Kansas Republicans LaTurner, Marshall work to escape Pompeo’s ‘shadow’ in Senate race

Kansas Republicans Jake LaTurner, left, and Roger Marshall, right, both met separately with officials at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Kansas Republicans Jake LaTurner, left, and Roger Marshall, right, both met separately with officials at the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Two Kansas Republicans, taking steps to escape the shadow cast by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s possible U.S. Senate candidacy, are attempting to build support from national party leaders for what promises to be a crowded 2020 race.

Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner had official business in Washington this week: an appeal hearing in a lawsuit his office is waging against the federal government to recover an estimated $157 million in unclaimed U.S. Savings Bonds for Kansans.

He also made time to meet with officials at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the state’s two current GOP senators, Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, to discuss both the case and his race.

LaTurner’s Wednesday meeting with the NRSC came just a day after the NRSC’s chairman met with Rep. Roger Marshall, a Republican from western Kansas who is contemplating his own Senate run.

The meetings are a sign that national party officials are looking for alternatives if Pompeo isn’t enticed into a run for the seat that will be vacated by the retiring Roberts.

The filing deadline for candidates is June 2020.

“Mike Pompeo, his shadow is significant. He casts a big shadow over the state. And look, I want a conservative fighter in the United States Senate and Mike Pompeo checks that box,” said LaTurner, the only candidate to officially declare since Roberts’ January retirement announcement.

“He (Pompeo) can decide whenever he wants to if he wants to be a United States senator, but if we wait for that decision to be made we’re not going to have— not just me— no candidate if we wait a year from now will have the time necessary to be successful.”

Pompeo has repeatedly downplayed his interest in the Senate seat, but as recently as Tuesday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, was voicing support for a Pompeo run on Fox News.

In the meantime, LaTurner, who won election by double digits to a full term as treasurer in November, is crisscrossing the state to meet with voters and donors.

The Kansas Republican, who turns 31 this month, is eight years younger than the youngest current senator, Missouri Republican Josh Hawley.

“It is going to take a lot of time to work the state and raise the money necessary,” said LaTurner, who visited all 105 counties in the state in his first five months in office when he was first appointed as treasurer in 2017.

“I understand the need to get out of your office in Topeka and go see people and go talk to people and see what they care about.”

While LaTurner discussed his campaign with NRSC officials and Roberts, he stressed that his focus was a Thursday appearance at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Kansas and eight other states are suing to recover money from unclaimed U.S. savings bonds for the heirs of the original purchasers. Most were issued during World War Two.

Nationally, an estimated $23 billion in bonds remain unclaimed by heirs unaware that the federal government owes them the money. If the bond was issued after 1974, a Social Security number can be used to claim it. For bonds issued prior to 1974, the bond’s serial number is required, LaTurner said.

“They’re on the hook to pay this money back. The hook is if the people don’t know they have it, you don’t have to pay it,” LaTurner said. “That’s why they’re behaving this way.”

LaTurner is the only candidate to create a campaign committee to begin raising money. But Roberts said he’s talked to six prospective GOP candidates who are laying the groundwork.

“I’ve just told all of them the water’s fine. Jump in,” Roberts.

Marshall, who represents Kansas’ 1st congressional district, would be able to transfer the money from his U.S. House campaign account to a Senate campaign if he chooses to run.

As of Dec. 31, the account had a balance of more than $600,000, which would give him an early fundraising advantage. But he’d also have to give up a safe Republican House seat to join what is likely to be a crowded GOP senatorial primary.

Marshall met Tuesday with Sen. Todd Young, the Indiana Republican who chairs the NRSC, but said he still has not made up his mind on the race.

“I remain to be in no big hurry. There are always more pieces to the puzzle, but it was very encouraging. It was great to meet with Sen. Young, who is leading up the charge over there,” Marshall said.

The NRSC did not immediately comment on the meetings with Marshall and LaTurner. Marshall said he has no timeline for the decision and remains focused on his duties as a House member.

“I’m an obstetrician. I’m used to having a baby in labor and 40 women in the office and two kids and a ball game, so it’s one more ball in the air. But my focus is on my job… If I showed you my schedule right now, it’s pretty much sun up to sundown with my duties here,” he said.

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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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