Tag Archives: Kansas

Wacky Wins in a Senate Primary; Incumbents Watkins & Clay Lose

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 5, 2020 — We review last night’s primary action in the states of Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Arizona and Washington:


KANSAS

Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend)

The 2020 election cycle’s wackiest Senate primary ended last night with a big victory for Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) as he defeated former secretary of state and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach and Kansas City Plumbing Company owner and self-funder Bob Hamilton in the statewide Republican primary.

The Marshall victory margin is 40-26-19 percent over the two men, while former Kansas City Chiefs football player and state Turnpike Commission chairman Dave Lindstrom captured 6.7 percent of the vote, best among the also-ran candidates.

The race featured both parties making seven-figure media buys. The national Republican leadership, however, came in to run negative spots against Kobach, a risky strategy in case he would become their nominee. It was clear that Republican survey research provided virtually the same results that Democrats were seeing, namely Kobach winning his primary would give the Democrats the inside track toward snatching away what should be a safe Republican seat.

The other unusual Kansas Senate facet was seeing Democratic organizations come into the state to actively boost Kobach in the GOP primary. He lost the 2018 governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly, and the party leaders believed Kobach would be the weakest general election candidate to oppose their party’s consensus nominee, state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D-Mission Hills). Now, she must run against the Republicans’ presumed strongest candidate, Rep. Marshall.

Interestingly, the most recent publicly released poll, which dated back to the beginning of June from the Civiqs organization surveying for the Daily Kos Elections website, found Rep. Marshall and Sen. Bollier falling into a virtual tie. It is likely, however, as the new Republican nominee, that Marshall will become a clear favorite to win in November.
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Primary Preview – Part II

Bob Hamilton, self-funding and running clever ads, such as the one above, could be the spoiler in today’s Kansas Democratic senate primary race.


By Jim Ellis

Aug. 4, 2020 — We wrap up our two-part report about today’s August 4th primary with coverage of the Arizona and Kansas nominating elections.


ARIZONA

The US Senate race is on the ballot, though the nominations in both parties are virtually set and have been for months. There is action in three of the state’s nine congressional districts, however.

Senate: Appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) will easily win nomination tonight. She faces only skincare company CEO Daniel McCarthy, who has raised just over a half-million dollars for his effort. Sen. McSally has attracted over $30 million and brandishes more than $11 million in the bank. That is the good news for her; the bad is her consensus Democratic opponent, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, has brought in an incredible $46 million and had over $21 million remaining in his campaign account at the end of June.

This is a top-tier challenge race, and a Democratic must-win, but not much will be settled tonight.

According to the Phoenix-based Data Orbital polling firm, over 2.6 million absentee ballots have been requested for the primary, and 1.06 million have been returned for a participation rate of 45.6 percent. Therefore, the state already has a primary voter turnout rate of 26.7 percent. Democrats have a 9,900-unit advantage in returned ballots to date.
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The Wild Kansas Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

July 21, 2020 — As we approach the Aug. 4 primaries, it’s clear that the Kansas Senate Republican primary will be the top attraction of that election day. An intra-party nomination clash in what should be a relatively safe open-seat campaign has devolved into a mixed-message political brawl.

Embattled Kansas Senate Republican candidate Kris Kobach

Just in the past month we’ve seen Democratic money coming into the Sunflower State in an attempt to influence the Republican primary, and national Republican money making an appearance trying to destroy the former GOP gubernatorial nominee. Furthermore, a well-healed third Republican candidate was being described as a multi-million dollar plumber who contributes more to Democrats. And, yesterday we saw a new ad with a candidate saying that it’s really “a badge of honor” that the Democrats are now attacking him because they’re afraid to face him in the general election.

When veteran Sen. Pat Roberts (R) announced his retirement last year, 2018 gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach, fresh from running the disastrous Presidential Commission on Election Integrity that yielded no results before being disbanded, jumped into the Senate race. Because Kobach ran such a poor gubernatorial campaign and virtually handed the office to then-Democratic state senator Laura Kelly two years ago, Republican leaders were fearful of him becoming the Senate nominee. Democrats were also seeing early polling numbers indicating that they could beat Kobach while other Republicans were faring much better in general election ballot test pairings.

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Kansas Rep. Watkins’ Legal Woes

By Jim Ellis

July 16, 2020 — On Tuesday night, within an hour of him stepping onto a congressional debate stage in Kansas, freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka) was indicted in state court. He is charged with interference with law enforcement, providing false information, voting without being qualified, unlawful advance voting, and failing to notify the DMV of change of address according to the Shawnee County District Attorney’s office as reported in The Hill newspaper.

Freshman Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Topeka)

Immediately Rep. Watkins claimed the timing of the indictments was politically motivated, though Republican District Attorney Mike Kagay naturally denied that was the case. Still, being charged three weeks before the primary election on what should be considered a minor activity that is treated as a felony, i.e., where a person declares his residence and whether he voted in a different city council district race that didn’t comply with his stated residence, arguably opens the DA’s actions to legitimate criticism.

The base controversy surrounds Watkins registering to vote at a UPS postal center in 2018. The congressman claims he made a mistake on the voter registration form by listing his mailing address rather than his street address. In a 2019 Topeka municipal election, Watkins apparently voted in the district race that housed the UPS store location he used as his mailing address, which is different from that of his stated residence; hence, the vote fraud charge.

Questions surrounding Watkins’ residence have been raised since he returned to Kansas to run for the open 2nd District seat. He re-located to Topeka after spending time in the military and living for most of the past few years in Alaska where he participates in the annual Iditarod races.

Attacking the residence issue, Rep. Watkins’ principal Republican primary opponent, Kansas state Treasurer Jake LaTurner, was already running an ad about the congressman registering to vote at the UPS store and owning two homes in Alaska “but none in Topeka” before the indictments came down, and now such residency issues will likely be at the forefront of the remaining three weeks in the primary cycle.

The Watkins controversy, however, does not end with the freshman congressman. His father, Dr. Steve Watkins Sr., a local Topeka physician, is reportedly under a Federal Election Commission investigation for allegedly making contributions in the name of another that combined exceeded his maximum individual limits. According to a Politico news story, Dr. Watkins confirms he is under investigation for giving money to his family members and associates in order for them to contribute to the congressional campaign. This is would be a serious charge that normally carries prison time. To date, no charges have been filed against Dr. Watkins.

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Kansas Beginning to Hop

By Jim Ellis

June 1, 2020 — The open Kansas Senate race is more interesting this year than typical for what is normally a safe Republican state; in fact, it is becoming one of the most intriguing races in the country.

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

Democrats believe they have a chance of stealing this contest if former Kansas secretary of state and 2018 defeated gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach were to win the GOP nomination. And it appears that early polling numbers and even the Kansas Republican Party chairman agree.

Things started to unravel back in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary when Kobach, then the sitting Kansas secretary of state, challenged Gov. Jeff Colyer in the party nominating contest and managed to beat him by 343 votes from more than 317,000 ballots cast. Colyer ascended to the governor’s office when elected incumbent Sam Brownback (R) resigned to accept a federal position.

The outcome split the already badly divided Kansas Republican Party – fragmented between moderates and conservatives – and coupled with a lackluster, while some say non-existent, Kobach general election gubernatorial campaign effort, Democrat Laura Kelly was able to win the statewide contest 48-43 percent with nine percent going to various minor party candidates.

Democrats are hyped because of that outcome, and Republicans clearly nervous. After months of speculation that US secretary of state and former Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo would leave his position and enter the Senate contest, the party leadership is now solidly coalescing around US Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend). Republican Party chairman Mike Kuckelman last week even publicly called upon all of the candidates beside Rep. Marshall to exit the race in order to give the congressman a one-on-one shot at denying Kobach the party nomination.

Yesterday, state Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) announced she would end her Senate quest, stating among other reasons that she did not want to split the party. Kuckelman believes that that crowded field would help Kobach win the nomination because he could do so with a plurality vote, fearing that his hard-right base may be enough to win a crowded field race.

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