Democrat outpaces top of GOP field in Senate race in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The presumed Democratic nominee for an open Senate seat in Kansas raised almost $1.3 million more than the top-tier Republican primary candidates combined during the second quarter of the year, despite a GOP candidate loaning $1.5 million to his own campaign.
Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier’s finance numbers worry establishment Republicans at a time when many of them fear a new political action committee with Democratic ties could steer the GOP nomination to polarizing conservative Kris Kobach. It is airing a 30-second spot describing rival and western Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall as “fake, fake, fake” and weak on issues important to the right even as it calls Kobach “too conservative.”
Bollier, a retired Kansas City-area anesthesiologist, is a former moderate Republican who gained national attention for switching parties at the end of 2018. Her campaign reported raising $3.7 million from April 1 through June 30 and entering July with almost $4.4 million in cash. Her $7.2 million is notable in a state where Democrats often struggle in Senate races and the party hasn’t won one since 1932.
The GOP faces a potentially tough year in defending its 53-47 majority in the Senate. And Bollier’s fundraising also signals that Democrats across the country believe a normally safe Republican seat in Kansas could be competitive, particularly with Kobach as the GOP nominee.
“You have to be concerned when you see that kind of money flowing into our state for a Democrat,” said Kansas Republican Party Chairman Mike Kuckelman.
Bollier spokeswoman Alexandra De Luca noted that the Democrat’s numbers represent an “enormous” advantage after the Aug. 4 primary and show Bollier is prepared for the fall campaign.
“The Republicans simply are not,” she added.
Marshall increasingly has become the GOP establishment’s choice in an 11-person field. Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, lost the 2018 governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly after alienating independent and moderate Republican voters. He’s best known nationally for promoting tough immigration laws.
Earlier this month, the Plains PAC, a new pro-Marshall GOP super-PAC, launched what it said will be a $3 million ad campaign against Kobach.
But his critics suggest that Kobach’s campaign for governor was hampered by poor fundraising. He raised about $232,000 during the second quarter of this year — third among the top four candidates. He was ahead only of David Lindstrom, a Kansas City-area businessman and former Kansas City Chiefs professional football player, who took in about $124,000.
In total, Kobach has raised about $822,000 for his campaign and finished June with roughly $145,000 in cash.
Marshall raised $462,000 in contributions during the quarter, with total campaign fundraising approaching $2.6 million. He had more than $1 million in cash at the end of June.
Bob Hamilton, the founder of a Kansas City-area plumbing company, has the most money to spend of the GOP candidates, raising a little more than $1.5 million during the second quarter and $3.7 million overall. But $3.5 million was from his own pocket, including $1.5 million during the last quarter.
Together, the top four candidates raised about $2.4 million during the second quarter.
Some Republicans see the new Sunflower State PAC’s efforts as an obvious attempt to boost Kobach past Marshall. Its spot spends most of its 30 seconds describing Marshall’s political stances as inconsistent and “soft” on President Donald Trump — even though Marshall said he votes 95% of the time in the House with the president and aired an ad earlier with Trump praising him.
The PAC’s initial air-time purchase was $850,000, and the Virginia firm buying the time also has worked for former presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, The Kansas City Star reported.
Marshall spokesman Eric Pahls said Kobach has the support “of people who aren’t interested in keeping this seat red.”
The spot reminds some Republicans of ads run by former Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill ahead of the 2012 GOP primary in neighboring Missouri against then-Republican Rep. Todd Akin. The ads warned voters that Akin was too conservative in an effort to boost Akin in a crowded primary. Akin won the primary and McCaskill beat him by a comfortable margin.
“Democrats want Kris Kobach,” said Plains PAC director C.J. Grover. “It’s just obvious.”
Kobach has argued that a Senate race has a different dynamic than a governor’s race and that Kansas is likely to see a surge of pro-Trump voters who didn’t cast ballots in the mid-terms in 2018. He’s dismissed arguments that he his fundraising would be weak.
Kuckelman said while he would have liked to have seen the top-tier Republicans together match Bollier’s fundraising for the quarter, he expects money to flow to the GOP nominee after the primary.
“A lot of people wait,” Kuckelman said. “I would expect checkbooks will open more freely once we figure out who our candidate is.”