Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is facing a primary challenger who argues he’s lost touch with his state — and a new report that he no longer has a full-time home in the Sunflower State won't help debunk that idea.
A Roberts aide said, however, the Senator has owned a home in Dodge City since 1992, though he rents it out, and it's unclear when he last lived in that house. He was in Kansas on Friday, staying in a hotel, and had plans to come back during recess and stay with the donors that typically house him.
The news is sure to provide fodder for attacks from his Tea Party challenger, radiologist Milton Wolf, who has charged Roberts is “out of touch” with the state.
The donors couldn’t say exactly how many times he’s stayed there in the past year, or when he last visited. He changed his voter registration address to the Ross's Dodge City home the day before Wolf announced, and he pays $300 a month to stay there occasionally. But Roberts seemed unconcerned about the residency issue in an interview with the Times.
“I have full access to the recliner,” the senator joked, about his stays with his donors. He added: “Nobody knows the state better than I do.”
But it’s an issue that’s toppled Republicans in primaries before. Last cycle, former Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar (R) faced questions about his commitment to his state after news surfaced that he hadn’t lived in the state since the late '70s.
Lugar went on to lose in the primary to Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who ultimately botched the race in the general after making controversial comments about rape and pregnancy.
The Indiana race is weighing on the minds of Roberts' advisers, but they, too, were unconcerned about the prospect.
“We’re not going to get Lugar’d,” David Kensinger, an adviser to Roberts, told the Times.
While Wolf has been endorsed by some conservative outside groups that could give him a boost, such as the Senate Conservatives Fund and Madison Project, he still substantially lags behind the incumbent in fundraising. At the end of the year, Roberts still had $2.2 million in the bank compared to Wolf's $179,000.
—This piece was updated at 5:15 to reflect information provided by Roberts' office.