Published: 4/20/2013 6:00 PM | Last update: 4/20/2013 10:34 PM
Energy, health, commitment lead to longevity
If Roberts is re-elected, serves full term, he’d set record for longest tenure.
By Mary Clarkin – The Hutchinson News – firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts would be the oldest Kansan to ever serve in the U.S. Senate if he wins and completes the new six-year term he is seeking.
Roberts, who has served continuously in office on Capitol Hill for more than 32 years, turned 77 years old Saturday. He has drawn no Republican or Democratic challenger as he seeks re-election in November 2014.
His campaign recently announced it had raised more than $1 million. He also has secured the backing of the entire Kansas delegation in Washington, as well as top state elected Republicans.
Age and the Senate
Gov. Sam Brownback quipped about Roberts’ longevity at the Kansas Republican Party’s conference earlier this year in Hutchinson, but quickly followed up with an expression of support for Roberts.
Roberts’ spokeswoman in Washington, Sarah Little, said there are many, many Kansans who 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, and Roberts “has all these.”
More than half of the 100 members of the Senate are age 60 or over. Roberts currently ranks eighth in terms of age.
The oldest member, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, is 89 years old. He announced he won’t run for re-election in 2014.
Topeka Republican Sen. Arthur Capper served in the U.S. Senate for about 30 years during the first half of the 1900s. He retired in January 1949, at age 83.
If re-elected, Roberts would eclipse Capper’s record and would be 84 when his term ended in January 2021.
Time in D.C.
Benjamin Hodge is a former state legislator from Johnson County who had hoped the conservative U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler/Hutchinson, would have entered the race for Senate. Huelskamp, though, is on board the Roberts re-election bandwagon.
Roberts’ age “is not much of an issue,” Hodge said.
“What is important is how long he’s been in Washington, D.C. 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,” Hodge wrote in an email.
Hodge doesn’t consider Roberts a conservative, in part because of the Senator’s support – Hodge termed it “recruitment” – for Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ move to the Obama Administration as Health and Human Services secretary.
Kansas Democratic Party executive director Jason Perkey said he anticipates having “a strong candidate” to challenge Roberts.
Perkey did not indicate age would be an issue. However, Roberts’ “four decades-plus of service” in Washington, beginning when he was a Congressional aide, has left him out of touch with Kansans, Perkey contends.
“Kansas deserves a senator from Kansas, not one who visits occasionally to pick up checks,” Perkey said in a statement.
Little said Roberts enjoys “strong grassroots support from all corners of Kansas.”