Slattery to run for US Senate
Topeka Promising to bring change to Washington, D.C., former congressman Jim Slattery on Tuesday described U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts as an "entrenched career politician" who played a key role in President Bush's war in Iraq and failed economic policies.
"(Roberts) has become part of what we must change if we are to put our country back on track," Slattery, a Democrat, said to a cheering crowd as he kicked off his campaign.
Roberts, a Republican seeking his third Senate term, issued a radio ad and press statement criticizing Slattery for his work as a lobbyist in Washington.
"He stopped working for Kansas 14 years ago and made millions for himself," the ad says.
Slattery, who represented the 2nd Congressional District for 12 years before losing a bid for governor in 1994, said he couldn't sit on the political sidelines any longer.
"I have been observing the federal government from the outside - watching the breathtaking incompetence and indifference in our political leadership," he said.
Slattery took Roberts to task for backing policies that have resulted in the growing national debt and high gasoline prices while oil companies have reaped record profits.
He blasted Roberts, who was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, for his oversight during the run-up to the war in Iraq.
"Senator Pat Roberts supported a reckless fiscal policy and Iraq war policy of the Bush-Cheney administration," Slattery said.
Roberts' campaign spokeswoman Ashley McManus shot back, saying, "Already this week, Pat Roberts has won a huge victory for Kansas manufacturing jobs by defeating new taxes in the aviation bill. Meanwhile, in 14 years as a Washington lobbyist, the only thing Jim Slattery's changed is his address."
Slattery faces Lee Jones, an Overland Park railroad engineer, in the Democratic Party primary in August. But with the backing of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and other party leaders, Slattery is considered the favorite to win the nomination. A campaign against Roberts, however, will be tough in Kansas, where 45 percent of registered voters are Republican. Democrats and independents split the remaining 55 percent.
Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University, said if Democrats ride another "wave" as they did in 2006 when they took over Congress, then Slattery becomes electable.
"They wanted a viable Democrat on that ballot who is running a strong campaign so that if people did go into that voting booth thinking 'change,' they would be able to have some confidence in the Democrat," Beatty said.
State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, who worked on Slattery's unsuccessful campaign for governor in 1994, said he believed Slattery had a chance.
"Jim is going to run a very aggressive, issue-oriented campaign," he said.
State Senate Democratic leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, whose distinct includes part of Douglas County, said he thinks Roberts' performance as Senate Intelligence Committee chairman during the lead-up to the Iraq war will become a major issue.
"I believe Jim Slattery is at the right place at the right time," Hensley said.