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The race for a central KS House seat kicked off last month. There's already a front-runner

Daniel Desrochers, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — Just a month ago, Rep. Jake LaTurner stunned Kansas Republicans by announcing his retirement from Congress. There’s already a front-runner to replace him: former Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

Schmidt, fresh off a failed bid to defeat Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly in 2022, jumped into the race about a week after LaTurner’s announcement. He entered a race where most voters already know his name and with a stable of donors he’s been able to tap into over three terms as attorney general and in his attempt to unseat Kelly.

That network has given him an early advantage over two Republican candidates who have never held elected office – former Kansas Livestock Association president Shawn Tiffany and former LaTurner staffer Jeff Kahrs.

“At this point, it’s Schmidt’s,” said Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University who has followed Kansas elections for decades. “The primary is his to lose. That doesn’t mean that one of the other two can’t spark a flame, but it’ll be a challenge for Kahrs and Tiffany.”

Schmidt led with 44% of the vote in an early poll of 1,517 likely Republican primary voters by the political polling firm Coefficient released last week. Kahrs and Tiffany had 4% and 3% of the vote, respectively.

The Republican primary will likely decide the next congressman from the 2nd District. While the district covers Topeka, which includes a Democratic core, and northern Wyandotte County, voters in the area supported former President Donald Trump by 15 percentage points in 2020.

 

“Kansans know we need a proven conservative leader who can help tackle the crisis at our border, skyrocketing inflation and the intrusion of big government into our lives,” Schmidt said in a statement. “I was proud to lead that fight as Attorney General, and I will be honored to stand tall and continue it in Congress.”

While Schmidt may have the early advantage to head to Congress, there are still three months for Kahrs and Tiffany to try to win over voters in the district. The Coefficient poll found that 49% of voters still hadn’t made up their minds about a candidate.

With Schmidt’s name recognition and fundraising, Tiffany and Kahrs have to try and find an opening. It could be running to Schmidt’s right.

Primaries historically draw fewer voters and those that do show up tend to be on the ideological extremes. In a Republican primary, that means a conservative electorate.

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