Washington He called the possibility remote earlier this month, but former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman apparently is now mulling a challenge of his longtime colleague, Kansas GOP Sen. Pat Roberts.
Glickman was traveling Wednesday and did not return telephone calls from The Associated Press. But the longtime Kansas Democratic congressman is telling folks he is considering it, several allies in Kansas and Washington said.
"He hasn't made up his mind," Kansas Democratic Party Chairman Tom Sawyer said. "We're very encouraged that he's at least considering it. I think he'd be a great candidate."
Sawyer said Glickman's interest had developed recently, adding, "I know others he's talked to in the last couple of weeks."
Glickman enthusiasts are buoyed by news of a recent poll conducted in Kansas by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the political arm of Senate Democrats.
The committee's executive director, Jim Jordan, said he couldn't release details until later in the week but called the results "shockingly weak" for Roberts.
Roberts' top aide, Leroy Towns, said talk of the poll was "a political ploy to pressure someone to run." Roberts' own polling over the years has never shown him less than 15 points ahead in a matchup with Glickman, Towns said.
Roberts himself declined to comment on Glickman's apparent interest in a race. The two men are friends, both known for wry humor, and served for years together in the House.
As chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Roberts helped shepherd Glickman's 1995 confirmation to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They have maintained a cordial relationship despite sparring even in recent years over the 1996 Farm Bill, which Roberts authored.
Glickman, 56, dismissed the idea of a candidacy as recently as July 5. "I never say never to running for office, but it's so extremely remote," he told the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.
Roberts, 65, is running for a second Senate term and plans to report a campaign bank balance of $546,159 to the Federal Election Commission later this month, Towns said last week. The senator's contributions for the past six months were $431,890, bringing his total raised for the six-year election cycle to $687,193 to date.
The former eight-term congressman raised nearly $2.3 million in his 1996 Senate race against former Democratic state Treasurer Sally Thompson, which he won with 62 percent to Thompson's 34 percent.
Dan Allen, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP's campaign arm, called Roberts "one of our strongest members going into next year."
"He's well-positioned no matter who he runs against," Allen said.
Glickman lost his bid for a 10th term representing Wichita in 1994, the year a conservative wave swept Newt Gingrich and the Republicans to control of Congress. His challenger, GOP Rep. Todd Tiahrt, won a fourth term in November.
After leaving USDA last January, Glickman joined a Washington lobbying firm, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. He is an occasional lecturer at Wichita State University.
Another Glickman ally, Rep. Dennis Moore, said Glickman "is in the perfect position to run, if he chooses to do that."
"I think he probably could decide to devote himself almost full time to a campaign," Moore added. He speaks frequently with Glickman but wouldn't say whether they had discussed the Senate race in Kansas.