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.
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.
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.
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.
In one of the fiercest House GOP primaries, two-term Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo defeated Todd Tiahrt, who served eight terms in the House and was trying to return to Washington.