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Newt Gingrich Backs Roberts Over Wolf In Kansas Senate Primary

Frank Morris

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts campaigned with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at a campaign event Friday in Overland Park, Kan. Roberts faces a serious primary challenge.

The event was a show of force, and conservative political clout.  Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer was there, along with Mary Kay Culp, the executive director of Kansans for Life, and Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association.     

One emergent Kansas conservative not mentioned from the podium was Milton Wolf, a Leawood, Kan. physician who happens to be a distant cousin of President Obama, and a favorite of Tea Party-aligned television and radio personalities.

Wolf has challenged Roberts for the Republican nomination. For Roberts, it’s his most serious primary challenge since he first ran for Congress 32 years ago.

“It’s what it is,” says Roberts. “I mean you see it nationwide. The real test would be if outside groups come in and try to finance it. I’m not sure Kansas would want any out-of-state people coming in."

Wolf entered the race with a bang last month, throwing a large kick-off event featuring professional entertainment and a very slick promotional video. Wolf has proudly never held elected office. He says it’s time for Roberts to go, because he’s too entrenched in Washington. 

But Roberts has serious backing. Newt Gingrich talked of working through difficult negotiations during his Gingrich’s tenure as speaker in the 1990s. He praised Roberts as someone with the experience and demeanor to make big changes in Washington, and implicitly, as someone sure to win the general election.  

“We’re going to need a team, that team’s going to have to have some leaders, who both know what to do, and know how to get other people to go along to do it,” says Gingrich.  “There aren’t many leaders like that. Pat Roberts is one of them.”

Whoever wins the Republican primary will likely face Chad Taylor, District Attorney of Shawnee County, in the general election.

I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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