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Pompeo tells McConnell he's not running for Senate

Pompeo tells McConnell he's not running for Senate
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Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoFive takeaways from CPAC 2021 Pompeo: Release of Khashoggi report by Biden admin 'reckless' Trump wins CPAC straw poll with 55 percent MORE told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump shows he holds stranglehold on GOP, media in CPAC barnburner Trump rules out starting a new party: 'Fake news' Sunday shows - Trump's reemergence, COVID-19 vaccines and variants dominate MORE (R-Ky.) on Monday he will not leave the Trump administration to run for an open Senate seat in Kansas.

Pompeo would have been almost certain to win the Republican primary for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsPat Roberts joins lobbying firm weeks after Senate retirement Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes Window quickly closing for big coronavirus deal MORE (R-Kan.). He took steps toward running, lining up major donors and making his presence felt in Kansas even as he insisted his focus was on Foggy Bottom.

But his decision to skip the race crystalized in the days since an American airstrike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Tensions between the United States and Iran are running at their highest levels in decades, and Pompeo decided he could not leave the administration at such a delicate moment.

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The New York Times first reported Pompeo's decision. Three Republican sources confirmed to The Hill he spoke with McConnell by phone Monday afternoon.

"Leader McConnell spoke with Secretary Pompeo this afternoon where he indicated he will not be running for Senate. Leader McConnell believes Secretary Pompeo is doing an incredible job as Secretary of State and is exactly where the country needs him to be right now," one source close to the Kentucky Republican told The Hill.

Pompeo's exit still leaves more than half a dozen Republicans vying for Roberts's seat. Kansas has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1932, the longest streak of complete Republican control in the nation.

That streak, Republicans fear, may be in jeopardy if former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach wins the nomination. Kobach, an archconservative who is close to President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE, lost a bid for governor in 2018, and Republicans fear he cannot win a statewide race.

Kobach's leading rivals include Rep. Roger MarshallRoger W. MarshallPat Roberts joins lobbying firm weeks after Senate retirement Biden health nominee faces first Senate test Senate committee plans grid reliability hearing after Texas outages MORE (R-Kan.); Dave Lindstrom, a former Johnson County commissioner; and state Senate President Susan Wagle (R). Wink Hartman, a wealthy businessman who served as Kobach's lieutenant governor running mate in 2018, is also considering a bid.

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Democrats have largely cleared the field for state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D), who left the Republican Party last year.

Candidates running for Roberts's seat have until June 1 to file papers, giving Pompeo or any other candidate plenty of time to reconsider.

Updated at 8:05 p.m. Justine Coleman contributed.