Obstetrician and political newcomer Roger Marshall is taking on U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp in the Kansas Republican primary Tuesday, hoping to unseat the conservative incumbent in a highly contested race for the 1st Congressional District.
While Huelskamp has stayed true to his conservative platform — the “Big First” district elected him during the 2010 Tea Party wave — Marshall has the backing of pro-business U.S. Chamber of Commerce and agricultural groups like the Kansas Farm Bureau. Marshall supporters have painted Huelskamp as “ineffective” and as an “obstructionist.”
Polls leading up to Tuesday’s race have Marshall and Huelskamp neck and neck, at 40.9 and 40.3 respectively. In deep red Kansas, the winner of Tuesday’s GOP primary will be the favorite to win the district in November’s general election.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Secretary of State Kris Kobach predicted 24 percent of the state’s 1.75 million registered voters will cast ballots, or about 410,000, according to the Associated Press.
Marshall, from Great Bend, Kansas, is an OB-GYN who claims he’s delivered more than 5,000 babies. He’s a lifelong Kansan who graduated from local universities in both undergraduate and doctoral programs.
His campaign has raised nearly $900,000 in this primary alone to defeat Huelskamp, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Outside groups have spent over $2 million to either aid Marshall or buy ads saying he isn’t conservative enough.
Here’s what you need to know about Marshall:
1. Marshall’s Campaign Has Outraised & Outspent The Incumbent Huelskamp’s Campaign
For GOP-controlled Kansas, this race is expected to be the election to watch. The winner will most likely glide into a Congressional seat after November. So it’s no wonder this House race is seeing plenty of money flowing into it.
Marshall has raised $170,000 more than Huelskamp as of July 13, giving him more firepower in advertising and resources. Koch brothers-backed groups have supported Huelskamp, however, as has the conservative Club for Growth, which alone spent $600,000 in the re-election bid, the Washington Post reported.
But the business lobby in Washington, D.C. has endorsed Marshall and the Ending Spending Action Fund has spent $1 million in the race — two-thirds of it against Huelskamp and $351,000 supporting Marshall.
2. Marshall Portrays Himself As Conservative, But Huelskamp Disagrees
Calling himself the “Conservative who Delivers” — a play on his OB/GYN profession — Marshall lays out a conservative platform in his television ads. Marshall says he’s pro-life, wants job protection, is pro-Second Amendment and will repeal and replace Obamacare.
Meanwhile, Huelskamp attacked Marshall in an ad, saying he supports pro-abortion groups that back Planned Parenthood and Hillary Clinton. “Marshall will raise your taxes,” the ad claims:
“We took on President Obama and we beat him,” Huelskamp says in the ad.
3. His Wife of 32 Years Is Laina & They Have 4 Kids
Marshall said his “most important roles” are husband to his wife Laina, and father to his four children. The couple recently became first-time grandparents, his bio states, when their oldest daughter, Lauren and her husband Chris Weems “brought young Roger into the world.”
Here’s his daughter’s family with young Roger:
The candidate and his grandson:
4. The Race Has Become Increasingly About Abortion & Marshall is Adamantly Pro-Life
While Huelskamp has said Marshall is not entirely pro-life because he “supports pro-abortion groups that back Planned Parenthood,” Marshall has put the issue at the forefront of his campaign.
He’s even dedicated an entire page, with the tab highlighted in red, on his website to the issue of abortion, which includes testimonies from co-workers and mothers.
5. If Marshall Beats Huelskamp, It Would Be a Historic Feat in Kansas Politics
According to Minnesota-based Smart Politics, if Marshall defeats Huelskamp, the victory would be “monumental” in “the annals of Kansas politics.”
“Over the previous 26 cycles since 1964, just one of 103 Kansas U.S. Representatives seeking reelection has lost a renomination bid — Republican Dick Nichols in 1992.
“Nichols was a freshman from the 5th Congressional District, which was eliminated after reapportionment in the 1992 cycle,” Dr. Eric Ostermeier writes.
And as Roll Call notes, if Huelskamp loses, he would be the fourth incumbent to be defeated in a primary this year.
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