LISTEN LIVE KPR - On Air: Listen Live to classical, jazz and NPR news Schedule LATEST
NEWSCAST
KPR 2 - On Air: Listen live to KPR's all talk-radio service, KPR2 Recordings

Share this page              

Kansas Treasurer LaTurner Trades Senate Race for 2020 GOP Primary Match Against Congressman Watkins

Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner is leaving the U.S. Senate race to challenge the 2nd Congressional District incumbent Steve Watkins. (Photo by Jim McLean)

Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner is ending his campaign for the U.S. Senate and will instead launch a primary challenge against Republican Congressman Steve Watkins.

LaTurner said he’s switching his efforts to run for the 2nd District, arguing that Watkins isn’t running a good campaign and it could cost the Republican Party the seat. 

"Second District residents deserve a solid conservative fighter they can count on," LaTurner said in a news release, adding later, "We must nominate a Republican that can win the general election and fight for our principles."

Watkins is in his first term and the announcement comes a week after former Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer publically urged LaTurner to challenge Watkins in next year’s election. 

The decision ultimately affects two races: the competition for the U.S. House seat and the race to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts. LaTurner leaving the Senate race takes one of the high-profile candidates out of that competition, although it still includes a wide field of Republicans

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins will face a challenger in his 2020 re-election bid.
CREDIT BRIAN GRIMMETT / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

Watkins' campaign fired back after LaTurner’s announcement, calling the treasurer a career politician who’s focused on climbing the political ladder. 

"The contrast could not be more clear — a life of service versus a life of self-service," Watkins spokesman Bryan Piligra said. “Congressman Watkins is a war veteran, engineer, and conservative leader who votes in support of our President 93% of the time."

Watkins has been a point of some controversy. During his 2018 campaign, he faced allegations of sexual misconduct, as well as reports that he may have exaggerated his business experience and his background as an adventurer

Still, Watkins shrugged those off and went on to win a narrow victory over Democrat Paul Davis.

“You put all that together,” said University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller, “and Steve Watkins comes across as someone who heading into 2020 could possibly be vulnerable in a primary.”

What does surprise Miller is that Colyer publicly called for the primary challenge.

“Typically, the party gets behind incumbents and supports them,” Miller said.

A former Statehouse staffer, Democrat Abbie Hodgson, is running for the 2nd District seat. She came forward in 2017 with accusations about sexual harassment in the Kansas Legislature — accusations that helped prompt legislative leaders to schedule sexual harassment training and update policies. 

The most recent financial report showed LaTurner had almost a half-million dollars for his Senate campaign, which can be rolled into the House campaign. That’s about double what Watkins reported for his re-election bid. In addition, Watkins still had $270,000 in debt from personal loans to the campaign.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda or email skoranda (at) ku (dot) edu.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Tower Frequencies

91.5 FM KANU Lawrence, Topeka, Kansas City
96.1 FM K241AR Lawrence (KPR2)
89.7 FM KANH Emporia
99.5 FM K258BT Manhattan
97.9 FM K250AY Manhattan (KPR2)
91.3 FM  KANV Junction City, Olsburg
89.9 FM K210CR Atchison
90.3 FM KANQ Chanute

See the Coverage Map for more details

Contact Us

Kansas Public Radio
1120 West 11th Street
Lawrence, KS 66044
Download Map
785-864-4530 (Main Line)
888-577-5268 (Toll Free)
contact@kansaspublicradio.org