Topeka The field of candidates in the 2nd District congressional race got smaller Wednesday as Republican Matt Bevens suspended his campaign and threw his support behind state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth.
Bevens said at a Statehouse news conference Wednesday that he was backing Fitzgerald because they both supported imposing term limits for members of Congress.
"We need someone who will go to D.C., not as a career politician, but as someone who will serve the best interests of Kansans," Bevens said.
Bevens was not considered a leading contender for the GOP nomination. After entering the race in October, he reported raising only $5,790 at the end of the year.
Fitzgerald, who entered the race in July, reported raising $88,389 by the end of last year. He also has loaned $150,000 of his own money to his campaign.
Other Republicans in the race include state Sen. Caryn Tyson, of Parker; Rep. Kevin Jones, of Ottawa; Basehor City Council member Vernon J. Fields; and Topeka resident Steve Watkins, a U.S. Army veteran.
Bevens' withdrawal from the race came on the same day that the political handicapping website Sabato's Crystal Ball changed its rating for the 2nd District from "leans Republican" to "toss-up," indicating it's a seat that Democrats stand a 50-50 chance of picking up this year.
Another handicapping site, Real Clear Politics, also recently changed its rating of the district to toss-up.
The seat is currently held by Republican Lynn Jenkins, of Topeka, who announced shortly after the 2016 election that she would not seek another term.
Former state Rep. Paul Davis, of Lawrence, is the only major Democratic candidate in the 2nd District race.
During the news conference, Fitzgerald did not mention Davis by name, but he did say, "We cannot put our national security at risk by sending a Democrat to Congress to obstruct the president's agenda.
"We must win this seat and advance the agenda that the American people approved," he said.
The announcement by Bevens and Fitzgerald also came on the same day that U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., announced that he would not seek another term in Congress.
Republicans hold a 45-seat majority in the U.S. House, with six of the seats currently vacant. That means Democrats could take control of the House if they pick up 23 of the seats that are currently held by Republicans.
Fitzpatrick said a recent special election in Pennsylvania, where a Democrat won a seat in a district that President Trump had carried by a wide margin in 2016, showed that no House seat can be considered completely safe for Republicans.
"I think the message to Republicans is clear," he said. "This is a challenge. This is a contest that we must win."