Establishment Looks for a Shock Kansas Win

Conservative Rep. Huelskamp faces a determined, well-funded assault from the U.S. Chamber

Solid conservative Rep. Tim Huelskamp is facing a tough Republican primary challenge for his Kansas seat in a race that highlights the hunger for a resurgence, and conservative scalps, in the Establishment wing of the GOP.

Roger Marshall, an OBGYN, has earned massive financial backing from the GOP Establishment-aligned U.S. Chamber of Commerce and is now within striking distance of toppling the incumbent conservative congressman in the Aug. 2 primary election.

“His constituents know that Tim will side with their interests, not the special interests pushed by the Washington Establishment, and that he will stand by his vow to protect the Constitution.”

A poll from Fort Hays State University’s Docking Institute of Public Affairs issued between July 11 and 21 showed Marshall leading Huelskamp by less than a point — well within the margin of error at 40.9 to 40.3 percent.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, infamous with conservatives for defending entrenched GOP Establishment figures like Sen. Thad Cochran in 2014 with millions of dollars, has not only endorsed Marshall but blasted Kansas’ 1st District with campaign ads.

In the closing weeks of the contest, Chamber spokeswoman Erica Flynt said “the Chamber is going all-in for Dr. Marshall” with an “aggressive six-figure” ad buy.

Conservative leaders say it’s no surprise Huelskamp has been targeted by the big money in Washington.

“Tim Huelskamp enjoys the support of Kansans living in the 1st Congressional District because he has always refused to bow before the Washington Establishment,” Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, told LifeZette in a statement. “His constituents know that Tim will side with their interests, not the special interests pushed by the Washington Establishment, and that he will stand by his vow to protect the Constitution.”

Huelskamp is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of roughly 42 congressmen that was founded in January 2015 to give “a voice to countless Americans who feel that Washington does not represent them,” according to the caucus’ Facebook page. The group also supports “open, accountable, and limited government” and was largely responsible for the eventual resignation of former House Speaker John Boehner in late 2015.

As a tightly knit group that seeks to challenge the Establishment status quo, and that helped contribute to the ouster of House Speaker John Boehner, it’s no surprise that the Freedom Caucus and its members have drawn backlash from the elite.

[lz_related_box id=”135120″]

Huelskamp was removed from both the Agriculture Committee and Budget Committee in 2012 alongside several other conservatives as part of an attempted crackdown by Boehner. At a Heritage Foundation lunch that same year, Huelskamp insinuated his removal from the committee occurred because he was too conservative.

“It’s petty, it’s vindictive, and if you have any conservative principles you will be punished for articulating those,” Huelskamp said at the lunch, according to The Washington Post.

Indeed, Huelskamp has a proven record of conservatism as a representative for Kansas and has scored a 100 percent lifetime rating from Club for Growth.

His colleagues in the House Freedom Caucus are quick to offer Huelskamp high praise.

“Tim Huelskamp is an American treasure – the kind of man who loves without prejudice, fights for liberty with passion, is wonderful to work with because of his honesty and integrity, and is a real asset to a Congress that has trouble keeping promises,” said Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert in a statement to LifeZette. “That is why it is so ironic that the US Chamber would spend such massive amounts of money to eliminate a man of integrity who stands for Kansas, to elect someone who will stand for out-of-touch establishment types in the Northeast whose lust for crony capitalism will be the end for entrepreneurs who just want a fair chance to compete.”

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, noted some of the fights Huelskamp has eagerly taken on.

“Most recently he’s worked to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, and he’s also fought hard against special programs for the politically connected, like the Export-Import Bank,” Jordan said in a statement to LifeZette.

But as the Club for Growth’s website notes, even though Huelskamp comes from a notoriously conservative district in Kansas, his re-election is in jeopardy because of the scale of the Establishment assault in support of Marshall.

Marshall’s campaign and the Chamber have used the Establishment’s own actions against Huelskamp, attacking the conservative for being kicked off important committees by House leadership.

But North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows told Politico earlier in July that “Speaker Ryan many months ago said he wanted Tim Huelskamp back on the committee[s].” If Speaker Ryan wanted Huelskamp back on the committees, why wouldn’t he just make it happen? Could he be waiting until the primary has concluded, and the Establishment had their shot to unseat Huselskamp?

Ryan’s office pushed back on the idea there was anything political about the lack of action to reinstate Huelskamp.

“After accepting the speakership, Speaker Ryan told all members that they were starting with a clean slate, and he meant it,” Ryan press secretary AshLee Strong told LifeZette in a statement. “These assignments will ultimately be decided by the steering committee at the end of the year.”

In the meantime his fellow conservatives in Congress are adamant Huelskamp is the sort of representative who Americans should return to the job.

“Americans around the country believe there are two sets of rules today: One for ‘we, the people,’ and another for the politically connected. My friend Tim Huelskamp has been a leader pushing against the systemic issues in Washington,” Jordan said in his statement. “Tim represents his constituents, not industries or lobbyists, and Kansans should be proud to call him their congressman,” he added.

Martin, of the Tea Party Patriots, concurred with Jordan’s assessment.

“Kansans know Tim has always supported protecting farmers and small businessmen from government regulations and mandates, reducing the size of government by cutting out-of-control spending, and repealing the failed government-run health care system that is Obamacare,” Martin said. “That’s why Republicans in his district will vote to re-nominate him to be their standard-bearer in the fall.”

meet the author

PoliZette writer Kathryn Blackhurst can be reached at [email protected].