By John Celock
A Kansas congresswoman announced that she would not seek election to any office in 2018, ending speculation that she was planning a run for governor.
U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R) posted on Facebook Wednesday morning that she “will not be running for any office in 2018” and seeking a return to the private sector. Jenkins, an accountant, has served in Congress since 2009 and had been considered a GOP frontrunner for the governorship in 2018 when Gov. Sam Brownback (R) is term limited.
“In two years, at the conclusion of this Congress, I plan to retire and explore opportunities to return to the private sector, allowing a new citizen legislator to step up and serve Kansans,” Jenkins wrote.
Jenkins’ decision not to seek the governorship opens up the gubernatorial field on the Republican side, where Jenkins was seen as the frontrunner. Ed O’Malley, the head of the Kansas Leadership Institute and a former state lawmaker, has formed an exploratory committee for a potential run for governor on the GOP side. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, state Senate President Susan Wagle and businessman Wink Hartman are all mentioned as potential gubernatorial candidates for the GOP nomination. Former state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the unsuccessful 2014 Democratic nominee for governor, is considered a potential candidate on the Democratic side.
Schmidt had been considered a contender for Jenkins’ congressional seat which spans most of the eastern part of the state, excluding Kansas City and the Johnson County suburbs. In addition to Schmidt, several state legislators, including state Sen. Jake LaTurner, could enter the race for Jenkins’ seat on the Republican side. On the Democratic side, Brittani Potter, who lost to Jenkins in 2016 has announced plans to run again in 2018. Other potential Democratic contenders include state Rep. Adam Lusker.
Jenkins has been a fixture in Kansas politics since the 1990s. She served one term in the state House of Representatives and one term in the state Senate, prior to her 2002 election as state treasurer, an office she was reelected to in 2006. In 2008, she defeated former U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun (R) for the GOP nomination for Congress, before going on to unseat then U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda (D) to head to Washington. Boyda had unseated Ryun in 2006.
In Washington, Jenkins has been known as a rising star among Republicans, winning a seat in her first term on the Financial Services Committee and moving to the powerful Ways and Means Committee in her second term, where she continues to serve. She served several years in the House Republican leadership as conference vice chairwoman.
Jenkins wrote that she believes that it is time for elected officials to focus on governing and not fundraising, saying that she wants to work with President Donald Trump on a variety of issues. She said that Trump’s inauguration; along with GOP control of Congress presents an opportunity.
“With the unique opportunity given to us by the American people, with Republican majorities in the House, the Senate, and now a newly inaugurated President, this is a time for action and serious policy making,” she wrote. “This is a time for fighting for Kansas and making the tough calls; not fundraising and campaigning. This is a time we can fix the tax code, effectively reform the healthcare system and make the federal government as a whole work better for the nearly 720,000 Kansans I serve in Congress.”