Pat Roberts won't seek Senate reelection

Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsWomen's civil rights are not a state issue The Hill's 12:30 Report: Tough questions await Trump immigration plan Pat Robertson: Alabama 'has gone too far' with 'extreme' abortion law MORE (R-Kan.) announced Friday that he won’t seek a fifth term in 2020, marking the end of a decades-long career in Congress and setting up a likely crowded open-seat race.

Roberts, who has served in Congress since the 1980s, made his retirement announcement at the Kansas Department of Agriculture. He will be 84 by the 2020 election.

“I am announcing I will serve the remainder of this term as your senator, fighting for Kansas in these troubled times,” he said. “However, I will not be a candidate in 2020 for a fifth Senate term.”

The GOP senator was first elected to the upper chamber in 1996. Prior to that, Roberts represented Kansas’s 1st Congressional District from 1981 to 1997.


He faced a tough GOP primary in 2014 from a Tea Party candidate, though he ultimately cruised to victory in the general election.

During his Friday announcement, Roberts said he was “damn proud” of his undefeated record in 24 elections. His voice started to crack when he thanked his family for their support over the years.

"Even though the world has changed, the politics have changed, the personalities have changed many times over…I'm proud to offer consistent leadership to Kansas through it all,” he said.

Roberts indicated late last year that he was considering retirement and that he would spend time over the holidays making that decision.

The chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee played a central role in helping to pass a massive farm bill in December.

Roberts’s decision makes him the second senator to announce his retirement at the end of his term in January 2021, after Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access Bipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' MORE (R-Tenn.), who said he won’t seek reelection in 2020.

Roberts’s retirement opens the door to what will likely be a crowded and hotly contested GOP primary in 2020. But the open-seat race is also expected to attract a number of Democrats after the party saw some statewide success in the 2018 midterm elections.

Sources familiar with Rep. Roger MarshallRoger W. Marshall95-year-old Bob Dole promoted from Army captain to colonel Kansas Senate race splits wide open without Pompeo The Hill's 12:30 Report: State of the Union takeaways | Sights and sounds from the night | Virginia attorney general admits he wore blackface MORE’s (R-Kan.) thinking say he’s considered running for Senate.

Prior to Roberts’s announcement, Marshall told The Hill that his phone has been “ringing off the wall for the past month,” but that he’s waiting to see what Roberts announces.

He called Roberts a “great friend and mentor” and noted that his immediate focus is working to reopen the federal government and secure the money to fund President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE’s border wall.

There’s also speculation surrounding GOP lawmakers who lost recent bids, including former Rep. Kevin YoderKevin Wayne YoderK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Kansas Senate race splits wide open without Pompeo Mike Pompeo to speak at Missouri-Kansas Forum amid Senate bid speculation MORE (R-Kan.) and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who lost his gubernatorial bid in November.

Others who could potentially run include former Gov. Jeff Colyer and state Attorney General Derek Schmidt, according to The Kansas City Star.

Matt Schlapp, chairman of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), is considering a Senate bid and started to get calls about a potential run on Friday, according to The Washington Examiner. Schlapp is a Kansas native and a fervent Trump ally.

His wife, Mercedes Schlapp, currently works as a White House communications adviser.

There’s already been some interest from Democrats, who are feeling more bullish about their statewide chances in Kansas after state Sen. Laura Kelly (D) defeated Kobach for governor. Democrats also had success in a suburban, GOP-held House seat and came close to flipping another in a neighboring district.

Former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom has been considering a run for the Democratic nomination for about a year. Still, it's likely to remain an uphill climb since Kansas hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932.

“The latest GOP retirement is an early and ominous warning to vulnerable Senate Republicans who will have to answer to voters this cycle,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein.

“Kansans elected Democrats to the governor’s office and to the House because they want leaders who put their interests first and we will fight to make sure they have the same opportunity for the U.S. Senate.”

Juliegrace Brufke contributed to this report, which was updated at 1:18 p.m.