Roger Marshall was attending a Republican election night watch party Tuesday at the Great Bend home of Kip and Kelly Spray when he learned he had won his bid to represent the First Congressional District.
“I’m excited to be here with family and friends,” he said, with his wife Laina at his side. “It’s been an incredible journey.”
The election for the Big First was basically at two-way race pitting Marshall against Independent challenger Alan LaPolice of Clyde. There was also a third candidate, Libertarian Kerry Burt of Hutchinson, although there were reports that he dropped his bid in October.
In the unofficial Barton County results reported Tuesday night, Marshall garnered 6,666 votes (67 percent) to Alan LaPolice’s 2,808 (28 percent). Libertarian Kerry Burt pulled in 542 votes (5 percent).
The totals won’t be finalized until the Barton County commissioner canvass the votes at 8:30 a.m. Monday.
As of 11 p.m. with 2,026 of 3,509 precincts reporting, the state numbers were: Marshall, 118,328 votes for 65 percent; LaPolice, 50,092 votes for 28 percent; and Burt, 13,552 votes for 7 percent.
“I expected to win,” Marshall said. “But, we did better than I thought we would.”
He feels the various conservative elements of the Republican Party in Kansas were able to coalesce around his candidacy. “We have to grow this team and build a bigger tent.”
Next, he wants to do the same in Washington, D.C., as well as work across the aisle with Democrats. “Many of the issues we face aren’t Republican issues or Democratic issues, they’re American issues.
Now comes the move to the nation’s Capitol. Prior to being sworn in on Jan. 3, 2017, he will find an apartment, attend orientation, build relationships with other lawmakers and await committee appointments.
“Kansas needs a voice on the House Ag Committee,” Marshall said. With 60 percent of the First District’s economy being agriculture related and 40 percent of the state’s economy farming based, this is critical to promote such matters as crop insurance and sound trade policies.
But, looking at the national picture, “the economy is the biggest issue,” he said. Be it for security or education, “we have to get the economy moving again.”
Marshall said he will probably take a sabbatical from his medical practice as he spends about two thirds of his time in Washington.
The “Big First” encompasses 63 counties in western and northern Kansas (more than half of the state), making it the 12th largest congressional district in the nation.
Although LaPolice made a decent showing, “it wasn’t enough,” LaPolice said from his home Tuesday night.
“I will not participate in the political process while my kids are in school,” an embittered LaPolice said. “I want somebody else to pick up where I left off. Somebody has to.”
He believes the system is tragically flawed. “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring,” he said.
“The divide will not heal itself,” he said. “Our system will collapse under its own weight if something doesn’t change.”
The process is so “hostile and ugly” that those who would be good candidates won’t run.
Marshall, an obstetrician/gynecologist from Great Bend and political newcomer, upset two-term Republican incumbent Tim Huelskamp in the Aug. 9 primary. After making a strong showing against Huelskamp as a Republican challenger in the 2014 primary, LaPolice, a Clyde farmer, is running as a third-party candidate this time around.
Burt, an aircraft mechanic from Hutchinson, has previously run as a Republican or unaffiliated.
Marshall has been obstetrician-gynecologist in Great Bend since 1991.
He has served as chairman of the Board of Great Bend Regional Hospital and has just completed his term as the district governor of Rotary International. A lifelong Republican, Marshall served seven years in the Army Reserves where he trained a mobile hospital support unit, rising to the rank of captain.
In addition, Marshall has been involved with the Golden Belt Community Foundation and is a commissioner for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
He and his Laina have four children. They recently became grandparents.
A Kansas native, Marshall earned his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Kansas State University, before graduating from the University of Kansas School of Medicine. He received his medical doctorate in 1987.
LaPolice, then running as a Republican, gave the first-term Huelskamp a scare when he garnered 45 percent of the votes in the 2014 primary.
The father of three, LaPolice is an Army veteran who served in the Middle East and is a career educator and farmer, and Washington County native. He and his family live in Clyde, in Cloud County.
There are no Democrats running for the seat.
Past First District congressmen include Bob Dole, Keith Sebelius, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, all of whom are Republicans.
Only one Democrat has ever represented the Big First. That was teacher and attorney and Howard S. Miller from Morrill who served one term from Jan. 3, 1953, to Jan. 3, 1955.