U.S. House, 1st District: GOP candidate Tracey Mann prevails in bitter primary feud

Garden City educator Kali Barnett secures Democratic nomination

Salina Republican Tracey Mann, upper right, defeated Bill Clifford, of Garden City, in the 1st District primary Tuesday, while Garden City Democrat Kali Barnett, lower left, prevailed in a primary campaign against Christy Cauble Davis, of Cottonwood Falls. (Submitted/Kansas Reflector)
Salina Republican Tracey Mann, upper right, defeated Bill Clifford, of Garden City, in the 1st District primary Tuesday, while Garden City Democrat Kali Barnett, lower left, prevailed in a primary campaign against Christy Cauble Davis, of Cottonwood Falls. (Submitted/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Former Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann took down a Republican rival Tuesday who waged an unexpectedly stout campaign for the 1st District congressional nomination and earned the right to compete against teacher and Democrat Kali Barnett in November.

The prize is the U.S. House seat to be vacated by Congressman Roger Marshall, who decided against seeking re-election for the opportunity to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts. Marshall’s gamble paid off with preliminary statewide returns showing he won the nomination.

Early returns also indicated Mann, who served one year as lieutenant governor under Gov. Jeff Colyer, would prevail by a wide margin in the race against Bill Clifford, a Garden City member of the Finney County Commission and a former Air Force fighter pilot. The unofficial tabulation of voting had Mann at 54% followed by Clifford at 33% in the four-person field.

Mann, of Salina, said he was pleased to have secured influential endorsements from the Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansans for Life PAC and National Rifle Association.

“We’ve run a really good campaign,” he said. “We’ve knocked on 30,000 doors. We’ve made tens of thousands of phone calls. We have almost 500 four-by-eight signs up. We have yard signs up all over the district. We have run a really strong grass roots campaign.”

Clifford presented himself as a conservative outsider and questioned Mann’s allegiance to the GOP. He also resented an ad from Mann’s campaign accusing him of acting like a “Democrat on illegal immigration” by helping bring Somali immigrants to southwest Kansas “even though Somalia is a terrorist hotbed.” Mann received bipartisan criticism for the late-campaign assault.

“Just when I didn’t think my opponent could sink any lower in his campaign of lies,” Clifford said, “he started to attack my integrity as a veteran.”

In terms of the Democrats, Barnett relied upon a massive fundraising edge to put distance on Christi Cauble Davis, a Cottonwood Falls resident who secured endorsements from Democrats who served in Congress and former Gov. John Carlin.

“I am proud of the campaign we ran in the primary, one focused on the people of the First District and the issues that affect them most,” said Barnett, a Garden City educator for 12 years and the daughter of a Kansas wheat farmer. “I am honored by the support of the voters of the Big First, and I look forward to bringing voters across the district together, and being a strong voice for Kansas families in Congress.”

The early results from the 1st District showed Barnett with 63% of the vote against Davis.

Vicki Hiatt, chairwoman of the Kansas Democratic Party, said she was excited about Barnett’s primary victory. “We couldn’t think of a stronger candidate to speak to hardworking Kansans and flip KS-01 blue,” Hiatt said.

The 1st District seat in Kansas has been the domain of the GOP for more than six decades. The seat has been passed since the mid-1950s from William Avery to Robert Dole, Keith Sebelius, Pat Roberts, Jerry Moran, Tim Huelskamp and Marshall.

No woman has sought a major party nomination in the sprawling, rural congressional district in more than half a century.

Davis said she was hopeful winning the Democratic nomination would set her on the path to being the second woman to serve western Kansas since Hays Democrat Kathryn McCarthy won a congressional campaign in 1932. McCarthy served one term in the U.S. House. Her support for the New Deal irritated some Kansas Republicans, including Gov. Alf Landon, who sought her defeat.