Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor stepped forward Friday as the first Kansas Democrat to plunge into a U.S. Senate campaign dominated by aggressive sparring between two Republican candidates.
Taylor, serving as the county's top prosecutor since 2008, outlined his impetus for a statewide run during a kickoff event at offices of the Kansas secretary of state, where he paid the $1,700 filing fee. He said he was running because incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and politically distracted colleagues in Washington, D.C., had failed at rebuilding the economy and putting people to work.
"Congress spends far too much time on partisan rancor over issues that divide rather than unite our country," Taylor said. "Our present senior senator has abandoned his Midwest values in favor of carrying the banner of the far right in order to salvage his political career."
If successful in the August primary, Taylor would face the winner of a showdown between Roberts and challenger Milton Wolf.
Roberts is a three-term senator who has worked in Washington since the 1960s. Wolf, a Republican and Johnson County physician, was in the spotlight this week amid published reports he posted gory X-rays of dead people to his Facebook account and tagged the images with jokes.
No Democrat has won election to the U.S. Senate in Kansas since 1932, and a recent poll indicated three-fourths of Kansans were unfamiliar with Taylor.
Taylor said he would work through November to introduce himself so voters would know he was an advocate of a national defense respected throughout the world, an economy that delivered good- paying jobs, and a government that didn't intrude on established constitutional rights of citizens.
He said national health insurance reform, known as Obamacare, had positive elements but was implemented poorly and in need of bipartisan repair.
He promised not to make use of Wolf's approach to gaining notoriety.
"One of the ways I'm not going to do it is, I'm not going to put crime scene photos up on my Facebook," the district attorney said.
Taylor, 40, revealed creation of an exploratory committee in November at the urging of Kansans unhappy with Washington gridlock. He returned to that theme several times in remarks for about 15 supporters.
"The people who have gotten our country into the situation will not be the people who lead us out. They have proven this," Taylor said.
He said the national debt was $326 billion when Roberts began working as a congressional staff member in 1967, $998 billion when Roberts was elected to the U.S. House in 1981, and now exceeded $17 trillion.
"When I think about those figures, I'm reminded of Albert Einstein's definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result," Taylor said.
Roberts campaign spokesman Leroy Towns said Taylor represented a liberal ideology that had been a hallmark of the Kansas Democratic Party.
"Chad Taylor will have to defend Obamacare, President (Barack) Obama and the liberal spending Democratic crowd in Washington -- along with his own policies of big government and higher taxes," Towns said.
Ben Hartman, campaign manager for Wolf, said neither Taylor nor Roberts would deliver a "consistent conservative" perspective in the Senate.
"They do not have that in Senator Roberts, who was failing by every conservative standard prior to getting a primary challenger, and they certainly won't be getting that from someone running under the banner of Barack Obama'sDemocratic Party," Hartman said.
In the news conference, Taylor said he anticipated Republican operatives would unfairly attempt to link him in campaign appeals to politicians he had never met, including the Democratic president and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat.
Taylor also predicted criticism about his decision in 2011 to cease prosecuting domestic batteries committed in Topeka, leaving the task to the city attorney's office, in the wake of a budget dispute with the Shawnee County Commission.
"That's an unfortunate situation that occurred as a result of across-the-board, unthought-through budgetary cuts," Taylor said. "I learned when you have legislative bodies that make capricious and arbitrary decisions that can affect public safety."
The Topeka City Council recently voted to impose a ban on domestic battery Jan. 1, 2015.