Topeka (AP) - After more than a decade away from Kansas and its politics, former Rep. Jim Slattery is jumping back in.
Democratic officials confirmed Wednesday that Slattery plans to seek the party's nomination to challenge Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. Slattery had indicated earlier this month at a party gathering in Topeka that he was rethinking an earlier decision not to run.
He said Wednesday that he would be in Topeka next week to make a formal announcement about his plans. He declined to comment further.
Mike Gaughan, executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, said party officials had been courting Slattery since last year to take on Roberts.
"He intends to make the race. He's been talking to Kansans disappointed with the way Pat Roberts has been inattentive to Kansans' needs in Washington," Gaughan said.
Lee Jones, who ran unsuccessfully in 2004 against Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, is the only Democrat to file for the office.
Slattery, of Topeka, represented the 2nd District of eastern Kansas in 1983-94 and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1994. He had been mentioned as a potential Senate candidate but said in November he wouldn't challenge Roberts.
He's currently a lobbyist for a Washington, D.C., law firm.
Jackie Cottrell, Roberts' chief of staff, said the senator's campaign would draw a distinction between someone who serves the public and someone serving special interests.
"Slattery's entry into the race shows how desperate the Democrats are to get a candidate," Cottrell said in a written statement.
Corrie Kangas, political director for the Kansas Republican Party, said Slattery "abandoned" the state after losing to Republican Bill Graves in the 2004 gubernatorial race.
"He's the poster-child for fat-cat lobbyists who has come back for no apparent reason, other than to run against a widely admired senator," she said. "Sen. Roberts is well positioned. He's not taking anything for granted."
Roberts served in the U.S. House representing western Kansas for eight terms from 1980-96. He has been aggressively raising money for an expected Democratic challenge. In January, his campaign said it had nearly $3 million in cash available to mount his bid for a third term.
Other factors are on Roberts' side, too.
Nearly half of the state's voters are registered as Republicans, and they outnumber registered Democrats by about 322,000. No Democratic presidential candidate has carried Kansas since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and no Democrat has won an election for the Senate since 1932.
Jones, 56 is a former official with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers who lobbied in Topeka and Washington.
He lost the Senate race in 2004, receiving only 27 percent of the vote against GOP incumbent Brownback. He didn't even win the primary but picked up the nomination from party leaders when the political unknown who had defeated him dropped out.
Greg Orman, of Olathe, a managing director of a private equity company, dropped out of the race last month because of what he said were "compromises necessary to be elected." Orman had raised about $450,000 for his campaign.