Milton Wolf's name has never appeared on an election ballot in Kansas before. But in his first bid for public office, he hopes to become a United States Senator by unseating one of the most entrenched figures in modern state politics, incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts.
And with the fervor that has come to characterize the Tea Party movement that is backing him, Wolf says it is nothing short of a mission to save the nation from ruin.
“I know our country is in trouble, and if we don't stand up and fight now, we may not have it tomorrow to fight,” Wolf said Thursday to a crowd of about 50 people that had gathered at a Topeka pub to hear him speak.
“I believe we're at a constitutional tipping point in our country,” he said. “We have a president who is trying to rule by administrative action, who is trying to rule through his agencies. He's trying to rule with his phone and his pen. And we have a Congress that is too paralyzed to do anything about it.”
Spurred by Obamacare
Wolf came onto the political scene in 2011 with the publication of his book criticizing President Barack Obama's health reform law, the Affordable Care Act.
The book, which may be more accurately described as a 38-page treatise, capitalizes on his distant relationship to the president. It's entitled, “First Do No Harm: The President's Cousin Explains Why His Hippocratic Oath Requires Him to Oppose ObamaCare.”
In it, he argues that every form of government intervention in the health care free market – including Medicare and Medicaid, as well as mandates about what procedures insurance policies must cover – result in higher costs for consumers.
“To grasp how fundamentally flawed ObamaCare is, right down to its very core, it's important to understand the unmistakable pattern of failure our government has demonstrated each time it has interfered with your health care, always under the guise of protecting you,” Wolf writes.
In the book, Wolf criticizes nearly every government action in health care, starting with to the 1932 creation of Blue Cross insurance plans – the first form of third-party coverage.
Since his campaign began in October, he has staked out positions on other issues as well. He supports term limits, and vows to serve no more than two terms. And he opposes any increases in the federal debt limit.
Tea Party Backing
The book, which is only available in e-book form, is part of Broadside Books' “Voices of the Tea Party,” a series that includes several books and treatises by Tea Party activists.
His campaign event Thursday was sponsored by the Flint Hills Tea Party, a Manhattan-based group that frequently meets in the same Topeka pub.
And while he boasts of support from small, grassroots organizations including the Southeast Kansas Conservatives Group and Kansans for Constitutional Integrity, his biggest support appears to come from two national conservative groups: the Senate Conservatives Fund, headed by Matt Hoskins, once an aide to former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who now heads the Heritage Foundation; and the Madison Project, headed by former Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun.
Wolf is one of five candidates that the Senate Conservatives Fund is backing this year, according to the group's website. In each race, the group is trying to unseat an incumbent senator, and four of them target incumbent Republicans.
According to federal campaign finance records, the Senate Conservatives Fund received more than $8.4 million in contributions in the last reporting period - Jan. 1, 2013 through Jan. 31, 2014. Most of that, $5.7 million, came from "unitemized" individual contributions.
Since announcing his candidacy, Wolf has issued a barrage of attacks via email news releases against Roberts for being an entrenched Washington insider who spends too little time back home in Kansas.
That criticism got a boost recently when the New York Times published a story describing how Roberts, who owns a home in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Va., had only recently established “residence” at the home of a friend in Dodge City. Roberts reportedly joked to the Times reporter: “I have full access to the recliner.”
Since then, Wolf has routinely referred to “Sen. Pat Roberts (R-VA),” or as “Virginia's third senator.
“I don't think Article 1, Section 3 of the United States Constitution is a laughing matter,” Wolf said at the Topeka rally. “There's a reason why our founders say that our senators should be inhabitants of the states from which they're elected. It's because if they're not, they forget who they are, and they start acting like Washington, and they lose their Kansas values.”
Wolf often describes his campaign as part of a great, national uprising to restore traditional constitutional values in Washington. But recent polling shows few people in Kansas have heard of him.
A survey by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling released a survey Feb. 21 showed only 24 percent of GOP primary voters are familiar with him. That poll showed Roberts leading Wolf, 49-23 percent.
Still, the polling firm said, those numbers could spell trouble for Roberts who, after 33 years in Congress, had less than 50-percent support.
The primary election will be Tuesday, Aug. 5.