The Buzz

Rep. Marshall hasn’t entered Senate race, but he’s already winning the money game

Kansas Republicans Jake LaTurner, left, and Roger Marshall, right, both met separately with officials at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Kansas Republicans Jake LaTurner, left, and Roger Marshall, right, both met separately with officials at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Rep. Roger Marshall hasn’t officially entered the race for U.S. Senate, but he’s already winning the fundraising contest against Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner.

Marshall, R-Kansas, can raise money through his House campaign and steer it toward a bid for Senate if he decides to run, which seems likely after the Kansas congressman’s meeting with the National Republican Senatorial Committee earlier this year.

Marshall’s campaign has raised roughly $706,000 during the first three months of 2019 and has $1.26 million in the bank, including money left over from the 2018 election. Marshall’s chief adviser Brent Robertson called it a “direct reflection of the job folks across Kansas believe he’s done.”

LaTurner, who launched a Senate bid in January following Sen. Pat Roberts’ retirement announcement, raised roughly $300,000, according to his campaign.

LaTurner was elected to a full term in November, but is not allowed to use money from his state campaign for a Senate candidacy under federal election rules

His campaign emphasized that 95 percent of its contributions came from Kansas and said in a release that the numbers exceed their fundraising goals.

“Kansas conservatives are ready for a new generation of leadership that is willing to stand up and fight for them in Washington DC,” LaTurner said.

Marshall’s campaign had previously said that the first quarter fundraising totals would demonstrate a candidate’s viability for the Senate race.

If Marshall ultimately decides to run, he will trigger another race to fill his open House seat in the heavily Republican 1st Congressional District in western Kansas.

State Sen. Gene Suellentrop, a Wichita Republican, said on Twitter that LaTurner should drop out of the race and focus on raising his family. LaTurner responded Friday by calling Suellentrop’s comments cowardly and offensive.

“Be a man Gene. You have my number. Pick up your phone, call my cell, and give me your judgemental comments personally,” LaTurner said in a statement posted to Twitter.

But the GOP primary for Senate is about to get much more crowded. Former Johnson County Commissioner and Kansas City Chiefs player Dave Lindstrom is exploring a bid.

And Attorney General Derek Schmidt recently met with the NRSC, according to a spokesman. Schmidt, who began his career as a Senate aide for Kansas Republican Nancy Kassebaum, has previously expressed interest in the race.

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, will travel to Washington next week for a series of meetings, including one at the NRSC on Wednesday, according to a source close to Wagle.

The only woman to serve as Kansas Senate president, Wagle is widely expected to pursue a campaign after the Kansas legislative session wraps up later this spring.

“I think it’s Susan Wagle’s to lose,” said John Whitmer, a former Republican state representative who now hosts a talk radio show in Wichita. “Just because a Republican female, a conservative female is a pretty potent force right now in American politics.”

Whitmer is close with former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the party’s 2018 candidate for governor, who may also pursue a run for Senate if he’s unable to land a job in President Donald Trump’s administration. But Whitmer was skeptical of Kobach’s chances in the Senate race.

“He’s kind of damaged goods,” Whitmer said. “Because he lost. I’m damaged goods, I lost. You’ve got a loss on your record. You learn from it. But you still have to recognize it. The key is to be able to recognize it and learn from it.”

Kansas Chamber of Commerce President of Alan Cobb is also weighing a run and had meetings in Washington this last week, according to a source with knowledge of the meetings.

Wichita native Matt Schlapp, who chairs the American Conservative Union, previously told The Star he would make his decision about a campaign after last month’s CPAC conference. But he’s been quiet about a potential run since then.

“I know what the job is. I know how grueling those campaigns are. You know a lot of people run and they don’t know how tough it’s going to be. I’m very aware of how tough it is,” Schlapp said in March.

Kansas has not elected a Democrat to Senate since 1932. The party’s main priority in 2020 will be defending Democratic Rep. Sharice Davids’ House seat in the 3rd District. Davids has raised $450,000 in support of her re-election bid.

The Wichita Eagle’s Jonathan Shorman contributed to this report.
Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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