Pompeo talks trade — not 2020 Senate run — at Missouri-Kansas Forum breakfast

If attendees of the Missouri-Kansas Forum breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday were looking for any hints that guest of honor Mike Pompeo might still consider a Senate run in 2020, they came up empty.

The event’s format allowed members of the audience to ask the Secretary of State questions, but no one asked him about the Kansas Senate race, and Pompeo did not bring it up, multiple sources told The Kansas City Star. The sources requested anonymity to discuss Pompeo’s remarks at the event, which were off the record.

Pompeo talked mostly about trade at the breakfast at Charlie Palmer, an upscale steakhouse.

Republican leaders in Washington, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have tried to recruit Pompeo to run for an open Senate seat in Kansas in 2020. But Pompeo told FOX News last month that his “singular focus” is on his job as Secretary of State.

The Missouri-Kansas Forum is a Washington-based group that represents businesses, associations and other groups with ties to the Kansas City region. It regularly hosts lawmakers and other officials with ties to the region for off-the-record events.

Pompeo, who previously addressed the group as a congressman, agreed to the appearance in December before Sen. Pat Roberts’ retirement announcement spurred an effort to recruit him into the 2020 Senate race.

Russell Orban, the forum’s chairman, declined to comment on the content of Pompeo’s speech, which took place the same day as President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has personally encouraged Pompeo to consider a run and discussed it during an interview on Fox News hours before Trump’s speech. Pompeo could wait until June 2020 to enter the race.

“I’d sure like for him to think about it. Kansas has a very late filing date,” McConnell said. “Mike’s doing a great job as secretary of state. I don’t see any particular urgency for him to leave that job, the president’s obviously happy with him being secretary of state. At some point he might decide he wants a different job and I wanted him to know that we’d all be behind him if he did.”

Roberts said he stopped by the breakfast to say hello to Pompeo, but had to leave before the secretary’s remarks.

He said Pompeo has given no further indication that he planned to jump into the Senate race, although the two keep in touch by phone.

“He’s got a full-time job and I think he’s doing a good job,” Roberts said. “But I wouldn’t rule it out.”

Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, also attended the closed-door event. Marshall, who is mulling his own Senate run, wouldn’t discuss the content of Pompeo’s off-the-record speech, but cast doubt on the notion that Pompeo will give up his current role as the nation’s top diplomat.

“He’s a very straightforward person: His yes is his yes. His no is his no,” Marshall said. “I think he’s very comfortable right where he is.”

Marshall still hasn’t made his own decision about a run for Senate, but he said he’s concerned about a lack of leadership in the Kansas Republican Party and has been encouraged by his wife to mount a campaign.

In a sign that Marshall is inching closer to a run, the western Kansas congressman met Tuesday afternoon with Sen. Todd Young, the Indiana Republican who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, according to a source familiar with the meeting.

Kate Irby and Lesley Clark of McClatchy’s Washington Bureau contributed to this report.
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Lindsay Wise is an investigative reporter for McClatchy’s Washington Bureau. Previously, Lindsay worked for six years as the Washington correspondent for McClatchy’s Kansas City Star. Before joining McClatchy in 2012, she worked as a reporter at the Houston Chronicle, where she specialized in coverage of veterans and military issues as well as the city’s Arab and Muslim communities.
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Bryan Lowry covers Kansas and Missouri politics as Washington correspondent for The Kansas City Star. He previously served as Kansas statehouse correspondent for The Wichita Eagle and as The Star’s lead political reporter. Lowry contributed to The Star’s investigation into government secrecy that was a finalist for The Pulitzer Prize.
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