Tag Archives: Jake LaTurner

Pompeo for Senate?

By Jim Ellis

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Nov. 25, 2019 — Ever since Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts (R) announced last January that he would retire at the end of the current Congress there has been consistent speculation that US Secretary of State and former Wichita area congressman, Mike Pompeo, would resign his national position and return to Kansas to run for the open seat. Despite repeated denials from Secretary Pompeo, the speculation would not die.

Now, it appears the rumors of him entering the race have greater foundation, as more concrete stories that he will soon resign and announce his candidacy are regularly surfacing. The Senate Republican leadership is clearly in favor of the Pompeo move, originally fearing that former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach could win a crowded August Republican primary with only a vote plurality and then perform as badly in the general election as he did when he lost the 2018 open governor’s race.

With Republicans holding 53 of the chamber’s 100 seats but having to defend 23 incumbents and open seats on the 2020 Senate election map versus only 12 for the Democrats, the GOP cannot afford an electoral debacle in what should be a safe seat. It was only two years ago that another flawed Republican Senate candidate bungled the Alabama special election, thus allowing Democrat Doug Jones to win the position that Sen. Jeff Sessions had resigned to become US Attorney General.

Currently, eight individuals have announced for the Republican nomination led by Kobach, US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend), and state Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita). Polling and local political intel suggests that Pompeo would have little trouble winning the nomination, and the seat, if he were to enter the race. If he does become a candidate, some of the others, and particularly Rep. Marshall, would have time to exit the race and pivot back toward seeking re-election to their current position.

Originally, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner (R) had been in the Senate race – in fact, he was the first to enter the contest immediately after Sen. Roberts made public his intentions – but he has already exited and, at the behest of former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), is now challenging freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) for re-nomination in the 2nd Congressional District.

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A Brewing Battle Emerging in Kansas

Freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 17, 2019 — Former legislative aide Abbie Hodgson, the only announced Democratic candidate in the KS-2 congressional race, withdrew her challenge to freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) Wednesday because she claims not to possess the fundraising ability to conduct a credible campaign. At this point, there is no alternative Democrat on the horizon in the Kansas district, but that will soon likely change.

Rep. Watkins won a tight 48-47 percent general election victory over former state House Minority Leader and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Paul Davis (D) last November to succeed retiring Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R). This came after political newcomer Watkins, a West Point graduate, Army Ranger and Afghanistan veteran, won a tight seven-way Republican primary but with only 26.5 percent of the vote. Controversy arose when a major independent expenditure committee emerged, which was principally funded by the candidate’s father, to back Watkins.

More potential upheaval surrounds Rep. Watkins, but it simmers below the surface. Rumors were flying around in August that the congressman would imminently resign his office because of a rumored scandal that was about to become public. Watkins took no such action, and to date nothing involving scandalous activity has come to light.

This has not stopped certain Republicans from taking action, however. In early September, reportedly at the behest of former Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) who lost his own bitter primary to then-Secretary of State Kris Kobach, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner made a surprising move. He was the first declared US Senate candidate after incumbent Pat Roberts (R) announced his retirement, but he then transferred from the statewide campaign to instead enter the primary to challenge Watkins in the Topeka-anchored congressional district.

Kansas’ 2nd is a decidedly Republican seat, but not intensely so. The CD occupies 23 eastern Kansas counties and parts of two others. It runs vertically from the Nebraska border to Oklahoma and consumes the territory between the Kansas City metro area and Wichita.

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Kobach Announces in Controversy

By Jim Ellis

Former Kansas secretary of state and 2018 Republican gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach

July 10, 2019 — In most runs for public office, the day a candidate announces is one of the best campaign days. For former Kansas secretary of state and 2018 Republican gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach, his declaration that he would run for Sen. Pat Roberts (R) open seat looks to have turned out differently.

Kobach’s Senate announcement on Monday, though speculated upon for several weeks, was met with a considerable amount of negativity from members of his own party including a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC). Through a reported tweet from an interview with the Kansas City Star newspaper she said, “just last year [ex-Sec of State] Kris Kobach ran [as GOP nominee for governor] and lost to a Democrat. Now, he wants to do the same and simultaneously put President Trump’s presidency and [the GOP] Senate majority at risk.”

Kobach, the sitting secretary of state at the time, defeated Gov. Jeff Colyer in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary by just 343 votes of over 317,000 ballots cast. Colyer was the state’s lieutenant governor who ascended to the governorship when two-term incumbent Sam Brownback resigned to accept a federal appointment. Post-nomination, the Kobach general election campaign was routinely rated as poor, from a lack of fundraising to deficient campaign strategy and implementation that caused him to lose 48-43 percent to then-state Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka) who attracted a significant amount of Republican support.

Prior to his running for governor, Kobach was tabbed by President Trump to be vice-chairman and lead administrator for the President’s Advisory Committee on Election Integrity under Vice President Mike Pence. But Kobach’s leadership of this organization was also called into question. Asking for voter information from states that even Republican chief election officials routinely refused to turn over, the panel was dissolved after only seven months of existence with no tangible accomplishment.

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