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Kansas Republican Senator and Governor Face Tough Election Battles

Tuesday, 04 November 2014 08:10 AM EST

By Kevin Murphy

KANSAS CITY, Kan., Nov 4 (Reuters) - Kansas is known as a reliably Republican state, but the electoral fate of two longtime party leaders, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts and Governor Sam Brownback, is in serious doubt in Tuesday's election.

Roberts, 78, who barely won the Republican primary over a challenger backed by the conservative Tea Party movement, is in a dead heat in polls with millionaire businessman Greg Orman, an independent, in a crucial race for control of the U.S. Senate.

Orman has said that if elected, he will caucus with the party that controls the Senate.

Kansas has not sent a Republican to the Senate since 1932, although it has elected several Democratic governors in that time. Orman's candidacy soared when the Democratic candidate withdrew from the race in September. In a Fox News poll released on Saturday, Orman held a 44 percent-to-43 percent edge over Roberts.

Orman, 45, has said Roberts has served too long, done too little and contributes to political gridlock in Washington. Roberts calls Orman a Democrat in disguise, citing his campaign contributions to top Democrats and Orman's interest in running against Roberts as a Democrat six years ago.

In the governor's race, Brownback, a former U.S. senator and presidential candidate, is trying to fend off Paul Davis, a lawyer and Democratic state representative.

Davis went from a long-shot to strong contender after a drop in state revenue that coincided with income tax cuts engineered by Brownback. The cuts prompted Standard & Poor's to slash the state's bond rating in August and warn of a budget deficit next year.

Brownback's advertising has cast Davis as a big-spending liberal, but many moderate Republicans have thrown their support to Davis. A Fox News poll released on Saturday showed Davis leading Brownback by 48 percent to 42 percent.

Several high-profile Republicans have come to Kansas to support Brownback and Roberts, including 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

But even longtime Republicans, like retired lawyer and former party worker Karen Johnson, are ready to back challengers Davis and Orman. She believes Brownback has gone too far with tax cuts and that Roberts, who does not own a home in Kansas, is out of touch with the state.

"Orman is not well-known and doesn't have a record of public service, but I think that may be a good thing," Johnson said. "People are just dissatisfied with Congress and all the things that don't get done." (Reporting by Kevin Murphy; Editing by Carey Gillam, Mary Milliken and Peter Cooney)

© 2022 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, 04 November 2014 08:10 AM
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