There were no debates in the recent 1st Congressional District Republican primary campaign, and only one debate is on tap this fall between U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Great Bend, and Democratic challenger Alan LaPolice, of Clyde.
Congress was in session in July but is in its August recess. Marshall currently is touring the district holding community coffees as part of his Congressional travels in the district. Saline County Citizens for Responsible Government looked at Marshall's public schedule in August and seeing Tuesday, Aug. 28, open, invited Marshall and LaPolice to debate that night in Salina.
Marshall declined. LaPolice said yes.
On Monday, Saline County Citizens for Responsible Government said it has supplied the questions in writing to both candidates. It will have the written responses from Marshall. LaPolice will attend.
"Dr. Marshall had multiple events that afternoon/evening and we were notified with less than 2 weeks notice," Brent Robertson, spokesman for the Marshall campaign, told The News. Asked what the events were, Robertson did not elaborate.
David Norlin, with Saline County Citizens for Responsible Government, said the Marshall campaign said he had two other events/groups that were not on the public schedule that would interfere with an Aug. 28 debate. "We are hoping he'll change his mind," Norlin told The News.
Marshall plans to participate in a live debate in October planned by KWCH/Channel 12, Wichita, according to Robertson.
LaPolice said he's "running a full-court press," and that included the airing of a television commercial starting last week.
"I'm in this to win," said LaPolice. His initial focus is making voters aware that Marshall has a challenger in November, he said.
LaPolice, who said he is not accepting political action committee donations, took aim in the commercial at the PAC money given to Marshall's PACs or spent on his behalf. Over $2 million was spent electing Marshall and another $2 million is being spent to keep him in Congress, LaPolice claims, with bundles of bills bearing such names as Koch Industries Inc. and Goldman Sachs on a table in a farm field.
After directing the flame from a blowtorch at the money-laden table, LaPolice turns to the camera and says: "Too much? You ain't seen nothing yet."
He will buy as many TV spots as he can afford with individual contributions, he said. For the first ad, he wrote the script and directly placed the ad with stations instead of using an intermediary agency.
Marshall is sitting on a campaign war chest. As of July 18, his account contained over $628,000, compared to about $60,000 in LaPolice's account. Marshall also has a Team Marshall PAC, where donors aren't under the maximum $2,700 per individual per election ceiling.
But it is Marshall who is saving his money. He said he did not spend anything on the primary election race, where he easily beat back Inman cafe general manager Nick Reinecker. Marshall told The News on election night that his marching orders were to help Republicans win their seats in Kansas Congressional districts.
According to the political calculus website, FiveThirtyEight, the odds favor Democrats taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives after the November election, but the four Kansas seats will remain Republican. Of the four Kansas seats, Marshall's is regarded as the safest. Polling data points to Marshall winning 71 percent to LaPolice's 29 percent in November.
This is LaPolice's third attempt in six years to win the 1st District seat. In 2014, he failed to topple U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp in the Republican primary. In 2016, Marshall defeated Huelskamp, and LaPolice ran as an independent against Marshall in November. A Libertarian also ran in 2016 and in the three-man race, Marshall captured about 65 percent of the vote. This time, it will be just Marshall and LaPolice.
LaPolice's sister has had an official a role in his prior campaigns. This time, LaPolice's campaign treasurer is Louise Ehmke, Dighton. The Ehmke name is well known in agricultural circles and it lends credibility, LaPolice said.
"My campaign is not a mom-and-pop shop," he said.