Jan. 8, 2018 — Veteran Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts (R), who will turn 84 years of age before the next election, announced last Friday that he will not seek re-election to a fifth term in 2020. He becomes the second Senate incumbent to announce his retirement effective 2021, following Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander (R) who made his decision public just before Christmas.
In 2014, Sen. Roberts faced a competitive election against Independent Greg Orman who appeared to coalesce the anti-Roberts vote when Democrat Chad Taylor withdrew from the race because the latter man knew that the senator was certain to win a three-way contest.
With early October polls finding Orman leading Sen. Roberts by as many as 10 percentage points, the veteran Kansas office holder pulled out all of the stops to rebound with a 53-43 percent win. The 2014 Republican wave helped Roberts sweep to victory, overcoming what proved to be largely inaccurate polling along the way.
Pat Roberts was originally elected to Congress in 1980, winning the western 1st District, a seat he would hold for eight terms before claiming an open Senate position in 1996. At the end of the current term he will conclude 40 years of congressional service.
Feb. 2, 2017 — The state of Kansas is heading for a period of major political upheaval both in the state house and within their congressional delegation.
In addition to CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s vacant 4th District being slated for an April 11 special election, Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Topeka) has already announced that she will not seek re-election in the 2nd District.
With Jenkins not only leaving Congress but bypassing a chance to enter an open governor’s race – a contest most observers expected her to enter in 2018 – 3rd District Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Overland Park/Kansas City) is now reported to be seriously considering becoming a gubernatorial candidate. Should he make the jump into the statewide foray, his 3rd District will also be open in the next election.
Turning to the sprawling western 1st District where freshman Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend/Salina) will stand for his first re-election, the man he unseated in the 2016 Republican primary has already announced that he will return for a re-match. But, former Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R) has also been mentioned as a possible candidate in the Jenkins’ open seat, potentially jumping districts and hoping to stake out a Tea Party base in what promises to be a crowded primary. Kansas has no run-off, so a person with a strong ideological or geographic base can often win a multi-candidate primary election with only a small plurality. Such is how Huelskamp originally won his 1st District nomination back in 2010.