Elections

Kansas lawmakers say they support Trump, but most won’t say his name

From left, U.S. Reps. Tim Huelskamp, Lynn Jenkins and Mike Pompeo, all R-Kan., participate Friday in a congressional forum hosted by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Wichita Area Chamber of Commerce and Black & Veatch. (Aug. 14, 2015)
From left, U.S. Reps. Tim Huelskamp, Lynn Jenkins and Mike Pompeo, all R-Kan., participate Friday in a congressional forum hosted by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Wichita Area Chamber of Commerce and Black & Veatch. (Aug. 14, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

Members of Congress from Kansas, all Republicans, have stayed relatively quiet since Donald Trump effectively became their party’s nominee for president.

The four members of the House of Representatives and two senators didn’t issue congratulatory news releases, tweets or Facebook posts. The Kansas Republican Party, which will send 40 delegates to the July convention in Cleveland, where Trump will be nominated, had little to say about him.

Those who did offer their support either didn’t say Trump’s name or offered tepid endorsements.

Rep. Mike Pompeo “will support the nominee of the Republican Party because Hillary Clinton cannot be president of the United States,” said T.W. Arrighi, a spokesman.

“He wasn’t my first choice,” said Rep. Kevin Yoder, who also cited Clinton as the reason for backing Trump.

He wasn’t my first choice.

Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan.

Their leader in Washington, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, wasn’t ready to say even that much.

“I’m not there right now,” Ryan said Thursday on CNN.

Democrats, meanwhile, wasted little time linking Kansas Republicans to Trump.

“A vote this year for Kevin Yoder is a vote for Donald Trump,” said Kerry Gooch, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party.

All Kansas members except for Sen. Pat Roberts are up for re-election in the fall, and they will share the ticket with Trump, who got only 23 percent of the vote in the state’s March Republican caucus.

“We can’t have our elected federal officials supporting someone who will further the divisive atmosphere and encourage hatred and violence,” Gooch said.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who won the Kansas caucus with 48 percent of the vote, ended his presidential bid late Tuesday after losing to Trump in Indiana.

Sen. Jerry Moran, who did not make an endorsement in the primary, offered cautious support for Trump on Thursday.

“Donald Trump’s candidacy has resulted in a larger number of previously unengaged Kansans and Americans choosing to take part in the political process, which is a good thing for our country,” Moran said in a statement.

However, Moran said Trump would need to address “serious concerns” that he and other conservatives had about some of his positions and comments and to unite the party.

“If he accomplishes this,” Moran said, “he will have my support.”

Others were even more reserved.

Sen. Pat Roberts, who had endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, “intends to support the Republican nominee,” said his spokeswoman, Sarah Little.

Eileen Hawley, a spokeswoman for Gov. Sam Brownback, said the governor would attend the convention in Cleveland, though not as a delegate.

“As the governor has said previously,” she said, “he will support the Republican candidate.”

Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. And it’s now time for the Republican Party to get together and make sure Hillary Clinton does not get elected.

Kelly Arnold, chairman, Kansas Republican Party

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, who endorsed Cruz, has not said whether he’ll support Trump. Nor has Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who had endorsed former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was the most prominent elected official in Kansas to have backed Trump.

In February, Kansas Republicans even invited one of Trump’s most prominent Republican critics on Capitol Hill, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, to speak at their convention banquet.

But now Kelly Arnold, the state party’s chairman, urged Republicans to get behind their standard bearer.

“Donald Trump is the Republican nominee,” he said Wednesday. “And it’s now time for the Republican Party to get together and make sure Hillary Clinton does not get elected.”

Dave Helling of The Kansas City Star contributed to this story from Lenexa, Kansas.

Curtis Tate: 202-383-6018, @tatecurtis

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