Establishment-backed Marshall defeats Kobach in Kansas GOP Senate primary

Rep. Roger Marshall won the Republican Senate primary in Kansas on Tuesday, delivering a key victory to GOP leaders in Washington who saw him as their best hope for holding on to the seat of retiring Sen. Pat Roberts (R) in November.

With 41 percent of precincts reporting, The Associated Press called the race for Marshall, who currently leads his main GOP challenger, Kris Kobach, by double digits.

Marshall was the favorite of Republican Senate leaders, who feared that a win for Kobach could put GOP control of the seat in jeopardy. In the final weeks before the primary, Republican-aligned outside groups poured money into Kansas to boost Marshall, while Kobach was aided by spending from tech billionaire Peter Thiel and a super PAC with ties to Democrats.

Heading into the primary on Tuesday, Republicans believed Marshall had the edge in the race. But multiple GOP operatives also conceded that Kobach had made up ground in recent weeks and feared that he may be within striking distance of the nomination. 

Marshall’s win sets him up to face state Sen. Barbara Bollier in November. Bollier, a physician and former Republican, was the heavy favorite to win the Democratic primary on Tuesday. She enters her general election campaign with more than four times as much cash on hand as Marshall.

President Trump congratulated Marshall in a call Tuesday night, calling it “an incredible race.”

“Congratulations to everyone, that’s a big night,” Trump said, adding, “You have my total support, you know it.”

Both Marshall and Kobach, as well as a third challenger, Bob Hamilton, sought to tie themselves closely to Trump throughout the primary. But the president never endorsed in the race despite urging from GOP leaders to get behind Marshall.

Marshall wasn’t Senate Republican leaders’ first choice for the Senate seat. They sought for months to woo Secretary of State Mike Pompeo into the contest, but he ultimately declined.

Still, Marshall’s nomination is sure to settle the nerves of Washington Republicans, who expressed concern that a win for Kobach could add to Democrats’ expanding Senate map. 

Kobach is a divisive figure among conservatives, and some Republicans were wary of his ability to win in November, especially given his loss to a Democrat in Kansas’s 2018 gubernatorial race.

Democrats need to pick up three or four seats, depending on which party wins the White House in November, to recapture control of the Senate. Their path to the majority runs primarily through states such as Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina, though Republican-held seats in Montana, Georgia and Iowa have also come into play.

But history largely favors Republicans in Kansas. A Democrat hasn’t won a Senate seat in the state since the Great Depression, and The Cook Political Report currently rates this year’s race for Roberts’s seat as “Lean Republican.”

Tags 2020 elections Bob Hamilton Donald Trump GOP primary Kansas Senate primary Kris Kobach Mike Pompeo Pat Roberts Roger Marshall
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