U.S. Senate: Marshall defeats Kobach in GOP primary, will face Bollier

By: - August 4, 2020 10:25 pm
U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, right, the 1st District congressman and GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, welcomes President Donald Trump's latest executive orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic . (Veronica Coons/Great Bend Tribune)

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, right, the 1st District congressman and GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, welcomes President Donald Trump’s latest executive orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic . (Veronica Coons/Great Bend Tribune)

TOPEKA — U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall defeated GOP rival Kris Kobach on Tuesday in a U.S. Senate primary thronged with mud-slinging fortified by out-of-state cash and meddling by optimistic Democrats.

The two-term congressman from the 1st District led a pack of 11 men after a mad dash to the far right in which candidates tried to distinguish themselves as the most conservative, Trump-loving, swamp-draining, wall-building Republican in the bunch. Marshall had 40% of the vote with a majority of ballots counted from across the state, followed by Kobach at 26% and Kansas City plumber Bob Hamilton at 19%.

Marshall held his watch party at Rosewood Winery in southwestern Barton County, near the city of Pawnee Rock.

“I think we have a big tent that’s founded on Kansas values, values like faith and family,” Marshall said. “I think that that’s where it’s going to start, getting Republicans out to vote and then to have a message of hope though to bring moderates and independents under the tent as well.”

He will face Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier in November.

The race saw unprecedented advanced voting numbers. More than 215,000 mail-in ballots were turned in before Tuesday, and nearly 50,000 additional ballots could be counted if postmarked by Election Day and received by 5 p.m. Friday.

At stake: The balance of power in the U.S. Senate, the body that checks judicial nominations and resolves impeachment trials. Democrats need to flip three or four seats to gain control of the Senate.

Kansas Republican Party chairman Mike Kuckelman monitors results Tuesday from his law office in Leawood. (Adriana Martinez for Kansas Reflector)

Although Kansas hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate in 88 years, Republicans feared Kobach lacked broad enough support to win a statewide general election. Democrats invested heavily in attacks on Marshall.

Bollier, a retired physician from Mission Hills who was a Republican until two years ago, plans to follow the playbook executed by then-state Sen. Laura Kelly when she defeated Kobach in the 2018 governor’s race. She has raised more money than the GOP field, and polling shows her in a virtual tie in a head-to-head race with Marshall.

“Would you believe that a woman physician has never been elected to the Senate before?” Bollier said. “We’re going to change that.”

Bollier received 86% of votes in her contest with Robert Tillman for the Democratic nomination.

Kansas Democratic Party Chairman Vicki Hiatt said Bollier has proven she has the grassroots support she needs to win the general election.

“Bollier has spent her political career advocating for affordable health care, quality education and fiscal responsibility,” Hiatt said. “Hardworking Kansans need a voice of reason in the U.S. Senate who will advocate for their best interests.”

Marshall’s pitch to GOP primary voters: “Vote for the only Republican who can win in November.”

“A Democrat group has slandered me and propped up Kobach to the tune of nearly $5 million,” Marshall said. “They’re terrified of facing us in November. I’ll wear that as a badge of honor.”

Known for authoring and defending anti-immigration policies and restrictions on voter registration, Kobach bragged about tormenting Democrats in Congress.

“I don’t care what people say about me,” Kobach said on the Kansas Reflector podcast. “I recognize that I work for the voter, and I will fight for them.”

Hamilton spent millions in TV ads branding himself as a plunger-wielding entrepreneur uniquely qualified to take on D.C. power brokers.

“I’m tired of empty words from career politicians who never change anything for the good of the people,” Hamilton said. “I’ve never held office, and I never planned to. But if we are going to change Washington, real people have to step up and challenge the Washington insiders. As I say, if you want to drain the swamp, hire a plumber.”

Other Republicans on the ballot included Kansas Board of Education member Steve Roberts, Lance Berland, John Berman, Derek Ellis, Brian Matlock, John Miller and Gabriel Robles. Each received less than 5% of the vote.

Veronica Coons of the Great Bend Tribune contributed to this story.

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. A lifelong Kansan, he graduated from Emporia State University in 2004 as a Shepherd Scholar with a degree in English.

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