The most influential agriculture organization in Kansas on Friday endorsed former Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner and incumbent U.S. Rep. Ron Estes in Republican primaries for U.S. House.
The Kansas Farm Bureau’s political action committee sided with Mann in the 1st District of western Kansas days after putting its faith in U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, who is leaving that job to run for U.S. Senate. LaTurner is challenging U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins in the 2nd District, while Estes is seeking re-election in the 4th District.
The KFB endorsement process began earlier this year with individual recommendations from Farm Bureau organizations in the 63 counties that comprise the 1st District, the 25 counties that make up the 2nd District and the 17 counties that comprise the 4th District.
There were clear majorities from county Farm Bureau organizations in each U.S. House district in support of Mann, LaTurner and Estes.
"Tracey Mann will be an outstanding Congressman for the Big First District," said Richard Felts, a Montgomery County farmer who serves as president of Farm Bureau. "His experience as lieutenant governor, combined with his deep understanding of rural Kansas and our short- and long-term challenges and opportunities, make Tracey Mann the clear choice this year."
He said LaTurner’s work in the Kansas Senate and as state treasurer prepared him for work in Washington, D.C. Estes was endorsed for re-election, which wasn’t a surprise. The organization didn’t pinpoint a favorite in the 3rd District Republican race for a seat held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids.
Mann, of Salina, was appointed lieutenant governor by Gov. Jeff Colyer in February 2018 and served in that capacity until January 2019, when both left office. Colyer lost the GOP gubernatorial primary to Kris Kobach, who was defeated in the general election by Democrat Laura Kelly.
Other GOP candidates in the 1st District contest are state Rep. Troy Waymaster, who is from Bunker Hill and serves as the House budget chairman, and Bill Clifford, an ophthalmologist from Garden City and a member of the Finney County Commission.
Mann said the objective was to protect Kansas’ interests as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, be supportive of President Donald Trump, protect gun rights and oppose abortion. The voice of the Farm Bureau is significant in the campaign, he said.
"It is extremely important," said Mann, a Salina resident who built a career in commercial real estate. "I am delighted and honored to receive it."
LaTurner said the state’s agricultural industry was key to the state’s economy and the livelihood of many Kansans. "Our ag producers can be confident that I will be a tireless advocate for them," he said.
Marshall, who seeks the U.S. Senate seat made available by retirement of Pat Roberts, earned the blessing of farmers and ranchers in the Farm Bureau.
Felts urged other Republican candidates seeking the U.S. Senate nomination to unite behind Marshall.
"It’s clear Roger Marshall has the momentum, both in grassroots support throughout Kansas and in his ability to generate the resources needed to mount a successful campaign," Felts said. "In every political campaign, there comes a time when hard, realistic decisions must be made, and we believe that time is now."
Leadership of the Kansas Republican Party recommended Susan Wagle, the Kansas Senate president from Wichita, and retired Kansas City Chiefs player Dave Lindstrom withdraw from the U.S. Senate campaign.
The Kansas GOP’s strategy was to open maneuvering room for Marshall to take on Kris Kobach, the former secretary of state in Kansas. State Republican leaders are concerned nomination of Kobach could help a Democrat prevail in November.
Lindstrom and Wagle declined to step aside, while Kobach and Lindstrom called for the state party chairman to resign for attempting to manipulate the primary campaign.
Meanwhile, Kobach sent a letter requesting the Keep Kansas Great political action committee aligned with Marshall to withdraw an attack ad designed to undermine Kobach. Kobach said the nonpartisan, nonprofit Factcheck.org labeled the ad as "misleading."
"I am asking you to run a clean and honest race with an end goal of all Kansas Republicans rallying around the eventual primary winner. Your PAC's ad attempts to mislead our fellow Kansans. They deserve better" Kobach said.
In the spot, Kobach said, the voiceover falsely claimed President Donald Trump quit supporting Kobach and it incorrectly claimed Kobach demanded access to a private jet if hired to work in the Trump administration. It inaccurately characterized Club for Growth as an "anti-Trump" organization bankrolling Kobach’s campaign, Kobach said.
Kobach said the PAC’s ad took out of context a clip from a Trump speech in which he referred to Club for Growth as "pathetic" and "phony." Kobach said Club for Growth hadn’t donated to his U.S. Senate campaign and that he sought access to government aircraft if hired by Trump.