Government & Politics

Amid Senate speculation, Marshall to clarify ‘political future’ at Kansas State Fair

Rep. Marshall on Russia probe: “It’s basically a witch hunt”

Kansas Congressman Roger Marshall says he thinks President Trump will be "totally vindicated" at the end of investigations into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia.
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Kansas Congressman Roger Marshall says he thinks President Trump will be "totally vindicated" at the end of investigations into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia.

Rep. Roger Marshall will announce his 2020 plans Saturday at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson, an event expected to be the kickoff of his campaign for retiring Republican Sen. Pat Roberts’ seat.

Marshall, R-Kansas, 59, has been the focus of speculation about a Senate run for months. The OB-GYN from Great Bend, serving his second House term, has had multiple meetings with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and is completing a tour of all 105 Kansas counties.

The congressman’s team didn’t confirm the event would be a Senate campaign launch, but said in a statement that he will clarify his future plans.

“This Saturday, Congressman Marshall and his family will make a major announcement on his political future at the Kansas State Fair. After decades of serving his patients and 3 years in Congress, Congressman Marshall will discuss how he will continue the fight for Kansans and stand with the President,” said Eric Pahls, Marshall’s spokesman.

“Families, farmers, workers, patients, the unborn and all hard-working Americans have had no greater champion in Congress, and it is more vital now than ever that those Kansas values continue to have a tireless advocate.”

Marshall signaled his serious interest in statewide office by embarking on the all-county tour following Roberts’ retirement announcement in January. He will wrap up by visiting 10 remaining counties in the week ahead of his State Fair announcement.

He already represents a significant chunk of the state. Marshall is Congressman from the “Big First,” a sprawling 63-county district that covers western and central Kansas.

As the most GOP-leaning district in the state, the 1st has often served as a launching pad to the U.S. Senate. Roberts, Sen. Jerry Moran and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole all held the seat before moving up.

Roberts remarked last month about the potential advantage Marshall could have as the district’s congressman.

“The gold in the political hills rests in the First District. We vote more than the other districts… but to win that vote you’ve got to go there. And you’ve got to go to virtually every county,” Roberts said.

Marshall previously said he and his wife would spend August contemplating his final decision, but he agreed with Roberts’ analysis.

“It’s everything. I’m not a political scientist, but you’d be hard pressed to find anybody that’s won a statewide race that hasn’t won the Big First. I do know that almost 40 percent of voters in a Republican primary live in the ‘Big First’ district. So that’s pretty important,” he told The Star in July.

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If Marshall enters the Senate race, it will trigger what is likely to be a heavily-contested GOP primary for the chance to win his open House seat.

Marshall confirmed last month that he and his team have heard from some of the Republicans who are quietly eyeing House runs if this happens.

As of the end of June, Marshall had more than $1.4 million on hand in his House campaign account. He could steer the money into a Senate campaign and enter the race with a cash advantage over the current field of candidates.

The crowded Republican field includes the party’s 2018 nominee for governor, Kris Kobach.

The congressman said last month that Kobach’s campaign would not influence his own decision on a run, but he acknowledged that a potential candidacy by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “would be a game-changer.”

Despite his public denials of interest in the seat, Pompeo remains Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s preferred candidate for the seat.

Marshall previously confirmed that he had a phone call with Pompeo last month, but has declined to reveal the details of the conversation. Marshall’s announcement at the fair will come a day after Pompeo delivers a speech at Kansas State University.

Marshall was elected to Congress in 2016 after ousting incumbent Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp in a bitter GOP primary.

Huelskamp, a Tea Party favorite, lost his spot on the House Agriculture Committee after clashing with Republican leadership during his six years in Congress. Marshall was elected in the farm-heavy district with strong backing from the agriculture industry on a promise of regaining a seat on the committee.

Marshall votes with the Trump 97.8 percent of the time, the most of any member of the Kansas delegation, according to the website FiveThirtyEight’s vote tracker.

Despite his voting record, Marshall could still face resistance from the right wing of the party because of lingering animosity over his election fight with Huelskamp.

The conservative Club for Growth has already hinted at its opposition to Marshall by polling his name in a potential Senate primary match-up against Matt Schlapp, the Wichita native who chairs the American Conservative Union.

Lowry reported from Washington D.C.

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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Jonathan Shorman covers Kansas politics and the Legislature for The Wichita Eagle and The Kansas City Star. He’s been covering politics for six years, first in Missouri and now in Kansas. He holds a journalism degree from the University of Kansas.
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