TOPEKA — A state elections board Monday rejected a claim that U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts is not truly a Kansas resident, allowing him to seek re-election this year.
The State Objections Board's decision means the three-term senator will be on the ballot in the Aug. 5 Republican primary.
Eight northeast Kansas residents had objected to the ballot listing, arguing that Roberts lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and not Dodge City, Kansas. GOP tea party challenger Milton Wolf has raised the issue repeatedly.
Roberts owns a home in Alexandria, Virginia, but is registered to vote at the Dodge City address of a couple who supports him and rents him a room and bathroom. He and his wife also own a duplex unit in Dodge City but rent it out.
Roberts has been favored to win a fourth, six-year term in the U.S. Senate, despite a vigorous campaign by Wolf, a Leawood radiologist making his first run for elective office. The only Democratic candidate so far is Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor.
Democrats haven't won a U.S. Senate race in Kansas since 1932.
Roberts has said the allegation that he is not a Kansas resident is "without merit." Roberts submitted a statement noting that he has a Kansas driver's license and pays state and local taxes. Roberts spokesman Leroy Towns said the board's decision should end the issue.
Wolf's campaign argued that Roberts' status as a Kansas resident is the result of unwarranted special treatment. Wolf spokesman Ben Hartman said issues about Roberts' residency still remain and voters will now decide.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and Attorney General Derek Schmidt, all Republicans who've endorsed Roberts, comprise the Objects Board. But all of them sent substitutes to the board meeting.
The Kansas Republican Party stepped into the dispute Saturday by sending the board members a four-page legal analysis suggesting they didn't have the authority to settle the issue. The analysis from Clay Barker, the state GOP's general counsel, cited the section of the U.S. Constitution that says each house of Congress is the judge of members' elections and qualifications.
Nevertheless, Barker also urged the board to make a ruling "out of an abundance of caution."