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Archive for Sunday, October 20, 1996

THOMPSON, ROBERTSON BATTLING FOR U.S. SENATE SEAT

October 20, 1996

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Republican Pat Roberts wants to take his congressional experience to the U.S. Senate, while Democrat Sally Thompson touts her accounting experience.

Pat Roberts' 30-year career in Washington, D.C. makes it easy for him to play the incumbent's role in his race for the U.S. Senate now held by fellow Republican Nancy Kassebaum, who is retiring.

But his time in Washington _ first as a congressional aide, and since 1980, as a congressman _ has provided Roberts with a double-edged sword.

His main opponent in the race, Democratic State Treasurer Sally Thompson, is using Roberts' experience against him.

Thompson's campaign claims Roberts is a carpertbagger. He may represent Kansas and may have made visits to Kansas, but he hasn't lived in the state for years.

And that means he's out of touch with the state's voters, Thompson said.

One of the criticisms Thompson's campaign has fired at Roberts is about his estimated $3.4 million pension.

Roberts downplays the pension fund, saying it was the result of 40 years of Democrats controlling Congress.

Thompson has also said Roberts voted to end youth job programs, but both his children earned more than $1,300 each as congressional interns.

That attack recently led Roberts to call Thompson a "bitch," a muttered remark that was overheard and reported. Roberts apologized for it.

Attacks about his record, his pension and his residency are probably the reason Roberts begins most of his speeches telling audiences that his Kansas roots go back four generations.

The 1st District congressman often tells audiences that his great-grandfather came to Kansas with "a six-gun, a Bible and a flat-press printing press" and started the state's second oldest newspaper, the Oskaloosa Independent.

Roberts, 60, was born in Topeka. He grew up in Holton. After graduating from Kansas State University in 1958 with a bachelor's degree in journalism, he joined the Marine Corps for four years, leaving as a captain.

Deciding to be the "William Allen White of Arizona," he was was part owner and editor of a weekly newspaper in Litchfield, Ariz., from 1962 to 1967.

Roberts then decided to serve as a congressional aide for former U.S. Sen. Frank Carlson for only one year. But he remained in Washington, D.C., on Carlson's staff for two years.

Then for the next 12 years he served on the staff of U.S. Rep. Keith Sebelius, R-Kan. When Sebelius retired, Roberts ran for the seat and won it in 1980.

Roberts was re-elected seven times to the 1st District, which covers 66 counties.

In the early 1990s, he was a leader in eliminating the House bank and post office after evidence of corruption.

Since Republicans gained control of the U.S. House in 1994, Roberts has chaired the House Agriculture Committee, where he oversaw the Freedom to Farm Act.

He also worked on changes in the federal food stamp program and worked to reform federal food safety laws.

Thompson's campaign says Roberts votes much of the time with House Speaker Newt Gingrich, making him too conservative for Kansas.

However, Roberts said he has been at odds with Gingrich on several issues. For example, Roberts said he was the first GOP House member to oppose a move to have the food stamp program be block-granted to the states.

Thompson says the U.S. Senate race boils down to who has the real world experience to balance the federal budget.

"For me, it's about taking my business background, that CPA background, my state government background and balancing the budget much differently than last year's Congress did," Thompson said.

Thompson has criticized Roberts for his votes on budget issues as well as his long political career.

But she's been on the receiving end of criticism from Roberts -- mainly for losing $20 million in the state's Municipal Investment Pool in late 1994 and early 1995.

Thompson has argued that rising interest rates in 1994 made it impossible to avoid some loss. She said that pool participants have earned a net of $200 million from the pool.

However, Roberts cites a state audit that questioned Thompson's investment strategy.

To pay for the $20 million loss, he said the 1996 Legislature authorized a "haircut" fee of 0.25 percent for local government deposits and up to 0.1 percent for state idle funds on the assets in the combined MIP and state idle funds portfolio.

Roberts said 75 local governments have "fled" the MIP because they lost confidence in Thompson's ability. He also noted the Legislature stripped her of her investment powers in the last session.

Thompson said Republicans tried to balance the budget on the backs of senior citizens by doubling Medicare premiums and increasing health care costs.

She said the GOP-controlled House, including Roberts, voted last year to "gut" the student financial aid programs by $10 billion. However, student loan programs were increased this year under pressure by the Senate, she said.

Thompson said she would balance the budget by attacking what she called "corporate welfare." She said $85 billion a year is going to the Fortune 500 companies in terms of tax breaks and subsidies.

She also called for halving the paperwork in the Medicare program to cut costs by 10 percent to 15 percent, saving more than $50 billion a year.

Thompson has painted Roberts as out of touch with Kansans. She said he has been "pretending" to represent Kansans while living in Washington.

Roberts claims Dodge City as his hometown, where he owns a duplex, but rents it out.

A native of Spokane, Wash., Thompson, 56, moved to Kansas in 1985. She lives in a house she bought in western Lawrence with her daughter.

Thompson began her career as assistant math coordinator in the Boulder Valley, Colo., school district in 1970 -- although she said she didn't have a teacher's certificate.

She received a bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Colorado in 1975.

She was a certified public accountant for Rouche Ross and Co., Denver, then vice president and manager of business planning and financial analysis at the United Bank of Denver, then president and chief executive officer of the Shawnee Federal Savings and Loan, Topeka.

She successfully ran for state treasurer in 1990 and was re-elected in 1994.

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