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Obama cousin, tea party candidate defeated in Kansas
First Published Aug 05 2014 09:41 pm • Last Updated Aug 06 2014 07:10 am

Washington • Three-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts edged out Milton Wolf in Kansas’ primary Tuesday night as mainstream conservatives dealt another blow to the tea party movement. A GOP businessman swamped a first-term Michigan congressman, upending his re-election bid.

With 70 percent of the precincts reporting, Roberts held a 48 percent to 41 percent advantage over Wolf, a radiologist and distant cousin of President Barack Obama who had argued that the incumbent wasn’t conservative enough. Two other primary candidates combined for 11 percent of the vote.

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The Associated Press called the race for Roberts.

The Senate’s establishment is on a roll, with incumbents prevailing in Texas, Kentucky, South Carolina and Mississippi, though it took six-term Sen. Thad Cochran two tries before defeating Chris McDaniel, who is challenging the outcome.

Add Kansas to the list.

The GOP establishment blames the tea party for costing it Senate control in 2010 and 2012 as outside candidates stumbled in the general election. Republicans need to net six seats to regain the Senate, and the party has taken no chances this election cycle, putting its full force behind incumbents and mainstream candidates.

Tuesday also offered competitive primaries in Michigan, Missouri and Washington state. Businessman and lawyer Dave Trott easily defeated Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, 66 to 34 percent, in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District, a reversal of the recent political order of tea partyers targeting an establishment favorite.

Bentivolio, a part-time reindeer rancher, was often described as the "accidental" congressman, as he was elected in 2012 when former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter turned in fraudulent voter signatures for a ballot spot. Bentivolio is the third House incumbent to lose in the primary, joining Republican Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the former majority leader, and Ralph Hall of Texas on the House casualty list.

He was unapologetic in defeat.

"This is only the beginning battle to take back our country and take back our party from crony capitalists," Bentivolio said in arguing that the status quo will have to change.


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"I’ve seen behind the curtain and I know that the ideas of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are winning," he added.

In Kansas, Republican two-term Rep. Tim Huelskamp, who has frustrated GOP leadership and his rural constituents over his votes against the farm bill, was locked in a close race with Alan LaPolice, a farmer and educator. Huelskamp held a 53 percent to 47 percent lead with 59 percent of precincts reporting.

The four-state primary day launched a crowded stretch with Tennessee on Thursday, Hawaii on Saturday and Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin next week. By month’s end, voters will decide the Republican Senate nominee in a competitive race against Sen. Mark Begich in Alaska and the Democratic primary between Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa.

So far this year, the Senate’s establishment is on a roll, with incumbents already prevailing in Texas, Kentucky, South Carolina and Mississippi, though it took six-term Sen. Thad Cochran two tries before defeating Chris McDaniel, who is challenging the outcome.

Kansas, famous for sending moderate Republicans to Congress, holds Tuesday’s marquee contest.

The 78-year-old Roberts, a conservative, moved even farther right as he faced a tough re-election. The senator, who backed the nomination of former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to be secretary of Health and Human Services, was one of the first to call for her resignation after the disastrous launch of the health care website last October. Roberts also voted against a U.N. treaty on the rights of the disabled in December 2012 despite the appeals of former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who sat in a wheelchair in the well of the Senate.

Wolf argued that Roberts has spent too much time in Washington, owning a home in the nation’s capital while merely renting in Kansas. Roberts didn’t help his cause when he told a radio interviewer last month: "Every time I get an opponent — uh, I mean, every time I get a chance — I’m home."

In an interview on Topeka radio’s WIBW NewsNow at Noon on Monday, Roberts said it was the "the height of absurdity" for people who want to replace him in Washington to criticize him for spending too much time there.

"You’ve got to go where the fight is," he said. "I have to work in Washington."

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