A former Brownback cabinet secretary who played semi-professional soccer in Italy likely will announce a run for Congress later this month.
Antonio Soave, who stepped down as Kansas Commerce secretary in June after less than two years in the position, sent an email to supporters Saturday outlining his plans. The email, which seeks input on logos and other campaign material, was forwarded to The Star.
“Our plan is to make an announcement regarding our bid for the U.S. House of Representatives on or about September 14th. Please let us know if and how you would like to be involved in the campaign. One way in which to get involved would be to host a small gathering of friends, contacts and acquaintances in your area,” the email states. “Most of all, please keep us in your prayers.”
The materials refer to him as a “Real Reagan Republican for Kansas.”
Soave lives in Olathe, which is part of the 3rd congressional district represented by U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder. However, Soave clarified in a phone call that he’s actually weighing a run in the 2nd congressional district for the seat that will be vacated by U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins at the end of this term.
“Having worked with a lot of the companies in the 2nd district in my post as secretary of commerce, I have a pretty good feel for the issues that face the individuals and companies in the 2nd district,” Soave said.
A candidate technically does not have to live in the congressional district to run, but living outside the district is usually seen as a political liability. Soave said his family was weighing whether to use his wife’s family home in Fort Scott or whether to move a few miles west into Douglas or Shawnee counties.
Prior to joining Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration, Soave, a Michigan native with Italian roots, had a varied career that included a stint playing semi-professional soccer in Italy, an internship in the Reagan White House, a law degree, a period hosting a soccer travel television show that was broadcast throughout the Middle East, modeling in the Kansas City region and running an Overland Park-based consulting business that helped U.S. companies coordinate ventures in the Middle East.
In 1998, Soave published a novel, “The Consequence: A Soccer Romance,” which tells the story of a love affair between a soccer prospect and the wife of a Colombian drug cartel boss.
As Commerce secretary, Soave oversaw the liquidation of the Kansas Bioscience Authority’s assets and launched an “outer space” initiative meant to entice companies that build satellites and other space-bound objects to move their manufacturing to Kansas.
Soave also founded The Global Foundation for Peace Through Soccer in 2003, a charity that puts on soccer clinics and organizes tournaments meant to promote world peace. Soave said the foundation has been essentially on hold since he began serving as Commerce secretary in 2015, but he plans to relaunch it regardless of the congressional campaign.
“Right now the things that we’re facing with North Korea, Iran, some of the ISIS countries… Can we look for common ground?” Soave said. “We can look at various initiatives like sports for peace.”
If Soave emerges from the Republican primary race, which already includes multiple members of the Kansas Legislature, he could end up facing Democrat Paul Davis, Brownback’s 2014 opponent, in the general election.
Davis beat Brownback in the 2nd district in 2014, but lost by 4 points in the statewide race. Brownback’s popularity dipped in the years after that as the state struggled financially and the governor saw many of his closest allies ousted from the Legislature last year. Brownback will leave Kansas in the near future if confirmed by the U.S. Senate for an ambassadorship.
“I really don’t think he’ll be much of a factor because as you know he’s leaving… I think it is what it is,” Soave said when asked if he thought his connection to Brownback could hurt him in the race. “I was proud of really serving the people in my role as secretary of Commerce.”
“I do understand and I do know that perhaps there are folks that certainly do not see eye to eye with how the governor has done things, but I do think the party is redefining itself in Kansas and across the nation,” he added.