2020 RACE

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - News -

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo’s name be­gan cir­cu­lat­ing Fri­day as a po­ten­tial en­trant be­fore Roberts had of­fi­cially an­nounced his re­tire­ment.

The for­mer Wi­chita con­gress­man flirted with the idea of chal­leng­ing Sen. Jerry Mo­ran, R-Kansas, in 2016. Pom­peo de­cided against that, but was quickly el­e­vated by Trump to CIA direc­tor and later sec­re­tary of state. His cur­rent role, which puts him fourth in line for the pres­i­dency.

Kelly Arnold, chair­man of the Kansas Repub­li­can Party, voiced skep­ti­cism that Pom­peo would con­sider giv­ing up his role as the na­tion’s top diplo­mat.

“I’d love to have him as our se­na­tor, but I think he’s work­ing on big­ger projects right now,” Arnold said.

Arnold saw Colyer, Mar­shall and Sch­midt as the most likely can­di­dates for the race.

Other names float­ing around GOP cir­cles in­clude for­mer Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas, who lost his seat to Demo­crat Sharice Davids, Matt Sch­lapp, the chair­man of the Amer­i­can Con­ser­va­tive Union who grew up in Wi­chita, and

Ajit Pai, the Kansas na­tive who chairs the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion, ac­cord­ing to Arnold.

Mar­shall, who is now the most se­nior mem­ber of the state’s U.S. House mem­bers, is se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing the seat, but he’s tread­ing care­fully for now as Con­gress con­tin­ues to grap­ple with a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

“We’re in no hurry to de­cide on any­thing,” said Mar­shall, who sported a pur­ple Kansas State Univer­sity tie Fri­day as a trib­ute to Roberts, a fel­low Wild­cat.

“Un­til we get the fund­ing for the bor­der wall, for bor­der se­cu­rity, that’s my fo­cus,” Mar­shall said. “I think I was the last con­gress­man to leave be­fore the hol­i­day, the first one back and I’m just go­ing to keep push­ing that. That’s my job to do for Kansas right now.”

Colyer has in­di­cated an in­ter­est in pur­su­ing the seat af­ter he turns over the the gover­nor’s of­fice to Demo­crat Laura Kelly on Jan. 14, but Roberts’ re­tire­ment an­nounce­ment did not prompt Colyer to of­fi­cially launch a run.

“Through­out his time in of­fice, Kansans have been able to rely on Pat Roberts’ ex­per­tise, en­ergy, and grav­i­tas,” Colyer said in a state­ment. “It is es­sen­tial that our next U.S. Se­na­tor bring these same qual­i­ties to the job.”

The John­son County plas­tic sur­geon served as gover­nor for a lit­tle less than one year af­ter Sam Brown­back joined Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, los­ing the Au­gust GOP pri­mary by

345 votes af­ter the pres­i­dent is­sued a last minute en­dorse­ment of his op­po­nent, Kris Kobach.

Kobach, a con­ser­va­tive fire­brand and the out­go­ing Kansas sec­re­tary of state, did not re­turn a phone call Fri­day about whether he might pur­sue a run af­ter los­ing to Kelly in the gen­eral elec­tion.

Lesser-known can­di­dates have also ex­pressed in­ter­est. Trey Joy, elected mayor of Smith Cen­ter as a 19-year-old in 2009, said on Twit­ter that he’ll be ex­plor­ing a cam­paign.

An­other pos­si­ble en­trant is Alan Cobb, the pres­i­dent of the Kansas Cham­ber of Com­merce and for­mer ad­viser to Trump’s 2016 cam­paign.

Cobb is con­sid­er­ing a cam­paign af­ter a long ca­reer as a be­hind-the-scenes player. He served as lob­by­ist for Wi­chita-based Koch In­dus­tries and vice pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans For Pros­per­ity.

Kansas has not elected a Demo­crat to the U.S. Se­nate since 1932, when Franklin D. Roo­sevelt first ran for pres­i­dent.

The Kansas Demo­cratic Party sent out a fundrais­ing email im­me­di­ately af­ter Roberts an­nounced his re­tire­ment. But the field of po­ten­tial can­di­dates re­mains small at the mo­ment.

For­mer U.S. At­tor­ney for Kansas Barry Gris­som is weigh­ing a run and has met with na­tional Demo­cratic Party of­fi­cials about the pos­si­bil­ity.

Gris­som praised Roberts Fri­day for his life of pub­lic ser­vice — de­spite their pol­icy dif­fer­ences — and noted that the se­na­tor sup­ported his con­fir­ma­tion as U.S. at­tor­ney in 2010.

On Fri­day, Roberts de­clined to sug­gest any­one as a pos­si­ble suc­ces­sor, say­ing there are “many good can­di­dates in the con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion and out­side the con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion.”

He joked that per­haps Bob Dole, the 95-year-old for­mer se­na­tor from Kansas, could run again.

“I love Bob. Bob loves me. Just had a con­ver­sa­tion about it. He says ‘You’re sure you’re giv­ing this up?’ I said ‘I think so, Bob, I think it’s time. So that means there’s an open­ing.’ He says ‘I might con­sider that,’ ” Roberts said. “So write that down, that Bob Dole might come back and run for the Se­nate.”

Lind­say Wise and Les­ley Clark of the McClatchy Wash­ing­ton Bureau con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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