of Healing Arts before it was published in the newspaper. “I’m pleased that you’re exonerated. We need every doctor in Kansas that we have,” he said.

But Moran’s assurances did not sway the former candidate.

“I wore my boots today because I knew it was going to get kind of deep in there when Sen. Moran started answering these questions,” Wolf said afterward.

The exchange could be a preview of the 2016 election. Wolf had publicized his plan to confront Moran on social media for several days, helping fuel speculation that the tea party candidate will mount another campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Wolf refused to say whether he intended to run against Moran in 2016, but he hinted at the possibility when asked whether he would still like a seat in the U.S. Senate.

“I’d like to see people in the United States Senate instead of just being political insiders. … I’ve had enough of these career politicians; I think they’re destroying our country,” Wolf said.

This is not the first time Wolf has confronted a political rival in public. Last year, he challenged Roberts to a debate on a street during the senator’s campaign stop in Emporia.

Chuck Henderson, a Manhattan resident who backed Wolf in 2014 and attended the town hall meeting, said that if the doctor launches another campaign, he has supporters ready.

Moran continued taking questions from constituents after the encounter with Wolf. When the town hall meeting ended, Moran tried to head out a back door.

“I don’t know anything about this topic. And I don’t have anything to do with the Kansas Board of Healing Arts,” Moran told reporters on his way out of the building.

A few hours later, Moran’s campaign released a statement about the incident.

“While all Kansans are welcome to attend Senator Moran’s town hall meetings, Dr. Wolf created a sideshow today by using the meeting as a platform to discuss his previous political efforts and related conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, his bizarre interruption took time away from the other Kansans who came to ask questions and share concerns,” said campaign spokeswoman Elizabeth Patton.

Susan Adamchak, a Manhattan resident who attended the town hall, said she wasn’t bothered by Wolf’s brief takeover of the event and that it made her curious. She said she was more bothered that Moran would not directly answer her question about what he plans to do to ensure reproductive health care if Congress defunds Planned Parenthood, as Moran and others want.

Moran spent most of the town hall laying out his opposition to the Obama administration’s recently negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran.

“This isn’t a question of whether you’re a Republican senator or Democratic senator. Are there enough American senators to say, ‘Mr. President, you’re making a terrible, horrific mistake,’ ” Moran said. “And I don’t know the answer to that.”

Moran complained that President Obama is neither respected by the nation’s allies nor feared by its enemies.

Wolf was not the only person to confront the senator.

Bob Awerkamp, a Maple Hill resident, accused the senator of giving up the nation’s sovereignty by allowing the negotiations with Iran to begin in the first place.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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