Trump, GOP largely carry Kansas; incumbents hold onto House seats

photo by: Associated Press

Voters cast ballots in the general election in Heritage Hall at the Stormont Vail Event Center, Tuesday morning, Nov. 3, 2020, in Topeka, Kan. (Evert Nelson/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

Story updated at 10:59 p.m. Tuesday

TOPEKA (AP) — Republican Roger Marshall won the most competitive U.S. Senate race in Kansas in decades, while President Donald Trump carried the state again in the presidential race and voters elected two new Republican congressmen.

The marquee race in Tuesday’s election was the Senate contest between Marshall, a two-term GOP congressman representing western and central Kansas, in the most expensive political race in state history. Democrat Barbara Bollier, a Kansas City-area state senator, set a state record by raising more than $25 million for her campaign to Marshall’s $6.5 million. Outside groups poured in $41 million on advertising, the bulk of it from GOP groups backing Marshall.

Marshall will replace retiring four-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, and two of the state’s four U.S. House seats were open this year.

GOP WINS HOT SENATE RACE

Democrats have not won a Senate race in Kansas since 1932, and Marshall’s victory thwarted what seemed Democrats’ best shot since 1974, when then-Republican Sen. Bob Dole won reelection by less than 2 percentage points following the Watergate scandal that forced President Richard Nixon from office.

Marshall and his allies attacked Bollier for her strong support of abortion rights and gun control measures, and wavering GOP voters drifted back to the fold, as they have in past elections.

Bollier, a former lifelong moderate Republican who switched parties at the end of 2018, was among the Democratic candidates around the country who attracted millions of dollars in contributions from outside their home states as the party tried to take control of the Senate. Bollier pitched herself as an independent centrist.

PRESIDENTIAL RACE

Trump’s hold on Kansas’ six electoral votes always seemed secure, given that no Democratic presidential candidate has carried the state since incumbent Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 national landslide. Trump won Kansas by nearly 21 percentage points over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

But with Trump’s support in suburban areas eroded, Democrats hoped presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden would do better than Clinton. Democrat Barack Obama topped 41% in Kansas in 2008, and Jimmy Carter approached 45% in 1976.

RECORD NUMBERS EXPECTED

The state’s top elections official forecast a 70% turnout, predicting that a record 1.35 million of the state’s nearly 1.94 million registered would cast ballots. The coronavirus pandemic led to an unusual surge in early voting, with more than 813,005 ballots cast before Election Day by mail or in person. Even before polls opened on Election Day, the state had reached a 42% turnout rate, and election officials said they expected to exceed their initial forecast turnout by the time all ballots were cast.

NEW HOUSE MEMBERS

Marshall’s decision to run for the Senate opened up his seat representing the sprawling 1st Congressional District in central and western Kansas. The district is among the safest in the country for Republicans, and former Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann, a commercial real estate broker from Salina, defeated Democrat Kali Barnett, a Garden City elementary school teacher.

Republicans also were expected to retain the 2nd District seat representing eastern Kansas after State Treasurer Jake LaTurner ousted Rep. Steve Watkins in the GOP primary. Watkins was charged with three felonies for allegedly listing a postal box at a UPS Inc. store as his residence for voter registration late last year. LaTurner was vying for the seat Tuesday with Topeka’s Democratic mayor, Michelle De La Isla.

INCUMBENTS EXPECTED TO WIN

The lone Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation, freshman Rep. Sharice Davids, defeated Republican Amanda Adkins to win a second term representing the state’s 3rd Congressional District, in the Kansas City area. Adkins is an executive on leave from medical computer systems firm Cerner Corp. and a former Kansas Republican Party chairwoman who has political ties to unpopular former GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. After winning the seat in 2018, Davids positioned herself as a centrist in Congress. Trump lost the district narrowly in 2016.

In the 4th District in the Wichita area, Republican Rep. Ron Estes was reelected.

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