WASHINGTON – Kansas voters have always liked him. But the Republican establishment apparently loathes him.
U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., coasted to election and won two re-elections. Now he is in fight of his life just to win GOP primary.
The way the congressman sees it, he helped topple the GOP elite’s leader, and now they are coming after him in a big way. And with big money.
Suddenly, the Kansan is in a dogfight against what he and his allies identify as a quintessential GOP establishment candidate in the Republican primary election, coming up Tuesday, Aug. 2.
One Kansas poll has the race as a dead heat, while Huelskamp’s own polling gives him a nine-point lead. (More details below.)
Huelskamp told WND he thinks big money pouring in to support his opponent is payback for his opposition to the GOP establishment, but he suggested the effort will be futile.
“Look what’s happened,” he said. “Every candidate they put forward in the presidential race lost miserably. Outsiders said, ‘Enough is enough,’ and at the end of the day it came down to Ted (Cruz) and Donald (Trump).”
Huelskamp initially supported Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for president and has since endorsed GOP nominee Donald Trump. Cruz endorsed Huelskamp on July 5.
Referring to the Republican establishment, Huelskamp told WND, “These are folks who lose at everything they do. They lost their power and control in Washington.”
This is not the first time Huelskamp has felt the wrath of the establishment.
He was among the conservative House members who sought to oust former Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and finally succeeded when Boehner retired on Oct. 31, 2015.
For opposing him, Boehner had Huelskamp removed from the House Budget and Agriculture committees in late 2012, the latter, an important post for a representative from a farm state.
The congressman said he didn’t waver then, and he won’t now.
“I said to John Boehner, privately, after he kicked me off the ag committee, ‘I don’t work for you, Mr. Speaker.’ And it’s about time the American people got the Congress back. And I don’t care who the speaker is, I don’t work for him. I don’t work for the president of the United States.”
Huelskamp said he will remain an independent, conservative voice, “and that’s why they’re worried.”
Opponent Dr. Roger Marshall has been telling voters he will get that agriculture committee seat back, if elected. But Huelskamp said the doctor would deliver more than voters bargained for.
“On all key issues, he’s a liberal. And I’m a proven conservative,” the congressman told WND. “He’s tried to confuse local media by telling them that he’s not for Obamacare, but he’s actually said he didn’t know if he really wanted to repeal it. He’s said multiple things, and it’s hard to pin him down.”
“I am pro-life, he’s not,” continued the Kansan. “He’s had a multiyear association with a pro-abortion group. He’s not only a member but a prestigious fellow in their group. He actually contributes to their political action committee. Once, he even said this pro-abortion group did more for the unborn than any other group.”
The group, the American College of OB/GYN, released a position paper in November 2014 stating, “Safe, legal abortion is a necessary component of women’s health care.”
Huelskamp said the group’s political action committee, or PAC, has donated money to his opponent, and that it “supports Obama, supports Hillary, supports abortion on demand, partial-birth abortion, loves Obamacare and supports Planned Parenthood. So that’s a huge difference between us, a big issue.”
“He (Marshall) refuses to rule out any tax increases. He won’t sign the tax pledge,” Huelskamp added. “He has come out in favor of an Internet sales tax, which would be a $23 billion tax increase.”
But the biggest issue driving the opposition, according to the congressman, is his own opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants.
And that’s why, he said, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent more than $400,000 to try to unseat him.
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce would like somebody who will do exactly what they tell them to do,” Huelskamp bluntly stated.
Especially on amnesty, he added, because they want cheap labor.
“These ag groups, the Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association, that are after me, it’s all about amnesty. I will not vote for amnesty. My opponent has said he is looking for a pathway to citizenship, which is akin to amnesty.”
The congressman said he is the real conservative on every issue that voters care about.
“But the outside groups have been lying about my record, and suggesting that I’m not a conservative. Every conservative group says I am.”
He added, “I’m a proven conservative with the endorsement of every major conservative organization that does endorsements, all the pro-life groups, all the Second Amendment groups, the fiscal conservatives the social conservatives. That would mean the ones going after us are not conservatives.”
Huelskamp was elected to Congress in 2010 with a whopping 73 percent of the vote. He ran unopposed in the 2012 general election and won re-election in 2014 with 68 percent.
A poll commissioned by the Topeka Capital-Journal published on Sunday showed a dead heat, with Marshall at 40.9 percent of likely voters, and Huelskamp at 40.3 percent. A significant number, 15.3 percent, are still undecided.
According to the paper, “If Republican voters oust Huelskamp, it would send a shock wave through Washington, D.C.”
But Huelskamp’s campaign criticized the poll’s methodology of surveying random Kansas landline and cell numbers.
“Our internal poll, taken during the same time by a reputable polling firm with a 100 percent track record, surveyed twice as many respondents and showed congressman Huelskamp with a strong 47-38 lead,” a Huelskamp spokesman told the paper.
Some conservative heavy hitters have come out swinging for the congressman, ever since the race tightened up.
Huelskamp said conservative media star Sean Hannity endorsed him and did “a great segment” on the race.
The man who initiated the successful revolt against Boehner, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., was also punished for his insurrection, in his case, by being stripped of his chairmanship of an Oversight subcommittee. But, unlike Huelskamp, his position was restored.
Meadows told WND, “Tim Huelskamp is a principled conservative who puts the interests of his district before anything else. I’ve had the privilege of serving alongside him in the House and believe we need more in Congress like him. It’s not surprising special interests groups are working against Tim – they fear members who aren’t beholden to them.”
In his endorsement, Cruz called the congressman “a principled conservative who has stood up to the Washington Cartel and fought for Kansans since the day he first arrived in our nation’s capital.” The senator said his colleague has been devoted to “protecting innocent life, cutting out-of-control spending, and fighting to repeal Obamacare, just to name a few.”
Earlier this week, conservative stalwarts in Congress gathered to help their comrade in arms.
Reps. Steve King, R-Iowa, Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, appeared with Huelskamp at four town halls in Kansas. Those lawmakers, along with Huelskamp, are all member of the House Freedom Caucus, the keepers of the conservative flame in Congress.
King said, “He’s a man of character and he’s a leader in the Congress and a leader in the tea party and the tea party caucus,” adding, “He’s a leader of the things that matter to middle America.”
The Iowan also warned, “If Kansas sent a moderate to Congress having run him against a principled conservative like Tim Huelskamp, that empowers the establishment wing of the party.”
But Huelskamp says Kansas voters are not the problem; it’s big money pouring in from out of state.
That’s a super PAC that targets usually targets Democrats.
The paper said it is “made up of a handful of billionaire investors and hedge fund managers that includes the family that owns the Chicago Cubs and the family that turned World Wrestling Entertainment into a multibillion dollar international entertainment business.”
Marlene Ricketts, wife of T.D. Ameritrade founder J. Joseph Ricketts, contributed $850,000 to the PAC this election cycle. Their son, Tom, led the family bid to try to purchase the Cubs, and another son, Peter, is the Republican governor of Nebraska.
Another contributor to the super PAC is the wife of WWE kingpin Vince McMahon, Linda. “The largest donor to the ESA Fund is billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer of New York, who Forbes magazine estimates has a net worth of $2.2 billion,” according to the paper. Other hedge fund managers have also contributed.
“Particularly the one (PAC) funded by the Ricketts, they just don’t like conservatives,” Huelskamp told WND. “I’d say they probably hate conservatives.”
“They ran super PAC adds in Iowa to help Hillary and they also ran ads going after Trump. So, this is an establishment PAC trying to send a message. Not just to me, but to all conservatives in Congress, that, ‘Hey you either do what we say or were going to go after you.’”
He said the Ricketts have probably never visited even Kansas, certainly not the first district.
“Meanwhile, Kansans are just about fed up with being told how to vote by these outsiders. People in this district received more than 30 mailers and are saying, ‘Wait a minute, why are they going after Tim? He must’ve upset somebody in Washington.’”
He added, “They’re spending $1 million against us, but we got folks coming in to help us. I appreciate that, all the free-market folks, all the conservative groups, are coming in to help. It’s good to see.”
Huelskmp said he’s being outspent by two to one.
But he’s optimistic he will prevail.
“It’s big money versus Main Street. But the hedge fund managers out of state don’t get a vote. They just have a big checkbook. So, we’ll see how that works out here in this district.”