Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday that he will not run for an open Senate seat in Kansas this year as heightened tensions with Iran risk spilling into war.
His decision, reported by The New York Times, ends widespread Republican hopes that he would enter the race in his home state, where the party’s failed 2018 nominee for governor, Kris Kobach, currently leads the GOP field.
Pompeo met with McConnell for roughly a half-hour in a secure room on Capitol Hill Monday.
When the secretary of state emerged from the room, he did not answer questions about the purpose of the meeting. McConnell smiled and made no response when later asked specifically whether Pompeo had informed he would not be running for Senate.
Pompeo fueled speculation for months that he was leaning toward a run by meeting with major Republican donors, such as Charles Koch, a Wichita resident, and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. President Donald Trump said that he would support a Pompeo campaign for Senate if it meant keeping the Kansas seat in Republican hands.
But the targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani, the top general of Iran’s elite Quds Force, has made Pompeo the face of the Trump administration’s biggest foreign policy crisis. The secretary reportedly advocated for the move, and Tehran is vowing to respond with military force.
“It’s over,” said a Kansas Republican source about the speculation that has dominated Kansas politics since Sen. Pat Roberts announced his retirement plans.
Technically, Pompeo could still change his mind. The filing deadline is in June for candidates to formally enter the race.
Yet Pompeo’s exit from the scene opens up a race for Democrats in a state where they haven’t won a Senate seat since 1932.
Democratic leaders in Washington and Kansas have coalesced around state Sen. Barbara Bollier, a former Republican who switched parties after the 2018 election.
The Republican field includes Kobach, Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, former Johnson County Commissioner Dave Lindstrom and Rep. Roger Marshall, a western Kansas congressman who holds a massive cash advantage on the other Republican contenders.
“Ultimately, if this is a final and everybody has a true understanding that this is Secretary Pompeo’s decision that he’s not going to, that really is going to help out the campaigns — specifically Marshall and Wagle, who have a lot of volunteers and donors and that kind of stuff still sitting, hovering waiting to find out what Mike is going to do,” said Kelly Arnold, a former state Republican chair.
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