Tag Archives: Kansas

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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2020 Senate Races: The Latest

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 15, 2019 — New developments are occurring in 2020 Senate races across the country and several are apparently unofficially set for the general election. Below is a recap:

ALABAMA: Two polls have been conducted since both former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and retired Auburn University football head coach Tommy Tuberville joined the Republican race. Each survey showed Tuberville with the lead. The most recent, from the Cygnal research firm (June 22-23), finds Tuberville leading Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), 29-21 percent. Judge Moore, the 2017 special election GOP nominee, recorded only 18 percent support among the likely GOP voters. An April 14 Republican run-off is likely after the March 3 primary. The eventual party nominee faces Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election.

ARIZONA: While the general election already appears set between appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), the special election schedule is not as clear cut. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering a lawsuit that challenges the length of McSally’s current appointment. The ultimate ruling could mean an earlier special election. Currently, the special cycle is to run concurrently with the regular 2020 election calendar.

COLORADO: Signs continue pointing to former Gov. John Hickenlooper leaving the Democratic presidential campaign and entering the Colorado Senate race. He looks strong in a Democratic primary – a recent Garin Hart Yang Research poll posts him to a 61-10 percent lead — but he will face a tough general election against incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

IDAHO: Sen. Jim Risch (R) has announced his re-election campaign for a third term and looks to be a lock for another win.

ILLINOIS: Minority Whip Dick Durbin now has no Democratic primary opposition as state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray (D-Downers Grove) announced several weeks ago that she was ending her Senate campaign. Sen. Durbin is the prohibitive favorite for re-election.

IOWA: The Democratic establishment is coalescing around Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield. At this point, the general election pairing looks to feature Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and Greenfield.

KANSAS: There is less conjecture that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) will return to Kansas and run for the open Senate seat and more thought that western Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) will become a candidate. Mr. Marshall already has $1.4 million in his federal campaign account for the 2020 election cycle. He will face a crowded Republican primary but should be favored. Democrats feature a primary between former US Attorney Barry Grissom and ex-one-term Rep. Nancy Boyda.

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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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The Early Targets

By Jim Ellis

April 3, 2019 — Continuing our early outlook of the 2020 House situation, we can begin by narrowing the field to those districts where Republicans will be concentrating at least their initial efforts in order to reclaim the majority they lost in November.

After the 2016 election, there were 12 districts that supported President Trump but elected a Democrat to the House. After the 2018 midterm, that number rose to 31. For the Republicans to regain the majority, they will need to convert a net 18 seats back to their column, or 19 if the Democrats score a victory in the NC-9 special election to be held later this year in the Charlotte-Fayetteville metro areas in southern North Carolina.

The other two House special elections, PA-12 (May 21) and NC-3 (Sept. 10), unless huge upsets occur, look to remain within the Republican stable of districts.

Of the 31 Trump/House Democrat seats, 16 of them also voted for Mitt Romney over President Obama in 2012. Furthermore, a dozen within this group elected a Republican Representative until the 2018 election. They are:

  • GA-6 – Rep. Lucy McBath (D) – Defeated Karen Handel (R)
  • IL-14 – Rep. Lauren Underwood (D) – Defeated Randy Hultgren (R)
  • MI-8 – Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D) – Defeated Mike Bishop (R)
  • MI-11 – Rep. Haley Stevens (D) – Replaced David Trott (R)
  • NJ-11 – Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D) – Replaced Rodney Frelinghuysen
  • NM-2 – Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D) – Replaced Steve Pearce (R)
  • NY-22 – Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D) – Defeated Claudia Tenney (R)
  • OK-5 – Rep. Kendra Horn (D) – Defeated Steve Russell (R)
  • SC-1 – Rep. Joe Cunningham (D) – Replaced Mark Sanford (R)
  • UT-4 – Rep. Ben McAdams (D) – Defeated Mia Love (R)
  • VA-2 – Rep. Elaine Luria (D) – Defeated Scott Taylor (R)
  • VA-7 – Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) – Defeated Dave Brat (R)

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