By John Celock
A physician from Great Bend, Kan. has announced plans to challenge U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) in next year’s Republican primary.
Roger Marshall told The Celock Report Friday that he was planning to make the race against Huelskamp, citing what he said is issues with Huelskamp’s style in representing the district. Huelskamp, a third term congressman, has become one of the most outspoken Tea Party Republicans in Congress and an opponent of House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio). Boehner removed Huelskamp from the House Agriculture Committee in 2013, the first time a representative from western Kansas had not served on the panel in a century.
“Our representative does not have much of a voice in Congress right now,” Marshall told The Celock Report. “He seems to on the outside looking in.”
Marshall officially filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday. He had announced in January that he was considering entering the race.
Marshall said that ideologically he and Huelskamp have similar conservative Republican stances but that he would approach Congress with a different mindset. He said that as a physician – he has been a practicing OB/Gyn in Great Bend since 1991 – he has developed skill sets that could translate into politics.
“I would say we are very similar,” Marshall said. “We are strong conservatives and Christians with family values. The biggest difference is how we implement those values. I truly listen to people. I’ve learned to respect those views. I am more of a peacemaker.”
Marshall did not take a position on whether or not he would vote for Boehner as speaker if elected. Huelskamp has voted against Boehner in the last two races for speaker.
“I’ve never met John Boehner. That would be a huge decision in my life,” Marshall told The Celock Report. “I don’t know everything about John Boehner to make that vote. I would need to know his leadership decisions behind the scenes. If he was speaker I feel I can work with him.”
Huelskamp’s campaign has not responded to a request for comment from The Celock Report regarding Marshall’s candidacy. Huelskamp defeated 2014 Republican primary challenger Alan LaPolice by 10 points, leading to speculation that he could be vulnerable in 2016. In December, Huelskamp told CQ Roll Call that he was upbeat in terms of the 2016 election.
“We’re not worried about 2016 in terms of that,” Huelskamp said to CQ Roll Call. “I think we did very well. We were outspent in our primary.”
In December, a top Kansas Republican Party official pushed back against a CQ Roll Call story that said state GOP officials wanted to oust Huelskamp, calling the story a “100 percent fabrication” and said that the party was “100 percent behind Tim Huelskamp”.
Huelskamp has been viewed as potentially vulnerable after his 10-point victory over the largely unknown LaPolice. Several other challengers have been mentioned including Tracey Mann, who lost a 2010 primary against Huelskamp, and state Senate Majority Whip Garrett Love (R-Montezuma). While the 27-year-old Love is a considered a future candidate for higher office, many have speculated that he would not give up his state Senate seat in 2016 to make a race against Huelskamp.
Marshall told The Celock Report that several issues top his priority list including what he described as federal government over reach, the need to balance the federal government, provide for energy independence and strengthen the military. He said he believes that federal regulations in several areas including with Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank law regulating banks are causing issues in economic growth. He also cited federal environmental regulations governing the lesser prairie chicken, a major issue in rural Kansas.
“It’s all about the economy,” Marshall said. “I am pro economy and I want to see our economy grow. Right now the government creates too much uncertainty and creates too much overreach.”
Marshall’s comments regarding uncertainty in the economy are similar to lines used by other Republicans in recent years. Huelskamp has long made federal regulations one of his top issues.
Marshall also cited a need for energy independence. Western Kansas is home to oil, gas and wind energy sectors. Marshall also took aim at President Barack Obama’s national security policies.
“I feel like we are playing whack a mole with all the issues in the Middle East,” he said. “I think we need a strong military.”
Huelskamp has touted the need for new energy sources along with providing resources to the military.
In terms of Obamacare, Marshall said he does not think the law can be repealed totally, but will need to be replaced. He said that the regulations regarding Obamacare have hurt hospitals and physicians with new paperwork requirements. He said that any health care law should give more power to the states.
“Health care is different in Great Bend than Kansas City or Miami or Washington,” he said. “I don’t see any health care plan born out of Washington will be a fix all for the entire country. We need to take block grants back to the states and work on a health care plan for the states.”
Huelskamp has called for the repeal of Obamacare. He has said he wants to see block grants to the states, along with allowing for the purchase of health insurance across state lines, tort reform and the expansion of health care savings accounts.
Marshall told The Celock Report that he believes his life story will help him in a Republican primary in a district that spans over half the state. He noted that in addition to his medical career, he has in the past been a bartender, paved streets, worked in a refinery, worked at Walmart for two winters and was in the Army Reserves.
“That is a real advantage as opposed to someone who has been a professional politician their whole life,” Marshall said. “I can relate to anyone who walks through these doors as a patient.”