The Republican primary for the Kansas Senate seat has become uglier as Kris Kobach has emerged as the front-runner to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Roberts.
The conservative Club for Growth has mounted a new advertising campaign attacking rival candidate Rep. Roger Marshall over his alleged poor treatment of female patients as a doctor.
Mr. Kobach, Kansas’ former secretary of state, is a longtime ally of President Trump, but many Republicans are worried he would lose the Senate race, as he lost his gubernatorial bid in 2018.
Mr. Kobach held a double-digit percentage point lead on Mr. Marshall, his nearest competitor, in a February McLaughlin & Associates poll.
The free-market advocacy group is spending about $33,000 on a print and digital ad campaign accusing Mr. Marshall of “poor treatment of women” as an obstetrician/gynecologist. The anti-Marshall ads ran in several newspapers with large circulations in the state, including the Kansas City Star, Topeka Capital Journal and Wichita Eagle.
“Online public reviews of [Mr. Marshall’s] dealings with patients suggest his treatment of women was not received positively in far too many instances,” the print ad reads above quotations branding the candidate as “arrogant” and “insensitive.” “Are these reports accurate? What’s the truth? What was your — or your loved one’s — experience with Dr. Marshall?”
The digital effort includes RogerMarshallTruth.com, which features criticism from women posted anonymously. The Club for Growth is soliciting other women to come forward with negative stories about Mr. Marshall.
“Several of Dr. Marshall’s patients have raised important concerns about their treatment while under his care,” David McIntosh, Club for Growth Action president, said in a statement. “We think Kansas voters deserve to hear what these women have said, and if other women have similar stories, we hope they speak out as well.”
Mr. Marshall’s campaign said he would ignore the attack ads and focus on talking with Kansans about “real issues.”
“Slinging amateur garbage from a D.C. office during a national pandemic isn’t surprising coming from these losers,” said Brent Robertson, Marshall campaign spokesman, in a statement. “While we understand that they have a 2016 campaign grudge, they put the Senate majority at risk by doing the dirty work of fellow loser Kris Kobach.”
The group is not the only one attacking Mr. Marshall’s candidacy. Free Forever PAC has spent $70,000 to air ads on Fox News opposing Mr. Marshall, according to the Kansas City Star. The group, which is bankrolled by billionaire Peter Thiel, is also running ads on Facebook criticizing Mr. Marshall as an unreliable supporter of Mr. Trump because of his previous support for former Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s failed 2016 presidential bid.
While Mr. Kobach has a reliable supporter in Mr. Thiel, he has far fewer friends in the Republican Party establishment.
The Club for Growth is not supporting Mr. Kobach’s bid and has not endorsed a candidate. The National Republican Senatorial Committee said in July that Mr. Kobach’s candidacy would “simultaneously put President Trump’s presidency and [the] Senate majority at risk.”
No Democrat has won a Senate seat in Kansas since the 1930s, but the food fight on the right has proven useful for Democrats looking to expand the map of targeted states in November.
State Sen. Barbara Bollier, a retired physician, is the Democratic front-runner to compete for the open seat. A former Republican who switched parties and identifies herself a “pragmatic Democrat,” she figures to make health care and the coronavirus crisis a central aspect of the campaign.
The Club for Growth declined to say whether it had discussed the race with potential candidates and said its interviews are “confidential.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman, has reportedly ruled out running for the seat.