U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts says he has heard from 11 Republicans and two Democrats who are interested in his seat.
They want his advice. He wants them to think about whether they really want to wade into nasty political waters.
The Republican from Kansas talked about his 40 years as representative and senator in Washington, D.C., and the likelihood of impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump during a forum Friday at the Topeka Country Club.
After Roberts announced in January he won't seek re-election next year, numerous political figures surfaced as potential replacements.
The ones who call Roberts start by offering their praise, he said. Then they tell the senator they have a lot of people advising them to run for his seat. Sure, he wonders. How many?
"So," Roberts said, "I go down the laundry list of things I think they ought to consider — geography, how much money it's going to take, how many people, what kind of campaign are you going to present, tell me in 11 seconds why you're running so you can gain contributions, make your campaign actually worth something.
"The last thing I tell them is you have to want to do this more than anything else because the politics of today is pretty nasty. It's personal. It's gotten pretty vicious. I really regret that."
Roberts said the rancor isn't new to D.C., that it has peculated for a while. Part of the problem, he said, is the lawmakers don't know each other that well.
"The House of Representatives is now run like a dormitory," Roberts said. "People live in their offices, and they come in for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday votes and then, adios, they're back in their districts saying it's not me, it's rest of those guys that are causing all that."
In contrast, Roberts pointed to his work with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, in crafting a new farm bill last year. The bipartisan legislation received 87 votes from the 100-member chamber.
Trust, compromise and personal relationships are important, Roberts said. That includes working with people who vote differently — even someone like Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Democrat from Vermont who can be "rough sometimes," Roberts said.
"I would always say, 'Good morning, Bernie! How you doing?' " Roberts said. "And he would go, 'Ruumhh.' That was, 'Good morning.' "
After a couple of sessions, Sanders stopped and asked, "Why are you always saying good morning to me?"
Roberts said: "I don't know. It's a good morning. It's a wonderful day to be alive. It's a privilege to be in the Senate. I admire the work that you're doing. You believe in it. I happen to be on the other side, but I think it's very interesting you're somebody now.
"So now, he says, 'Good morning, Pat.' And I tell you what: He didn't vote against the farm bill."
Looking back on his career in D.C., Roberts recalled arriving in 1968 as an aide to former Rep. Frank Carlson and seeing the city on fire after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.
Roberts worked in the political world through the Vietnam War, Kent State University shootings, resignation of President Richard Nixon, the attempted assassinations of President Gerald Ford and President Ronald Reagan, the Iran Contra affair and impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton.
Eventually, Roberts said, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will have to have a vote on whether to impeach Trump. Roberts said the effort will fail in the Senate.
"You're not going to get 67 votes to impeach President Trump," Roberts said. "You're just not going to get that. But I guess we have to go through it. But we're going to be OK afterwards because we always have been."
Responding to a question from the crowd, Roberts said he lets his staff handle his social media accounts. They don't show him the negative comments, Roberts said, because they know he might call the individual.
One time, he got a letter from a farmer in western Kansas who was really upset, Roberts said.
"I know that none of you SOBs will even read this letter," the farmer wrote.
Roberts called the farmer at 6 a.m., and the constituent wanted to know who was calling so early.
"I said this is your friendly SOB in Washington," Roberts said. "Long pause. He said, 'Pat?' I said, 'That's me.' He said, 'Well, I'll be an SOB.' "