Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's downplaying of a possible campaign for Kansas' open U.S. Senate seat opened a spigot on campaign contributions to declared candidates in the race to replace retiring Republican Pat Roberts.
Pompeo, who represented Wichita in the U.S. House before joining the administration of President Donald Trump, has been viewed as a formidable obstacle to any candidate in the GOP field. He has $1 million in his old House account and could bring his allegiance to Trump into play. It is a potent mixture that compelled some donors to sit on the sidelines.
But he told a Washington, D.C., crowd this week a run was "off the table," a shift from a previous assertion he would "always leave open the possibility."
It was enough to move big money to U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, the 1st District congressman who has yet to enter the race, and was useful to candidate Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican and president of the Kansas Senate.
"Clearly, Kansas Republicans of all stripes were waiting to see if Pompeo was running," said Bob Beatty, a professor of political science at Washburn University in Topeka. "They've come to believe he's not, although that doesn't mean he won't. For now, they're sure enough that he won't run that they'll make donations."
Roberts, elected to the U.S. House in 1980 and the U.S. Senate in 1996, set off the political dash by declining to run for re-election in 2020. He made the announcement in January in Manhattan.
Wagle answered the Pompeo comment by raising $400,000 in one week, an amount her campaign described as a momentum builder.
"I am humbled by the outpouring of support our campaign has received from all corners of Kansas," Wagle said. "I am heartened that our conservative message resonates with supporters all across Kansas and they are joining our campaign."
Marshall's campaign committee took in $100,000 the day after Pompeo declared a Senate campaign in 2020 was not ripe for discussion.
"It's was a pretty incredible 24 hours," said Brent Robertson, a Marshall adviser. "A lot of Republicans in Kansas were waiting to see what secretary Pompeo would do, and after yesterday's statement, the dam broke loose."
Jake LaTurner, the state treasurer who announced in January, said he raised $500,000 in the initial six months of 2019. He contrasted his donations from individual Kansans to the bounty of political action committee contributions accepted by Marshall.
Others in the GOP race are former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who lost the 2018 race for governor to Democrat Laura Kelly, and Dave Lindstrom, a businessman who played in the NFL. Democrats Barry Grissom, a former U.S. prosecutor, and Nancy Boyda, who served one term in the U.S. House, seek the party's nomination.