Huge Crowd Packs State Fair Debates

In front of a standing room only lively crowd of approximately 2,500, candidates for Kansas Governor and U.S. Senate debated Saturday at the Kansas State Fair.

Republican Senator Pat Roberts touted his experience and his party ties during his first debate with a surprisingly strong independent campaign challenger for his seat.

Roberts went on the offensive against 45-year-old businessman Greg Orman from the outset of Saturday’s debate at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson. The race has become surprisingly competitive and could affect the broader fight for control of the Senate.

The 78-year-old three-term senator said he’s the only candidate with proven experience and the only one working against Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Orman said he’ll focus on solving problems, not partisan politics. Orman has promised to caucus with whatever party holds the majority.

Roberts has overhauled his campaign and the race was roiled this week by the Democrat’s attempted withdrawal.

Roberts and Orman disagree about whether federally mandated background checks for gun sales should be expanded.

Orman said that he supports reasonable restrictions on gun sales, particularly to ensure that background checks are done on buyers at gun shows.

But Orman says he owns two guns and supports the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, protecting gun ownership rights.

Roberts mocked Orman for saying he supports Second Amendment rights while backing restrictions.

The senator says he won’t “mess with” anyone’s gun rights. He has the backing of the Kansas State Rifle Association.

But Orman says, “We don’t want people with bazookas. We don’t want people with automatic weapons.”

Orman had what sounded like a good line in his first debate with Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts, but the incumbent warded it off.

One question touched on how Roberts owns a Washington-area home but claims rented space in the Dodge City home of supporters as his official residence.

Orman told Roberts that he suspected he’s been to Dodge City more times this year than Roberts has. Orman says he’s visited four times.

Roberts told Orman that he’s been to Dodge City “about seven times” this year.

The 45-year-old Orman then suggested he’s lived more of his adult life in Kansas than the 78-year-old Roberts. The senator noted he was born and educated in Kansas.

Republican Governor Sam Brownback and his Democratic challenger, Paul Davis, laid out their positions on education, taxes, Medicaid expansion and renewable energy during their first debate.

Both candidates tried to portray themselves as supporters of education during Saturday’s debate at the Kansas State Fair. Some of the sharpest exchanges came over tax cuts under Brownback that have led to two credit downgrades and a projected budget shortfall for the state.

Davis is trying to woo moderate Republicans and independent voters who are concerned about the effects of Brownback’s tax cuts.

Davis told a standing-room-only crowd that he would expand Medicaid in Kansas if elected governor because rural hospitals are fighting to survive without the expansion. Brownback blamed the health care overhaul for lowering funding to the hospitals.