The Kansas Farm Bureau on Friday announced its endorsement of Roger Marshall, a Kansas doctor who is challenging Republican representative Tim Huelskamp in the the state’s first district congressional primary. The endorsement is a big deal: It serves as a public rebuke of the incumbent from one of the major interest groups in the predominately agricultural western Kansas district.
The Kansas Farm Bureau endorsed all the other Kansas congressional incumbents facing reelection this year.
In 2012, Huelskamp lost his position on the House Agriculture Committee after angering then-Speaker John Boehner. It was a major blow to The Big First, as his district is known, which had for years been represented on the committee. The committee spot has been a major point of contention between Huelskamp and Marshall, who both argue they are the candidate most likely to reclaim it in a new congress. Huelskamp, per the Associated Press, blamed Boehner for his removal and said he expected to take back his spot on the committee next year now that Paul Ryan is Speaker.
Asked about the possibility, a senior GOP aide says, “No promises or commitments have been made regarding committee assignments for the 115th Congress. Period.”
In 2010, the Farm Bureau simply opted not to endorse anyone in the first district GOP primary. That was a strong statement in and of itself: Huelskamp’s challenger, Alan LaPolice, had little money and was not seen as a viable contender. That he held Huelskamp to a mere ten-point win in the primary was seen as a sign of serious discontent with the congressman among the Republican base.
Marshall, on the other hand, is a serious challenger. His campaign released an internal poll late last month which found him at 41 percent, in a virtual tie with Huelskamp. Huelskamp, a darling of conservatives, has been helped in recent weeks by endorsements from Senator Ted Cruz, who handily won the Republican presidential caucuses in Kansas earlier this year, and the Club for Growth. But the congressman has been a major thorn in the side of more establishment-minded Republicans. And with the Farm Bureau endorsement giving him increased credibility, Marshall could get some help from some of those interests that would love to see Huelskamp out of office as the Aug. 2 primary approaches.