Absent from the Reno County Republican Party’s 1st Congressional District candidate debate Thursday night in Hutchinson was U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Great Bend.

County GOP Party Chairman Gordon Roth did not hide his irritation with the Marshall campaign.

Is Marshall sending a representative to the debate?” Nick Reinecker, R-Inman, asked. He is challenging Marshall in the primary.

“No one’s coming,” Roth said.

Marshall’s campaign was slow to respond yes or no to the invitation issued in June, according to Roth.

At least part of the problem is that the Kansans for Marshall website displays a phone number in Salina that has not been a campaign number for a year or so. The number belongs to a woman not affiliated with Marshall, she told The New late Friday afternoon.

The local GOP organizers and The News left messages on the woman’s phone earlier that were not returned. The organizers and The News also left messages on the “Contact us” form on the Kansans for Marshall website and received no response.

As the debate neared, the Reno County Republicans’ Facebook page posted a reminder of the July 12 event showcasing the Congressional and the State Board of Education races. It was still waiting to hear from the Marshall camp, the post noted. 

On July 11, The News emailed Brent Robertson, on Marshall’s staff and working with the campaign, about Roth’s contention they had tried unsuccessfully to get an answer from the Marshall campaign.

“Oddly, we have not heard a word or received an invitation to a debate - however, Congress is in session this week through Friday, so Dr. Marshall will not be able to attend,” Robertson replied to The News. Marshall’s office in Kansas contacted the Reno County Republicans July 11 and said the Congressman would be unable to attend, according to Roth.

Allison Reed, a former Hutchinson-based staffer for U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp who lost to Marshall in August 2016, has helped to schedule debates sponsored by the Reno County Republicans.

She supplied records showing the various candidates’ responses to an invitation sent June 19 inquiring if July 12 in Hutchinson would work.

“I will make it work,” Reinecker respondedJune 19. D’Andrea also replied June 19 saying July 12 was fine and if the Reno County GOP changed the date, he would find a way to be there. Jones answered June 20 that July 12 would work for him.

Reed said she couldn’t find an email address on Kansans for Marshall’s website so she filled out a “Contact us” form on the site and sent that June 19. She heard no response so she attempted to send another “Contact us” form later in June. On July 8, she left a message on the phone number she didn’t realize belonged to a private citizen. Reed was surprised the voicemail message didn’t mention the Marshall campaign. She called the number again July 12 to verify the woman's name on the automated voicemail, she said.

The News sent an email to Robertson Friday afternoon but received no response by 6 p.m.

Congress was in session the last couple of weeks in June but was mostly off during the first week of July. It was in session this week.