HUTCHINSON — Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp and primary challenger Roger Marshall are sparring over who is most likely to win a spot on a House committee that helps shape federal farm policy.
The issue came up Monday night when Huelskamp and Roger Marshall debated for the first time in Hutchinson. Huelskamp, who represents the sprawling 1st Congressional District of western and central Kansas, bucked House GOP leaders on key votes and was stripped of seats on the Agriculture and Budget committees late in 2012.
Marshall, a physician from Great Bend, positioned himself as a "peacemaker" and promised to secure a spot on the Agriculture Committee.
Huelskamp, who emphasized his unwillingness to waiver on his views, blamed former House Speaker John Boehner for Kansas not having a spot on the committee. Now a member of the influential House Steering Committee that coordinates committee assignments, Huelskamp said he anticipates returning to the Agriculture Committee if re-elected.
Huelskamp also asked Marshall whether he had talked with Ryan about the issue.
Marshall did not respond directly, but disputed Huelskamp's confidence.
"I think the chances of him getting back on the ag committee are next to none," Marshall said. "It's not a gamble Kansas can take."
Marshall also called Huelskamp a career politician, citing Huelskamp's tenure in Topeka and Washington, D.C. (He was a state senator from 1997 until he went to Congress in 2011.)
"We need new blood," Marshall said. "Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results is insanity."
Huelskamp says he comes home to Kansas each weekend. He positioned himself as a Washington outsider.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have to win this for America," he said. "People in Washington don't know, and don't care, what we want out here in western Kansas."
The winner in the Aug. 2 primary will face Libertarian Kerry Burt and possibly Alan LaPolice, who seeks to run as an independent, in the general election.
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com