A barrage of TV and radio commercials rained down Wednesday in the scorched-earth campaign for U.S. Senate to affirm Republican Pat Roberts, independent Greg Orman and well-financed PACs intend to keep swinging until the end.
Orman's campaign dropped into the melee "Counting," a new spot that insists time had arrived for Kansas voters to step beyond a two-party mindset and embrace a political era that excluded Roberts.
"Do we continue down the path of a broken two-party system? Or do we say enough is enough?" says Orman, a Johnson County businessman who has never held elective office. "Pat Roberts is counting on false attacks to stay in office. I'm counting on something much more powerful -- the intelligence and independent spirit of the people of Kansas."
Roberts, a Dodge City native serving a third term in the U.S. Senate, unleashed a fresh radio commercial, "The More You Know," featuring dialogue between two women questioning Orman's candidacy.
"At first," Laura says, "this new guy, the supposed independent, Greg Orman, sounded good. But, the more I've learned, the more skeptical I've become."
"Yeah, Pat Roberts isn't perfect," Alison replies, "but at least I know where he stands. With Greg Orman, the more I learn, the more Orman seems like a very risky choice."
The advertising battle in one of the nation's pivotal U.S. Senate campaigns, despite exclusion from the ballot of Democratic nominee Chad Taylor, proved to be relentless, expensive, and rife with conflicting messages. The 2014 election-season assault on the senses is set to conclude Election Day.
Emergence of vote totals Tuesday night won't wipe away memory of spittle-sputtering agitation experienced by campaign staff on both sides of the race.
Both campaigns have aggressively denounced ads created by their rival or produced by a special-interest group on their behalf.
Corry Bliss, campaign manager for Roberts, said he objected to a new TV commercial broadcast by the Committee to Elect an Independent Senate. The ad centers on retired U.S. Army Col. Tim Owens, a former Republican state senator who opposes re-election of Roberts.
"I supported Senator Roberts in every election up to now," Owens says, "but I'm not going to support Senator Roberts this year."
The commercial included information about the senator's vote against a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs bill that would have expanded benefits to former service members and repealed a military pension cut for future troops. It pointed to a Feb. 27, 2014, story in The Washington Post that quoted Daniel Dellinger, national commander of the American Legion.
"I don't know how anyone who voted 'no' today can look a veteran in the eye and justify that vote," Dellinger said in the story.
In a news release, the adjutant of the American Legion department in Kansas said the out-of-state political action committee's ad improperly depicted Roberts' relationship with veterans and the ad falsely left an impression the American Legion endorsed Orman. Roberts is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
"The Committee to Elect an Independent Senate ad is misleading in that it gives the false impression The American Legion endorses candidates," said Chuck Yunker, adjutant of the Kansas organization.
The Orman campaign experienced frustration with a Roberts-sponsored TV commercial, simply called "Kay." It explored anxiety about future of Medicare and influence on the program of the Affordable Care Act signed by President Barack Obama.
The ad presents comments of Kay Rutherford, a Bucyrus resident, who says she's 67 years old and reliant on Medicare.
"That's why I'm so upset with Barack Obama," she says. "Obamacare cut billions from Medicare for seniors. Now, Greg Orman says he won't end Obamacare. Greg Orman, an independent? What a joke."
Jim Jonas, Orman's campaign manager, said the ad released in mid-October served to reveal Roberts as a hypocrite.
"Senator Roberts has failed to show up for his job over 65 percent of the time, but he found time to vote for these $700 billion in Medicare cuts – twice," Jonas said. "Kansans are tired of the misleading attacks and partisan politics in Washington, and they want someone who will actually solve problems and get things done."
He said Roberts was absent from 88 percent of Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee hearings, 70 percent of Senate Finance Committee hearings and 65 percent of Senate Agriculture Committee hearings over the past 15 years. In 2004, Roberts criticized U.S. John Kerry, D-Mass., for missing 76 percent of meetings of the Senate Intelligence Committee because "you have to be in attendance to learn the job."
"What was he doing while he was skipping out on the job we've been paying him for?" Jonas said. "He should come clean with voters and immediately release his Senate schedule so Kansans can see where he was and what he was doing that was more important."
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