Obama Cousin Making a Strong Play as Roberts' Challenger in Kansas
Milton Wolf, best known as Obama's cousin (or second cousin twice removed), has been on the Kansas Senate campaign trail for only three months and is already gaining support from conservative groups within the state for his August 5 primary against Senator Pat Roberts (R - KS).
Wolf pulls no punches in his criticism of his cousin saying in a new campaign video, which is tailored as a response to tonight's State of the Union, "You cannot choose your family, but you can choose to rise up and stop your family from destroying America. Wolf goes further saying, "This year's State of The Union may have new packaging but insider were the same empty promises. President Obama's claim that he wants every American to have a fair shot at success--well, that's a lie. Just as he lied when he said, 'If you like your health plan you can keep it.' If the president were being honest, he'd have said he wants your success to be less, so that others can have more."
The Flint Hills Tea Party group, the largest tea party group in the state, threw their support behind Wolf along with the Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison Project. The last two organizations were key in helping Senator Ted Cruz (R - TX) win his first election during the primaries in 2012. However, Roberts's campaign released an internal poll recently showing the incumbent ahead by a wide margin.
"It looks great for him. He has a wide lead. He’s a long term incumbent against an upstart challenger who has only been at it for three months. We're already at 15 percent on the ballot," Wolf campaign manager Ben Hartman told Breitbart News on Monday. "Already last Tuesday and going all last week through this next upcoming Sunday, we’ve got this big radio advertisement featuring the endorsement of former Congressman Jim Ryun," Hartman said.
Other endorsements Wolf has received include: Red State’s Erick Erickson, former Rep. Jim Ryun (R - KS), and four state GOP Kansas representatives. Hartman says conservatives in the state are ready for a change in who is representing them in the upper chamber, telling Breitbart News that Roberts is "out of touch" with the "values" of Kansas residents. Wolf goes after Roberts as well in his campaign video. Wolf calls Roberts a politician who has served in Congress for 47 years an "establishment" Republican and that the 77 year old Kansas Senator "has lost his way."
Hartman explained, "I think it’s a combination of a voting record that shows he’s been consistently out of touch with Kansas values. He voted 11 times to raise the debt ceiling. He voted for the fiscal cliff during the tax fight and called it tax relief." He noted Roberts was key in helping former Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius snag her nomination for Health and Human Services Secretary.
"She was very unpopular here with conservatives and quite literally because she was a disastrous governor. But when she was appointed to be HHS secretary, Senator Roberts not only endorsed her, he called it a really exciting. But he voted for her twice and he ushered her nomination through the Senate and supported her confirmation through the committee process and voted for her on the floor too."
Following the poor launch of HealthCare.gov, Roberts called on Sebelius to resign in October of 2013. Roberts has long-standing ties to Sebelius' family in Kansas, which prompted questions about his motives when he suddenly turned on her in October, after Wolf had launched his primary challenge.
The Roberts campaign says the criticism of the Senator's support for and eventual call for resignation of Sebelius is just politics. Roberts executive campaign manager Leroy Towns told Brietbart News on Tuesday, "The Senator called for Sebeilius' resignation[in October], because at that point, the website operation was in absolute chaos."
"Sebilius was running around the country talking about how wonderful it was and how well it was working. The final straw at the time was there had been a rally in Philadelphia about the health care law and that point, I think the Senator became so absolutely exasperated that nobody was being held accountable to this, that he called for her resignation."
Towns also claims that Sen. Roberts did conservative Republicans in Kansas a favor by helping to get Sebelius into the Obama administration.
"You have to also look at it this way," Towns explained. "However the Senator voted on that nomination, it would not have made any difference. She would have been nominated by the president no matter what. The votes were all there. It was a done deal. So in reality, it made no difference. But I can tell you this. One of the things that happened by putting Sebelius into the Obama administration is that it got her out of Kansas," he said.
Towns says that Sebelius had a "formidable Democratic organization" in the state and getting her out hurt Democrats politically in the state. "It allowed conservative Republicans to make the comeback that they've enjoyed since then and for anybody to criticize his vote on that is akin to saying that they would just as soon have Sebelius in Kansas as a continuous governor continuing to build the Democratic organization. It was a good thing for Kansas to get rid of her," Towns says.
Hartman says that many Kansas residents are just seeing Roberts, as the incumbent has hit the campaign trail, for the first time in their lives. As of now, Hartman notes, the Wolf campaign has raised well over a quarter of a million dollars and is in the process of releasing the latest fundraising numbers for their campaign. The Wolf campaign is still behind, though, in current fundraising numbers. The Roberts campaign, announced the Senator has raised more than $600,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013, giving the Senator's campaign a balance of $2.25 million cash on hand.
Towns points to contributions the campaign has received from every county in Kansas as proof the Senator has grassroots support. "We have organizations in every county of Roberts supporters that's actively beginning to work in this campaign. He has almost all Republican elected representatives who are out there working on his behalf and also State Senators.