Previewing Kansas’ August 4 battleground primaries

There are three battleground primaries taking place in Kansas on August 4. Battlegrounds are elections that Ballotpedia expects to have a meaningful effect on the balance of power in governments or to be particularly competitive or compelling.

Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Kansas

Eleven candidates are running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Kansas. Incumbent Pat Roberts (R), who was first elected in 1996, is not seeking re-election.

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall have led the field in noteworthy endorsements and media attention. Roberts, along with National Right to Life and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, endorsed Marshall. Kobach’s endorsers include former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the National Border Patrol Council, and the National Association for Gun Rights.

Kobach says he has spent two decades fighting illegal immigration and that his record includes cutting spending in the Secretary of State office. Marshall emphasizes his role on the House Agriculture Committee, in passing the 2018 Farm Bill, and in passing a bill reducing tax rates.

Satellite spending in the race topped $9 million as of July 29. The super PAC Sunflower State has spent the most at more than $4 million. Media outlets wrote that the PAC has Democratic ties and is favoring Kobach. Plains PAC is spending $3 million on an ad campaign opposing Kobach. The Senate Leadership Fund booked $1.2 million in airtime supporting Marshall.

As of July 15, Bob Hamilton, the former owner of a plumbing business, led the primary field in fundraising with $3.7 million. He loaned $3.5 million to his campaign. Marshall had raised $2.7 million, and Kobach was third with $938,000.

Kansas has not elected a Democratic senator since 1932. Major election forecasters rate the general election as Lean Republican or Likely Republican. In 2018, Kansas elected Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who defeated Kobach 48% to 43%.

The other battleground primaries in Kansas are:

Republican primary in Kansas’ 1st Congressional District

Bill Clifford, Tracey Mann, Jerry Molstad, and Michael Soetaert are running in the 1st District Republican primary. The seat is currently held by Roger Marshall and is rated Safe or Solid Republican. Media attention has focused on Clifford and Mann. Clifford is a Finney County commissioner, and Mann was lieutenant governor of Kansas from 2018 to 2019.

Republican primary in Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District

Incumbent Steve Watkins, Jacob LaTurner, and Dennis Taylor are running in the Republican primary for Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District. On July 14, Watkins was charged with three felony counts and one misdemeanor count related to an incorrect address on his voter registration form. He says the charges were politically motivated and has accused LaTurner, Kansas’ treasurer, of being involved. LaTurner says he is the electable candidate in the race due to Watkins’ charges.

Additional reading: