Vice President Pence stumps for 2nd District candidate Steve Watkins in Kansas
photo by: Peter Hancock
Updated at 4 p.m. Friday
TOPEKA – Vice President Mike Pence came to Topeka Friday to rally support and raise money for Republican 2nd District congressional candidate Steve Watkins.
Speaking to an audience of about 160 people, who paid $250 each to attend the event, Pence said electing Watkins would be critical for Republicans to hold onto their majority in the U.S. House and continue advancing their conservative agenda.
“I believe in all my heart that with Steve Watkins and a renewed Republican majority on Capitol Hill, and with renewed Republican leadership all across the state of Kansas, with President Donald Trump in the White House, and with God’s help, we will make Kansas and America more prosperous than ever before,” Pence said at the end of a roughly 20-minute address.
Most of Pence’s speech focused on Trump’s record during his first two years in office. Among other things, he highlighted passage of a massive tax cut last year, a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, and the appointment of conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, including the most recent appointee, Brett Kavanaugh.
“I think there’s only one way you can describe the last two years,” Pence said. “It’s been two years of action. It’s been two years of results. It’s been two years of promises made and promises kept.”
Pence, an Indiana Republican, served 12 years in the House from 2001 to 2013. He left Congress to run for governor of Indiana and was elected in 2012. He served one term in that office before he was tapped by Trump to be his vice presidential running mate.
He has been crisscrossing the country for the last several days campaigning for Republican House candidates and GOP state officials. On Thursday, he was in Wichita stumping for GOP gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach.
His appearances in Kansas came just two weeks after Trump himself held a campaign rally in Topeka on behalf of both Watkins and Kobach in Topeka. That event drew more than 10,000 people at the Kansas Expocentre.
Pence’s Friday appearance also came just 18 days before the Nov. 6 general election.
Polls have shown Republicans may be in danger of losing their 23-seat majority in the U.S. House this year, and the 2nd District of Kansas is one that could tip the balance.
“The reason why you’re seeing so much activity in this race is that national Democrats know that the pathway to a Democrat majority in the House of Representatives goes straight through your district,” Pence said.
The 2nd District is an open race this year because incumbent Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins is stepping down. Watkins, a political newcomer, faces Democrat Paul Davis, of Lawrence, in the general election.
Davis is a former state lawmaker and was the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor in 2014, when he lost a narrow race against then-incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback.
Pence used part of his speech to take shots at Davis, saying his election would usher in a new era of liberalism in Washington.
“The truth of the matter is, if Paul Davis makes it to Washington, D.C., the likelihood is that we’ll see Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as speaker of the House again,” Pence said. “Now let me tell you something, I was there the last time that happened. You don’t ever want to see that happen again.”
Davis has said throughout the campaign that, if elected, he would not support Pelosi to become the next speaker.
Also on Friday, the Davis campaign released two new television ads. One features a number of Republicans endorsing Davis, including former Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and former Lawrence Mayor Rob Chestnut.
Another, titled “Suspicious,” challenges Watkins’ truthfulness about his own biography, based on news reports that have exposed false or misleading statements Watkins has made about his business background and experiences climbing Mount Everest and racing in Alaska’s Iditarod.