U.S. Rep. Pat Roberts' entry into the Republican primary for U.S. Senate makes him the "instant front-runner," a Kansas University professor says.
U.S. Rep. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has decided to run for the U.S. Senate after all, an aide said Wednesday.
"He's gonna run," Leroy Towns, Robert's administrative aide, said in a telephone interview.
"It's a decision he's been working on for several days," Towns said, explaining the state's 1st District congressman will give his reasons for entering the race in a press conference Friday.
Roberts had earlier decided against running, explaining that he was too busy working on the federal farm bill to devote time to a campaign. However, aides said that he has been encouraged to reconsider and that work is almost finished on the farm bill.
Roberts' entry will help firm up decisions by several other potential candidates for the seat, which opened when U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kan., decided to retire.
For example, U.S. Rep. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., had been considering the race. However, Brownback said Wednesday while in Tonganoxie that he wouldn't run against Roberts.
The only Republican now in the race is Eric Yost, a Wichita attorney and former state senator. Yost won't comment about Roberts' candidacy until Roberts makes a formal announcement, a campaign aide said Wednesday.
However, Yost criticized Brownback, Roberts and Gov. Bill Graves on Monday, saying they were conspiring to talk Roberts into running to make it harder for Yost to win the primary.
Another Republican, Darol Rodrock, a wealthy Johnson County real estate developer, said Tuesday he was interested in the seat but has made no formal decision.
Robert's entry into the race makes him "the instant front-runner," said Ken Collier, a Kansas University professor. "This will have a chilling effect on a lot of the people who were thinking about running. ... But I don't know how Yost matches up against somebody like Roberts."
Allan Cigler, a KU professor of political science and government, said the primary could draw more Republicans, but the heavyweights would be Roberts and Yost.
Although State Treasurer Sally Thompson, a Democrat, has said she will run, Cigler predicted a GOP victory in the general election.
"We're the only state left that has not elected a Democratic senator since the New Deal, and it doesn't look like that's going to be broken," Cigler said.
Russell Getter, a KU associate professor of political science and government, said Roberts could get a strong challenge from Yost, who is "very, very good at raising money."
Roberts' main support is in the west, and Yost will have support from Wichita and south-central Kansas, Getter said. The outcome of the election might hinge on which of them is able to get the GOP votes in northeast Kansas, specifically, Douglas, Johnson and Shawnee counties, Getter said.
"This could be the battleground," he said.
Meanwhile, Towns said Roberts was influenced to run by Republicans worried that Kansas will lose clout in the Senate when Kassebaum leaves and if Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., is elected president.