Tag Archives: Rep. Steve Watkins

House 2020 Overview

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 3, 2019 — Now that two states have already completed their congressional candidate filing (Alabama and Arkansas) and five more are scheduled for December including Illinois, which closed yesterday, it is time to begin to ascertain where US House politics might reasonably stand right now.

California (Dec. 6), Texas (Dec. 9), Ohio (Dec. 11), and North Carolina (Dec. 20 – on hold due to court order), are the other states with candidate deadlines this month. At the end of December, the seven filed states including North Carolina, would account for 129 congressional district candidate slates.

Currently, the party division yields four vacant House seats — two from each party. Of the 431 seats with representation, Democrats hold 233 and Republicans have 197, along with one Independent — Michigan Congressman Justin Amash (I-Cascade Township/ Grand Rapids), who left the Republican Party earlier this year.

Comparing the current ratings for each district against where the seats stood a year before the 2018 election finds that 82 political situations have changed ratings with most moving away from the Republican column and toward the Democrats, but not in all cases.

Currently, 75 districts fall into either the Toss-up, Lean Democrat, or Lean Republican categories. This assumes that the four vacancies — CA-25 (Katie Hill-D), MD-7 (Elijah Cummings-D), NY-27 (Chris Collins-R), WI-7 (Sean Duffy-R) — all remain with their current party in upcoming special elections.

Adding another assumption concerning the House outlook involves the newly adopted court-ordered North Carolina congressional map, the third of this decade. On its surface, these latest district boundaries would net the Democrats at least two seats, those that Reps. George Holding (R-Raleigh) and Mark Walker (R-Greensboro) currently represent.

Both parties are lodging new legal challenges to the map, and the state’s Dec. 20 candidate filing deadline is on hold for the US House candidates until the legal situation is resolved. For the purposes of this analysis, the new North Carolina map is inserted into the national overlay, thus increasing the Democratic conference by two seats.

Of the 75 lean and toss-up seats, 36 are currently in the Democratic column and 38 lie in Republican hands. The remaining seat belongs to Independent Rep. Amash. Looking at how the seats might break right now, it appears that 33 are rated as Lean Democratic with 30 categorized as Lean Republican. The remaining dozen, including the Amash seat, are considered toss-ups.

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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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