Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts to retire in 2020

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Saturday, 5 January 2019

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts to retire in 2020


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Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts to retire in 2020

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) announced Friday that he will retire in 2020 instead of running for reelection.


Roberts, 82, has served four terms in the Senate and last won reelection in 2014 after facing a bruising Republican primary. His retirement has already sparked interest in his seat from a number of other Kansas Republicans, heralding a potentially crowded 2020 primary — though Democrats hope they can make the race competitive after winning the governorship in 2018.


Roberts said he had the "honor and privilege" of representing Kansas for 16 years in the House and 22 years in the Senate.


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


Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, touted his work championing the issue for his state, including the farm bill that was signed into law late last year, which was the eighth he'd worked on. Roberts also touted his 24-0 record winning elections, saying he was "damned proud of that undefeated record."


In an interview with POLITICO following his announcement, Roberts said he would not follow in the footsteps of Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee, two former senators who did not run for reelection last year and were publicly critical of President Donald Trump.


"I don't think you get anywhere criticizing the president," Roberts said in the telephone interview. "I'm not the conscience of the president. It appears some of the Senate, apparently that was their role. But I had things to do that fell within my committee jurisdiction as chairman."


Roberts also praised Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the agriculture committee, for the bipartisan work on the farm bill, saying their work was the "exception, not the rule" in an increasingly partisan Congress.


Roberts declined to name a preferred successor for his seat, though he joked that former Sen. Bob Dole, 95, who left the Senate in 1996 to run for president, could clear the primary field. Roberts said he expected Republicans would be able to maintain control of the seat.


Rep. Roger Marshall, who represents Roberts' former House district, has been actively considering a run in recent weeks amid speculation that Roberts would not seek another term.


"Since the moment speculation of Senator Roberts' retirement began, Dr. Marshall's phone has been ringing," Brent Robertson, Marshall's chief of staff, said in a statement. "It's safe to say that while Dr. Marshall is seriously considering it, he is dead set on making sure we get border security funding to the President's desk first. Until then, I don't anticipate any type decision on a Senate run taking priority."


Republicans view Mike Pompeo, the current secretary of state and former CIA director under Trump, as a top potential recruit, according to multiple sources. Pompeo was a three-term House member from Kansas before joining the Trump administration, but he has not publicly expressed any interest in another run for political office.


Other potential Republican candidates include former Rep. Kevin Yoder, who lost reelection in a suburban Kansas City district in November; Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state who lost the race for governor last year; Wink Hartman, who was Kobach's running mate; state Attorney General Derek Schmidt; and Jeff Colyer, the outgoing governor who lost a GOP primary to Kobach after taking office last year.


Republicans expect the seat to remain safely in their control barring a divisive and messy primary. Kansas has not sent a Democrat to the Senate since the 1930s, and Roberts won by double digits in 2014.


But Democrat Laura Kelly won the gubernatorial race last fall, and Democrats also flipped a Republican-controlled House seat, indicating that Democrats could force a competitive Senate race under the right circumstances.


Roberts is the second Republican senator to announce that he will not run again in 2020, following Tennessee's Lamar Alexander.




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