LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — The Republican congressman from the sprawling 1st District of western and central Kansas has found himself increasingly on the defensive while campaigning in the GOP primary race back home.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a tea party favorite and Kansas farmer known for his criticism of the GOP leadership in Washington, is seeking a third two-year term to represent this agricultural district. At the end of 2012, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio stripped Huelskamp of the farm state's nearly automatic seat on the House Agriculture Committee. A member of the Kansas delegation had served on that panel for nearly 100 years.
"I am not going to walk the Republican line. I will not let anybody in Washington tell me what to do," Huelskamp told his constituents during a debate in Liberal this week. "It is your job to tell me what to do."
When a voter asked him why he opposed the farm bill, Huelskamp replied that "my farmers and ranchers" want regulatory relief and not handouts. Huelskamp said the farm bill is mostly about food stamps, and he said people should "go to work as part of receiving food stamps from Washington."
Some of his other votes have also left some of his constituents back home scratching their heads. He riled Kansans when he didn't support wind energy tax credits or funds for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan. Kansas, one of the nation's windiest states, is home to a major wind turbine manufacturer and several wind plants. The bio security lab is being built in Huelskamp's own district.
Huelskamp is challenged in this year's GOP primary by Alan LaPolice, a Clyde farmer and educator who has made the dysfunction in Congress — and more specifically Huelskamp's apparent unwillingness to work with other Republicans — the centerpiece of his campaign. The balance of power among the executive, legislative and judicial branches has been upended, leaving Congress effectively powerless and leading to executive overreach, agency overreach and judicial activism, LaPolice said.
"Congress is the most powerful organized body in this world. They can exact some serious change if they put their minds to it," LaPolice said. "They can accomplish nothing and be labeled the most do-nothing Congress if they continue to bicker and act like children."
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