Three-term Rep. Tim Huelskamp is once again in the political fight of his life.
Republican voters in his rural Kansas district will decide on Tuesday whether Huelskamp's ideological conservatism represents them or whether the way that his conservatism has manifested itself — namely, in a vote against the farm bill — is a betrayal.
In many ways, this is a classic GOP primary with the anti-tax Club for Growth backing Huelskamp and the pro-business Chamber of Commerce supporting his opponent.
But the 1st District congressman has been through this before. Disgruntled Republicans tried to knock him off in the primary last cycle. But he survived — by 10 points.
Huelskamp rode the tea party wave to Congress in 2010. He’s no friend of Washington. To establishment Republicans, the House Freedom Caucus member is a troublemaker.
In 2012, the House Steering Committee and former Speaker John A. Boehner kicked Huelskamp off the Budget and Agriculture committees after he voted against the GOP budget.
He’s regained some clout in Washington as the only Freedom Caucus member to win a spot on the Steering Committee late last year.
But losing that seat on the agriculture committee in D.C. — key representation for an agricultural district like his — also meant that Huelskamp lost friends at home.
The Kansas Farm Bureau didn’t support Huelskamp in 2014. But the group took the unprecedented step this year of endorsing his challenger, OB-GYN Roger Marshall, who’s never held elected office before.
The Livestock Association and the National Sorghum Producers, neither of which backed a candidate in 2014, also picked Marshall this year.
The Farm Bureau’s endorsement of Marshall came despite Huelskamp saying after his 2014 race that he expected to have a better relationship with the organization.
But opposition to Huelskamp’s vote against the farm bill runs deep in this large rural district.
Ending Spending Action Fund, a fiscally conservative super PAC, is helping to boost the narrative that Huelskamp has betrayed Kansans. “Tim Huelskamp’s no farmer. He’s a 20-year politician,” says one farmer in a 30-second spot the group released this weekend.
Batting for the incumbent are Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the National Rifle Association, Americans for Prosperity and Club for Growth Action, which backed him in June . Huelskamp has a 100 percent lifetime rating from the Club.
“Tim Huelskamp has stood with Kansas taxpayers from his first day in the U.S. House, even when he’s had to incur the wrath of his own party,” Club for Growth president David McIntosh said.
Huelskamp has said that he voted against the farm bill because it did not include stricter work requirements for recipients of food stamps. Democrats have traditionally championed the farm bill for its inclusion of food stamp funding, while Republicans support it because of agricultural subsidies.
An internal poll from the Marshall campaign conducted in late June put the doctor within 1 point of Huelskamp. A mid-July poll from Fort Hays State University Docking Institute of Public Affairs commissioned by state newspapers put Marshall and Huelskamp neck-and-neck.
Should Huelskamp lose, he’d be the fourth member to lose in a primary this year.
Pennsylvania Democrat Chaka Fattah lost in April after being indicted on corruption charges. And redistricting helped sink North Carolina’s Renee Ellmers and Virginia’s J. Randy Forbes in Republican primaries earlier this year.