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Kansas Senator Doesn’t Live In Kansas?

Kansas Flag

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, who has been in office since 1997, seems to be facing some questions about his residency:

DODGE CITY, Kan. — It is hard to find anyone who has seen Senator Pat Roberts here at the redbrick house on a golf course that his voter registration lists as his home. Across town at the Inn Pancake House on Wyatt Earp Boulevard, breakfast regulars say the Republican senator is a virtual stranger.

“He calls it home,” said Jerald Miller, a retiree. “But I’ve been here since ’77, and I’ve only seen him twice.”

The 77-year-old senator went to Congress in 1981 and became a fixture: a member of the elite Alfalfa Club and the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which made him a regular on the Sunday talk shows. His wife became a real estate broker in Alexandria, Va., the suburb where the couple live, boasting of her “extensive knowledge” of the area.

But such emblems of Washington status have turned hazardous in a Republican establishment threatened by the Tea Party and unnerved by the defeat of incumbents like Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, who was viewed as a creature of the capital.

Mr. Roberts is now desperate to re-establish ties to Kansas and to adjust his politics to fit the rise of the right in the state. But his efforts underscore the awkward reality of Republicans who, after coming of age in an era of comity and esteem for long-term service, are trying to remake themselves to be warriors for a Tea Party age.

In an interview, the three-term senator acknowledged that he did not have a home of his own in Kansas. The house on a country club golf course that he lists as his voting address belongs to two longtime supporters and donors — C. Duane and Phyllis Ross — and he says he stays with them when he is in the area. He established his voting address there the day before his challenger in the August primary, Milton Wolf, announced his candidacy last fall, arguing that Mr. Roberts was out of touch with his High Plains roots.

“I have full access to the recliner,” the senator joked. Turning serious, he added, “Nobody knows the state better than I do.”

That assertion is disputed by Tea Party activists energized by Mr. Wolf’s candidacy.

“In four and one-half going on five years of existence have we been contacted by Senator Roberts or any of his staff? Not once,” said Chuck Henderson, a Tea Party activist in Manhattan, Kan., who mocked the notion of the senator’s “official” residence here.

The attacks on Roberts’ residence are reminiscent of those faced by long-time Indiana Senator Dick Lugar, who was ultimately defeated by a Tea Party challenger in 2010. Early on there were questions about whether or not Lugar was even eligible to serve as Indiana’s Senator due to questions about his residency. While Lugar was able to effectively push back against those allegations, he did face a related challenge to his right to vote in the state when a state panel initially ruled that he did not maintain a sufficient residency to be a voter in the state. That decision was ultimately reversed, but it didn’t help Lugar’s chances against already skeptical Republican voters in the state who saw Lugar as someone who had long ago lost touch with the state. Lugar ended up losing to Richard Mourdock in the primary and, as James Joyner noted at the time, the loss was largely Lugar’s own fault.

Is Roberts headed for a similar fate? It’s hard to say. As of yet, there hasn’t been much polling in the race between the Senator and Milton Wolf, a physician who happens to be a distant cousin of President Obama on the President’s mother’s side of the family outside of a leaked (in other words, not necessarily trustworthy) internal Roberts poll showing the Senator with a massive lead over Wolf. However, it’s still early in the race and Kansas has a reputation of late for electing rather conservative politicians in statewide races. The one good piece of news for the GOP here is that it’s unlikely that the Democrats would be able to pull off in Kansas what they pulled off in Indiana should Dr. Wolf win the race. That said, Pat Roberts may have something to worry about here.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. LAgraves says:

    I was born and raised in Kansas, and can say that this is a HUGE issue!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  2. @LAgraves:

    Maybe you can answer an unrelated question for me then, why does Kansas feel the need to put its name on its state flag (Iowa and Wisconsin do the same thing)? It seems, well, odd……

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. LAgraves says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I don’t know why the name is on the flag!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. CSK says:

    According to the Kansas Historical Society, the name wasn’t added till 1961. But they don’t say why.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. James Pearce says:

    Wikipedia says:

    From 1925 to 1927, Kansas used a state banner instead of a flag. The Kansas state banner, which consisted of a large sunflower and the word “Kansas” on a blue field, was intended to be hung from a horizontal bar, rather than a vertical flag pole. It was given a unique design to avoid “competition” with the United States flag. However, after the banner was rejected for display in Washington, D.C., and generated complaints for its awkward method of hanging, the state legislature adopted a state flag that saw the addition of the word “Kansas” at the bottom in 1961 but has otherwise retained its original design.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. gVOR08 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Off topic, but do you remember ’08 when some Red State types made a stink about Obama making a speech in Milwaukee in front of the flag of union local 1848? Turned out to be the WI state flag, which carries the year of statehood. And in Ohio in front of an Obama flag with a big O on it. Yep, state flag.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Because who would recognize the Kansas flag unless it said “Kansas”? Oh wait, same is true for all the other state flags.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. Pinky says:

    About half of all states have their name on their flag.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Kib says:

    California’s flag has its name on it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. Pinky says:

    Q. Which is the only state to feature another state’s name on its flag?
    A. Florida, whose state motto, translated from Latin, is “we moved here from New York to get away from the snow”. Needless to say, this fun fact isn’t true.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  11. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Maybe you can answer an unrelated question for me then, why does Kansas feel the need to put its name on its state flag (Iowa and Wisconsin do the same thing)? It seems, well, odd……

    I believe that Alabama’s flag says, “At Least We’re Not Mississippi.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  12. becca says:

    Way to hijack a thread, Doug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  13. BIll says:

    @Pinky: You meant snow and state income taxes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. Andrew E. says:

    So in other words….. he’s not in Kansas anymore.

    I know. Your waitresses, tip them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  15. michael reynolds says:

    I understand their tourism slogan is: Kansas: Even Kansans Don’t Want To Be Here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  16. MarkedMan says:

    “Florida, because Jersey wasn’t stupid and corrupt enough”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  17. MarkedMan says:

    Back on the main topic, I think it is a darn shame that this idea that Congress critters shouldn’t live in DC has become so prevalent. It has caused a fair number of the. To head off 9-10 months of the year while their families remain thousands off miles away. It was one thing for Joe Biden, who could take a long train ride home every night. But Kansas?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Bob B says:

    I once had a bumper sticker, “Kansas, as bigoted as you think.” I have to get another one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  19. EddieInCA says:

    I once spent 5.25 hours driving through Kansas non-stop.

    That was the worst week of my life.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  20. Andre Kenji says:

    By the way, with the exception of Chile, United States and Italy, in most countries, the states/departments/provinces do not put their own name on the flag.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. Ron Beasley says:

    As I recall Santorum had a similar problem in PA. He did own a house there but he didn’t even pay to keep the landscaping up and the neighbors got really upset.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  22. bill says:

    rahm had a similar issue, a friendly judge took care of it.
    heck, kanas city doesn’t want to be in kansas- who could blame it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. Alex Knapp says:

    Not cool, Michael. Come out here and I’ll change your mind with the barbecue alone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  24. Andre Kenji says:

    Kansas City, Missouri, has good barbecue. Kansas does not.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I went to Kansas once. It’s full of Kansans. I don’t blame Senator Roberts at all.***

    *** Truth be told, Kansas is quite beautiful. People who say it is flat and boring are only half right.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  26. ratufa says:

    From what I can see, Idaho has the only state flag where “the name of the state is on it twice. Reading about the history of the flag, that isn’t as absurd as it may appear:

    http://www.netstate.com/states/symb/flags/id_flag.htm

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. JKB says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Yeah, we really ought to pick them all up and move them to Kansas as it is the geographic center of the contiguous US.

    Just as we should move the UN to Somalia or someplace close in Africa to be closer to the center of nations.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Brainster says:

    Take this “logic” to its final conclusion. Only people that can afford a residence in DC (expensive) and their home district (varies) can represent that district. Ergo, only rich people can represent us. I doubt that is the message the Times wishes to convey.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  29. Bob B says:

    @Andre Kenji: Best ribs anywhere, yep, anywhere, are found at Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, KS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. CB says:

    @MarkedMan:

    “Florida, because Jersey wasn’t stupid and corrupt enough”

    Hey! I resemble that remark!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. Andre Kenji says:

    @Bob B: The best ribs, anywhere, are done somewhere in Uruguay or in Argentina(Ribs are not very popular among Brazilians). That´s the real deal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  32. bill says:

    @Andre Kenji: tough meat from small steer? seriously? been there, not impressed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. Andre Kenji says:

    @bill: Go here to Brazil. I take you to churrascaria, then we are going to eat pastel with sugarcane juice, then we are going to drink cappuccino with cheese bums. You are going to be another man, that´s guaranteed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Dick Lugar lived on Old Dominion Drive in Mclean for 35 years and claimed to be a resident of and voted in Indiana using an residential address where he did not live and never intended to live — period. But we know there is no voting fraud. Move on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. MarkedMan says:

    @Let’s Be Free: Ah. So to you, a US Senator living in the place where he works 9-10 months of the year but keeping a residence of record in his home state so he can vote there, and by the way, not voting anywhere else, constitutes voter fraud of such magnitude that we must create voter ID laws and expunge people Dems from the voting rolls without informing them. This despite the fact that neither of these two “innovations” would keep him from voting? And of course, I assume that like most of the Repubs you see no reason to address the practice where we actually do have overwhelming evidence of significant fraud: the absentee ballot?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  36. Pinky says:

    @MarkedMan: What a cheap comment. LBF didn’t say that the best response to Lugar’s situation was voter ID laws.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1