It is hard to find anyone who has seen Senator Pat Roberts here at the redbrick house on a golf course that his voter registration lists as his home. Across town at the Inn Pancake House on Wyatt Earp Boulevard, breakfast regulars say the Republican senator is a virtual stranger.
“He calls it home,” said Jerald Miller, a retiree. “But I’ve been here since ’77, and I’ve only seen him twice.”
The 77-year-old senator went to Congress in 1981 and became a fixture: a member of the elite Alfalfa Club and the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which made him a regular on the Sunday talk shows. His wife became a real estate broker in Alexandria, Va., the suburb where the couple live, boasting of her “extensive knowledge” of the area.
But such emblems of Washington status have turned hazardous in a Republican establishment threatened by the Tea Party and unnerved by the defeat of incumbents like Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, who was viewed as a creature of the capital.
Mr. Roberts is now desperate to re-establish ties to Kansas and to adjust his politics to fit the rise of the right in the state. But his efforts underscore the awkward reality of Republicans who, after coming of age in an era of comity and esteem for long-term service, are trying to remake themselves to be warriors for a Tea Party age.
In an interview, the three-term senator acknowledged that he did not have a home of his own in Kansas. The house on a country club golf course that he lists as his voting address belongs to two longtime supporters and donors — C. Duane and Phyllis Ross — and he says he stays with them when he is in the area. He established his voting address there the day before his challenger in the August primary, Milton Wolf, announced his candidacy last fall, arguing that Mr. Roberts was out of touch with his High Plains roots.
“I have full access to the recliner,” the senator joked. Turning serious, he added, “Nobody knows the state better than I do.”
That assertion is disputed by Tea Party activists energized by Mr. Wolf’s candidacy.
“In four and one-half going on five years of existence have we been contacted by Senator Roberts or any of his staff? Not once,” said Chuck Henderson, a Tea Party activist in Manhattan, Kan., who mocked the notion of the senator’s “official” residence here . . .Martin's story says little about of Roberts' Republican primary opponent, Milton Wolf, than he's a Tea Party candidate. He's actually a physician from a well-established Kansas family who very publicly challenged Obamacare, a move that led the IRS to harass him and some within the Obama administration to try and get him fired from his job. Did I mention that he's also a cousin of President Obama on his white mother's side of the family?