Stories about Kansas

Marshall defeats Kobach in Kansas’ Republican primary for U.S. Senate

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall defeated former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, plumber Bob Hamilton, and eight others in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Kansas. As of 9:25 p.m. Central Time, Marshall had received 37% of the vote followed by Kobach and Hamilton with 26% and 20%, respectively. No other candidate received over 10% of the vote.
During the primary, Marshall said he had a record of accomplishments in the House including sitting on the Agriculture Committee, ensuring that protections for crop insurance were included in the Farm Bill, and passing a bill to reduce tax rates.
Since July 15, the Sunflower State super PAC has spent over $4 million worth of satellite spending in the primary principally supporting Kobach. Media outlets wrote that the group had Democratic connections, and Politico reported that one of the group’s ads was “engineered to drive conservative voters towards Kobach.”

LaTurner defeats incumbent Watkins in KS-02 GOP primary

Jake LaTurner won Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District Republican primary with 49% of the vote to incumbent Steve Watkins’ 34% and Dennis Taylor’s 17%, with 57% of precincts reporting. Watkins is the sixth incumbent representative defeated in a primary in 2020. He was first elected in 2018, defeating Paul Davis (D) by less than 1 percentage point.
Gov. Sam Brownback (R) appointed LaTurner as Kansas treasurer in 2017, and LaTurner was elected to remain in office in 2018. He is the youngest statewide elected official in the U.S.
On July 14, Watkins was charged with voter fraud, having used the address of a UPS store on his voter registration form. Watkins said he mistakenly used his mailing address instead of his residential address and that the charges were politically motivated.

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:

Kansas education board blocks governor’s order delaying school start date

The Kansas State Board of Education on July 22 voted to block an executive order issued by Governor Laura Kelly (D) that would have delayed the start of public and private school instruction in the state until after Labor Day.

Kelly issued the executive order on July 20 in light of Kansas’ recent spike in coronavirus cases. The order would have barred public and private schools in the state from holding classes from August 10 through September 8 with the goal of providing school personnel with “the opportunity to prepare for safe and effective student instruction.”

Republican lawmakers passed legislation in June that required Kelly to gain approval from the State Board of Education in order to change school opening dates. The State Board of Education is a constitutionally created board that functions as part of the executive branch. However, the board’s 10 members are elected by the public and, therefore, are not subject to direct control by the governor. The board voted 5-5 to block the order—one vote shy of the six votes that would have been required for approval.

“Our decisions must be informed by public health experts not politics,” said Kelly in a statement following the board’s decision. “This vote puts our students, faculty, their families and our economy at risk.”

Board members opposed to the executive order disagreed with the governor’s statewide approach, arguing that school opening decisions should be made at the local level. “This virus is not the same across the state,” said board member Jean Clifford.

Additional reading:

One Kansas Supreme Court justice faces retention election in November

One Kansas Supreme Court justice, Eric Rosen, will face a retention election on November 3, 2020. He was appointed by a Democratic governor.

Currently, two justices on the court were appointed by a Republican governor while four were appointed by a Democratic governor.

The governor appoints the seven justices of the supreme court through a bar-controlled nominating commission. The governor selects four non-lawyer members while members of the Kansas State Bar Association elect five lawyer members. Four of the lawyer members are elected by bar members in each congressional district while the fifth is elected by bar members statewide.

When a vacancy opens on the court, the commission must nominate individuals to fill the empty seat. The commission nominates potential justices and then interviews the nominees publicly. Next, a majority of the commission decides privately on the most qualified candidates to recommend to the governor for appointment. Following its decision, the commission sends the governor a list of three names from which he must make his selection. The appointed justice then faces a retention election in the next statewide general election taking place at least 12 months after the justice assumed office and each subsequent six years.