Though Republican Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsMcConnell gets GOP wake-up call Bob Dole, Pat Roberts endorse Kansas AG Derek Schmidt for governor Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm MORE insists Kansas remains his home, on Federal Election Commission filings documenting campaign reimbursements to him and his wife, he lists his Alexandria, Va., address.
The detail is sure to raise further questions about whether the incumbent is still connected enough to Kansas to represent it in the Senate, questions that dogged him throughout his primary fight and have contributed to his unexpected vulnerability in the general election this fall.
According to data analyzed by Democratic research firm American Bridge and provided to The Hill, Roberts’s campaign has reimbursed the senator and his wife, Franki Roberts, a total $2,342 this cycle for various expenditures.
On each of those 27 reimbursements, Roberts’s campaign lists the senator’s home in Alexandria as his or his wife’s mailing address.
The expenditures range from a $22 reimbursement to Roberts for a “flight upgrade fee” on July 1 of this year to a $395 reimbursement to Franki Roberts for “RWFF, cong. club” — likely a reference to the Republican Women’s Federal Forum.
When The New York Times reported earlier this year that Roberts no longer lives in the home he owns in Kansas and instead rents a room from donors when he returns to the state, the detail provided his primary challenger, radiologist Milton Wolf, with ample fodder for attacks. Wolf often referred to Roberts as “the senator from Virginia,” and highlighted his other connections to Virginia — like the fact a campaign truck had Virginia license plates — as evidence the senator was out of touch with his own state.
Roberts didn’t help his own case with repeated gaffes, at one point stating he returns home “whenever I get an opponent,” and his former campaign manager, Leroy Towns, telling a reporter Roberts was heading “home” to rest after the primary — meaning his home in Virginia.
Roberts won his primary, but by a narrower margin than many expected, and multiple post-primary polls have shown him to be surprisingly vulnerable to a challenger. Realizing this, Democrats moved to remove their candidate, Democrat Chad Taylor, from the ballot, in hopes of opening a path for independent Greg Orman, seen as the stronger challenger to take on Roberts this fall.
That effort was blocked by the Kansas secretary of State, but the National Republican Senatorial Committee, sensing Roberts’s vulnerability, sent top strategist Chris LaCivita down to shake up Roberts’s campaign and attempt to right the ship. Towns was replaced by Corry Bliss, who recently ran Karen Handel’s Georgia Senate primary campaign. More staff changes are expected to come.
Neither LaCivita nor the NRSC responded to requests for comment on the new details concerning Roberts’s residency issues.
Republicans now have a fight on their hands, however. Democrats are eyeing the seat as a potential pickup opportunity, and American Bridge has set Roberts in its sights, with plans to target the senator with more research to come in the future.