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
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
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)
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