WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A national tea party group that derided U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts during Kansas' bitter Republican primary race backed him on Monday in the general election.
Leaders of the Tea Party Express made the announcement Monday at the Kansas Republican Party headquarters in Wichita.
Roberts told reporters after the event that he is very pleased to accept the endorsement from the tea party activists.
"These folks have fire in the belly, you know," Roberts said. "If you are going to lead the posse, and you look back, you'd better have the tea party with you."
Roberts won less than 50 percent of the vote in defeating tea party favorite Milton Wolf in the August GOP primary. The three-term Senate incumbent is now in a tight race with independent Greg Orman. His campaign has been trying to woo back disaffected tea party supporters by bringing to Kansas tea party celebrities such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.
"Embracing extremist politicians like Ted Cruz who led the job-killing government shutdown last fall, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party Express is just more evidence that Senator Roberts is part of a broken political system, Orman campaign manager Jim Jonas said. "Kansans of all political stripes - Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike - know that Washington is broken and that the career politicians there like Senator Roberts are part of the problem."
During the primary, the Tea Party Express endorsed Wolf and portrayed Roberts as a career politician who buried future generations under crippling debt.
Taylor Budowich, executive director of the Tea Party Express, said Monday that even though Wolf's primary campaign was unsuccessful, the group's goal is to take back the U.S. Senate for Republicans by getting involved in 12 Senate races.
Budowich dismissed earlier criticisms during the primary of Roberts, saying "we were running a campaign against him" and that the "voters of Kansas disagreed with us."
The Republican incumbent said no concessions had been made to win the support of the Tea Party Express.
"There is only one issue here," Roberts told reporters. "And that is taking back the majority of the Republican Senate, regardless of what you think of Pat Roberts."