Will a second Kansas Senate challenger emerge?

Kansas state Sen. Dennis Pyle (R) is forming an exploratory committee to look into launching a primary challenge against Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), The Hill has learned.

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Roberts is already facing a challenge from radiologist Milton Wolf, and though his candidacy has drawn the notice of some national conservative groups, he’s been damaged in recent months by reports revealing he mocked his patients’ X-rays in Facebook posts.

In a release obtained by The Hill, the Hiawatha-area farmer said he’s looking into a challenge because conservatives have told him “they feel that Mr. Wolf’s challenge is going to fall significantly short.”

“I too am disappointed. Kansas' chance to replace Pat Roberts with a more conservative Senator can't be squandered simply because an electable candidate with a genuine conservative record isn't in the race,” Pyle writes in the release.

Roberts, who was first elected to the Senate in 1996, won his last election with 60 percent of the vote.

He's a staunch conservative and isn't typically considered vulnerable to conservative attacks, but Wolf has attacked Roberts for voting to raise the debt ceiling and supporting the Wall Street bailout.

A report earlier this year revealing Roberts doesn’t own a home in Kansas and stays with donors when he returns to the state offered fodder for further attacks. Similar residency questions contributed to former Indiana Republican Sen. Dick Lugar’s loss to his primary challenger in 2012, and ultimately the party’s loss of the seat.

Though Wolf has hammered the senator on the issue, his campaign has failed to pick up much traction.

And Roberts' campaign adviser, Leroy Towns, said the senator isn't concerned about Pyle either.

"He would be a fringe candidate with zero chance of affecting Senator Roberts' strong and wide conservative support across the state," he said in an email to The Hill.

Pyle, who previously considered a primary challenge to Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R), says he has “the generous backing of some key Kansas donors” in his exploratory efforts, and calls for Kansas Republicans interested in his candidacy to visit RunPyleRun.com to pledge their support over the next 10 days.

“You may also want to share your feelings with Mr. Wolf before the filing period for US Senate closes,” he adds.
 
If Pyle jumps in the race, there’s a chance his candidacy could give Roberts an even better shot at renomination than he already has, though. Pyle could split the conservative vote with Wolf, leaving Roberts an opening. He addressed this concern in announcing his exploratory committee, declaring that “it is not my intent to divide conservatives, but instead to unite them behind a tried and true Conservative Republican with a proven record.”
 
“I hope that Mr. Wolf will join me in seeking the input of Conservative Republicans across Kansas and be willing to do what is best for the Republican Party and the Conservative Cause,” he said.