Updated at 6:56 p.m. with a statement from Roberts's office.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) is registered to vote at the address of Dodge City supporters he pays rent to and stays with when he is in town, he acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times published Friday. The revelation is a new and potentially damaging twist in the Kansas Senate race, where Roberts faces a long-shot tea party challenger.
Roberts told the paper that when he is in the area, he stays with a pair of longtime supporters and donors in a house on a country club golf course in Dodge City. Here's more from the Times's Jonathan Martin:
In an interview, the three-term senator acknowledged that he did not have a home of his own in Kansas. The house on a country club golf course that he lists as his voting address belongs to two longtime supporters and donors — C. Duane and Phyllis Ross — and he says he stays with them when he is in the area. He established his voting address there the day before his challenger, Milton Wolf, announced his candidacy last fall, arguing that Mr. Roberts was out of touch with his High Plains roots.
“I have full access to the recliner,” the senator joked. Turning serious, he added, “Nobody knows the state better than I do.”
Roberts recently switched his voting address from a Dodge City property he owns and has long leased to others to the house on the golf course, where he pays $300 a month to stay at when he is in Dodge City, the story says. A long-serving member of Congress, Roberts and his wife own a home in northern Virginia.
Roberts's office responded to the story late Friday afternoon, calling it "so far from reality that Kansans won’t believe it." But it did not dispute the basic facts laid out in the piece: That the home Roberts owns in Dodge City has a tenant and that he pays rent at another residence where he stays when in Dodge City.
"Senator Roberts long has owned a home in Dodge City. It currently has a tenant; he also pays rent at a residence where he stays when he is in Dodge City. He pays Kansas state tax and property tax. His three children attended college in Kansas. He is a Kansan. He lives in Dodge City by every measure of residency," said Roberts spokeswoman Sarah Little in a memo to reporters.
Residency questions have plagued other pols before -- most notably Richard Lugar in 2012. Then-Sen. Lugar (R-Ind.) was repeatedly blasted by his opponents for spending so much time away from the state. And he failed to put talk about his residency to rest throughout the campaign. Lugar would go on to lose in the primary to a tea party challenger by a wide margin.
Roberts's team has vowed not to fall victim to the same attacks. "We’re not going to get Lugar’d," Roberts adviser David Kensinger told the Times.
Roberts's primary challenger is Milton Wolf, a radiologist who is casting himself as a Ted Cruz-like conservative. Wolf is the second cousin, once removed, of President Obama. The Times story says Roberts established his voting address at the house on the golf course a day before Wolf announced his campaign last fall.
Up until now, Wolf has looked like a long-shot challenger who has not seriously threatened Roberts. But it remains to be seen whether the new revelations about Roberts will breathe new life into his effort.
"It’s not surprising that Senator Roberts’s only connection to Kansas after four decades in Washington is a periodical rent check to one of his top donors in the state," said Daniel Horowitz of the Madison Project, a tea party group backing Wolf.
Wolf's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The primary is Aug. 5.