Huelskamp Is Fourth House Incumbent Defeated

Agriculture was a central theme in the Freedom Caucus member’s primary loss.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp speaks during a campaign town hall meeting at the headquarters of Patriot Outfitters in St. Marys, Kan. on July 25.
AP Photo/John Hanna
Kimberly Railey
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Kimberly Railey
Aug. 2, 2016, 9:51 p.m.

The Re­pub­lic­an es­tab­lish­ment scored a big vic­tory Tues­day night.

Rep. Tim Huel­skamp, one of the most con­ser­vat­ive law­makers in Con­gress, hand­ily lost his primary to a more mod­er­ate chal­lenger, be­com­ing the fourth House in­cum­bent de­feated this cycle.

In a race that be­came a proxy fight for the GOP’s two war­ring wings, phys­i­cian Ro­ger Mar­shall tri­umphed over Huel­skamp, lead­ing 57 to 43 per­cent when the As­so­ci­ated Press called the race shortly after 11:20 p.m. and with 72 per­cent of pre­cincts re­port­ing.

Mar­shall’s vic­tory in the solidly Re­pub­lic­an 1st Dis­trict likely as­sures him a spot in Con­gress next year.

He faces in­de­pend­ent Alan LaPo­lice, who won 45 per­cent of the vote against Huel­skamp in the 2014 GOP primary. LaPo­lice, who ini­tially planned to run as a Re­pub­lic­an again this year, dropped out of the GOP field in May, al­low­ing anti-Huel­skamp voters to con­sol­id­ate around one op­tion. No Demo­crat filed to run, but there is a Liber­tari­an in the race.

The primary at­trac­ted nearly $2.8 mil­lion in out­side spend­ing and was a ma­jor win for es­tab­lish­ment-aligned Re­pub­lic­ans, who loathe Huel­skamp and the House Free­dom Caucus mem­ber’s con­front­a­tion­al style.

Su­per PACs af­fil­i­ated with the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce and End­ing Spend­ing shelled out nearly $1.5 mil­lion com­bined to boost Mar­shall, a polit­ic­al new­comer. Mean­while, Huel­skamp won out­side help from the Club for Growth, whose su­per PAC spent more than $400,0000 on his be­half, a siz­able sum in the dis­trict’s in­ex­pens­ive me­dia mar­ket.

“Gov­ern­ing was on the bal­lot in KS-1 and voters spoke clearly,” Rob Eng­strom, the Cham­ber’s na­tion­al polit­ic­al dir­ect­or, said in a state­ment Tues­day night.

Mar­shall made Huel­skamp’s com­bat­ive­ness a cent­ral part of his pitch, cast­ing him­self as a more solu­tions-ori­ented con­ser­vat­ive. As he ran in the heav­ily agrari­an dis­trict, Mar­shall slammed the in­cum­bent for his re­mov­al from the House Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee in 2012 and his vote against the farm bill in 2014. Not­ably, Mar­shall picked up the en­dorse­ment of the Kan­sas Farm Bur­eau, a prom­in­ent ag­ri­cul­tur­al group.

Huel­skamp had said he was con­fid­ent of re­turn­ing to the Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee now that he sits on the power­ful Steer­ing Com­mit­tee that de­term­ines com­mit­tee as­sign­ments.

“I’m not go­ing to back down from pro­tect­ing Kan­sas farm­ers,” Huel­skamp told Na­tion­al Journ­al in Janu­ary. “I am not go­ing to give up my vot­ing card. I’m wor­ried about the [En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency], rather than the en­dorse­ment of groups back home.”

Huel­skamp’s de­feat fol­lows the losses earli­er this year of two Re­pub­lic­ans, Rep. Randy For­bes of Vir­gin­ia and Rep. Ren­ee Ellmers of North Car­o­lina, who both ran in rad­ic­ally re­drawn dis­tricts un­der their state’s new con­gres­sion­al maps. In April, Pennsylvania Demo­crat­ic Rep. Chaka Fat­tah lost his primary, then resigned from the House in June fol­low­ing a fed­er­al rack­et­eer­ing con­vic­tion.

Huel­skamp did not take the chal­lenge lightly, though Mar­shall slightly out­spent Huel­skamp through the pre-primary re­port­ing peri­od, $849,000 to the in­cum­bent’s $817,000, and out­raised him by $168,000.

The primary took on an in­creas­ingly nasty turn in its fi­nal weeks.

One Huel­skamp ad played a re­cord­ing of a 911 call in 2008 from one of Mar­shall’s neigh­bors, who ac­cused Mar­shall of al­most run­ning him over with his pickup truck. Ac­cord­ing to court re­cords, Mar­shall pleaded no con­test to the mis­de­mean­or crim­in­al case.

Mar­shall re­spon­ded with an ad high­light­ing news­pa­per head­lines crit­ic­al of Huel­skamp. However, they were ex­cerp­ted from news­pa­per ed­it­or­i­als, rather than cov­er­age of the re­cent Huel­skamp spot.

As the primary barreled to­ward the home stretch, polling poin­ted to a close race. A sur­vey from the Dock­ing In­sti­tute of Pub­lic Af­fairs from Ju­ly 11-21 showed Huel­skamp and Mar­shall in a dead heat, with 15 per­cent of voters un­de­cided.

Huel­skamp’s polit­ic­al ca­reer began in 1996, when he won a spot in the state Sen­ate and be­came the young­est mem­ber in the cham­ber in 20 years. He quickly be­came one of the GOP’s most vo­cal rabble-rousers after his 2010 elec­tion. Two years later, that cri­ti­cism led Speak­er John Boehner to yank him from the Ag­ri­cul­ture and Budget com­mit­tees, a de­cision Huel­skamp called “petty and vin­dict­ive.”

Huel­skamp’s 1st Dis­trict was rep­res­en­ted by both of the state’s cur­rent sen­at­ors, Jerry Mor­an and Pat Roberts. Former Sen. Bob Dole also held the seat in the 1960s.

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