Rep. Marshall Wins Kansas GOP Primary Over Kobach

Ross Houston
August 6, 2020

The GOP has won every Senate race in Kansas since 1932, and Roberts won a contentious race in 2014 by almost 11 percentage points largely by arguing that Republicans couldn't recapture a Senate majority that year without his reelection.

Kansas Republicans on Tuesday nominated Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., for the Senate instead of polarizing conservative Kris Kobach, heeding the party establishment's advice for keeping a normally safe seat out of play in what could be a hard year for the GOP.

Many Republicans' fears about Kobach fueled ad campaigns that cost at least $15 million, with most of the spending by political action committees.

The other outcomes in Arizona and Washington will set the stage for fall elections, which will decide the balance of power in Congress. Republicans now have a 53 to 47 majority in the Senate. The Democratic nominee, state Sen. Barbara Bollier, a former Republican and retired anesthesiologist who now leads the fundraising pool with almost $7.8 million raised.

Marshall's opponent, Bollier, was a former longtime moderate Republican who garnered national attention when she switched parties in 2018. Marshall overcame Kobach's reputation as a conservative firebrand and informal adviser to Trump.

"You have sustained real-world trials and evidence and data that say that Kris Kobach is an extremely poor general election candidate who absolutely could be the first Republican to lose a Senate race in Kansas in over 80 years", Republican political operative David Kensinger told KPR.

Marshall immediately called for party unity at a watch party at a winery southwest of his central Kansas hometown of Great Bend. While Trump has waded into other congressional primaries at the behest of party leaders, he has stayed curiously silent in this primary despite a furious effort by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to block Kobach, who lost the governor's race in 2018 and has anxious the GOP that he would put the seat in greater jeopardy. Marshall and his allies made that loss a key issue as he and Kobach battled atop the GOP field.

Republicans brimmed with newfound confidence Wednesday about keeping an open Senate seat in Kansas after establishment-backed Rep. Roger Marshall won the party's nomination, advancing to face an unusually formidable Democrat in a tough year for the GOP. Kansas has no runoff elections, so if the anti-Kobach vote had splintered enough, he might have won with only his solid base on the right. In the weeks leading up to the primary, a newly formed Democrat-leaning PAC launched an attack ad against Rep. Marshall giving off the impression of support for Kobach and indirectly aid Bollier.

He said he was torn between voting for Kobach and Marshall but didn't know much about Marshall and he "just voted for the guy I knew the most about".

The decision follows a previous failed Trump endorsement for Kobach in the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Roberts declared his support for Marshall after the congressman had picked up endorsements from the U.S Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Farm Bureau, the National Right to Life Committee and Kansans for Life, the state's most influential anti-abortion group.

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