Pat Roberts has represented the great state of Kansas in the U.S. Senate since 1997, bringing, as his reelection campaign website puts it, "Kansas values to Washington." Not that he actually lives in Kansas; as The New York Times reports, Roberts' official Kansas home address is a house belonging to some donors. But, Roberts was quick to point out, "I have full access to the recliner."
In fact, Roberts and his wife don't even own a home in Dodge City, much less live there regularly. The Times' Jonathan Martin notes that their main residence — in the sense of "where they reside" — is actually in the D.C. suburb of Alexandria, Virginia where Franki Roberts is a realtor, selling Virginia homes to other people. In essence, Roberts rents space in the golf-course-adjacent Kansas home of C. Duane Ross and his family, paying $300 a month for access to that La-Z-Boy.
And he's only paid that rent since he acquired a conservative primary challenger. Roberts — whose campaign website also brags about National Journal identifying him as the eighth most conservative Senator — doesn't really seem to be at too much risk. His opponent, Milton Wolf, fared poorly in a poll commissioned by Roberts, as challengers tend to do, but also trails badly in fundraising. Two prominent conservative groups have backed Wolf, including the increasingly prominent Senate Conservatives Fund. SCF's Matt Hoskins explains the rationale simply: "[A]fter more than 20 years in Washington it’s time for a change." But you know won't help Pat Roberts counter the argument that he's closer to Washington than to those Kansas values? The fact that he lives in Washington and not in Kansas.
The last time Roberts popped up in the national media was after comments he made during a confirmation hearing for Vivek Murthy, introduced by President Obama as a candidate for the position of Surgeon General. During that hearing, Roberts made an unusual offer to Murthy, who is Indian-American. Via Slate's Dave Weigel:
You ever been to Dodge City, Kansas? … Well, I'm going to invite you, because we have a lovely doctor from India," said Roberts. She's in her mid-30s, and she's highly respected by the community. And another doctor from India that did my carpal tunnel when I did a stupid thing. And so, I think you'd be right at home, and we would welcome you.
Great doctors in Dodge City, he says. To which the best response, it turns out, would have been: How would you know?
Update, Saturday: Roberts responded at his campaign site.
Senator Roberts long has owned a home in Dodge City. It currently has a tenant; he also pays rent at a residence where he stays when he is in Dodge City. He pays Kansas state tax and property tax. His three children attended college in Kansas. He is a Kansan. He lives in Dodge City by every measure of residency.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.