TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts' re-election campaign in Kansas is being overhauled as his race becomes an unexpected battleground in the fight for control of the Senate.
A person familiar with the Roberts campaign said Friday that longtime aide Leroy Towns stepped down Thursday as Roberts' executive campaign manager. The source said the campaign is expanding and has hired a member of Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo's campaign staff to run grassroots operations.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to discuss the changes publicly.
Also, the National Republican Senatorial Committee moved to help Roberts, sending in a seasoned consultant, Chris LaCivita.
Kansas was seen as a safe GOP state, but the three-term incumbent looked vulnerable after a tough primary fight.
Roberts participated in a congressional summit put on by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce Friday afternoon in downtown Wichita along with Senator Jerry Moran and Representatives Mike Pompeo and Lynn Jenkins.
After the summit Roberts spoke to reporters about the campaign staff changes, Democrat Chad Taylor's attempt to get off the ballot and Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill's call to Taylor advising him to step down from the campaign.
Roberts says, "What a unique situation where we have democrats urging democrats to get off the ballot. I've never heard of that before. Of course I've never heard of a Missouri senator trying to influence Kansas politics, as well."
Asked if he's concerned about Independent candidate Greg Orman, Roberts says, "No. We have here what I regard as political opportunism. We have a liberal democrat, a registered democrat, who is going to run against me. who's given thousands of dollars to Obama and Hillary Clinton, masquerading as an Independent. And I think once that becomes very clear to the Kansas voter that we will not have a problem."
Roberts says his campaign is not in trouble despite the staff shake up that might hint otherwise. He says, "I'm in charge of my campaign. I will set the tone. I approve everything in regards to my campaign. There's a difference between being aggressive and being ugly. It will be aggressive."