Pat Roberts could become oldest Kansan to serve in U.S. Senate
Republican Senator has served 32 years in Washington
HUTCHINSON — If Pat Roberts wins re-election next year, he stands to become the oldest Kansan ever to serve in the U.S. Senate by the time the six-year term ends.
Roberts, who turned 77 on Saturday, has served continuously in Washington for more than 32 years and so far has drawn no Republican or Democratic challenger for his seat in the 2014 election, The Hutchinson News reported.
Roberts would be 84 by the time his next term ends, in January 2021, if re-elected. That would eclipse the previous record of Topeka Republican Arthur Capper, who served in the U.S. Senate for about 30 years before retiring in January 1949 at the age of 83.
Roberts has raised more than $1 million for his re-election bid, his campaign announced recently, and he has the backing of the entire Kansas delegation in Washington and a number of top state-elected Republicans.
Roberts’ spokeswoman, Sarah Little, said many Kansans know “it is not at all uncommon these days to do quality professional work well into their 70s.
“It just takes a high energy level, good health and a commitment,” Little said, adding that her boss “has all these.”
More than half of the Senate’s 100 members are 60 or older, with Roberts currently the eighth-oldest. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, is the oldest at 89, but he has announced he won’t seek re-election next year.
Former Johnson County state lawmaker Benjamin Hodge had hoped conservative U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Fowler Republican, would have entered the race against Roberts. He said age isn’t as much of an issue as the amount of time Roberts has been in office.
“What is important is how long he’s been in Washington, D.C,” Hodge wrote in an email. “If he were age 55 and had been in Congress since he was age 25, I’d be equally concerned that he was out of touch with Kansas voters.”
Partly because Roberts supported former Democratic Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for her move to the Obama Administration as Health and Human Services secretary, Hodge said he doesn’t consider Roberts a conservative.
Though none has emerged, Kansas Democratic Party executive director Jason Perkey said he anticipates having “a strong candidate” to challenge Roberts.
Like Hodge, Perkey didn’t indicate age would an issue. He said it is the senator’s “four decades-plus of service” in Washington that has left him out of touch with Kansans.
“Kansas deserves a senator from Kansas, not one who visits occasionally to pick up checks,” Perkey said in a statement.