By John Celock
President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of a CIA director and potential picks for several other jobs have the ability to shake up Kansas politics.
Trump announced Friday that U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) is his nominee to head the CIA, opening up a safe Republican seat in Wichita. The Pompeo pick has sent several potential congressional candidates scrambling to put teams together in advance of an early 2017 special election. The move also comes as Gov. Sam Brownback (R), U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R), Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) and outgoing U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R) are all mentioned for posts in the Trump Administration.
Kobach, who is advising Trump and his transition team on immigration issues, had been mentioned as a potential attorney general, a post that Trump announced Friday was going to U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Brownback, Moran and Huelskamp have all been reportedly mentioned as potential picks as agriculture secretary in Trump’s cabinet. Sources have also mentioned to The Celock Report that Brownback could be a potential ambassador to either the Vatican or India. While a U.S. senator, Brownback had chaired a subcommittee overseeing relations with India and the governor has been a prominent Catholic in the pro-life movement.
The Pompeo pick will open up the Wichita area seat in a special election that Brownback will have to call for within 60 days of Pompeo’s official resignation. Pompeo is expected to officially step down from Congress after his nomination is confirmed by the Senate, a move that is not expected until after Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Party conventions will select the nominees for the special election.
State Treasurer Ron Estes (R) released a statement Friday confirming his interest in the seat and Trump advisor Alan Cobb told Politico that he is interested in seeking the seat. Estes, a former Sedgwick County treasurer, had formed an exploratory committee for the congressional seat when Pompeo was exploring a potential bid against Moran for the Senate earlier this year.
“My entire life has been focused on finding solution. In both the private and public sectors, some of the most frustrating problems I’ve dealt with have come from constraints placed by federal laws and regulations,” Estes said in a statement. “The people of the fourth district have been well served by Representative Pompeo and his private sector experience. If Representative Pompeo is confirmed as the next CIA director, it’s crucial that his replacement lead the way to reduce over regulation and help develop the environment for a return of jobs and greater properity to south central Kansas. The federal government is not working and continuing with government as usual will not fix the problem. I’ve ben encouraged by many constituents across Kansas to consider running if there is a vacancy, and I feel I owe it to them to consider doing so. It’s time to make Washington, D.C. work for the people.”
The Celock Report has learned that State Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), state Sen. Ty Masterson (R-Andover) and businessman Wink Hartmann have also been mentioned as potential congressional candidates on the GOP side. Wagle has also been mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2018.
With the nomination to be decided by 166 Republican insiders, the race will assume different dynamics than an open primary.
Pompeo’s district has been considered safe Republican territory, but national Democrats could make a play for the seat in what is likely to be the first special congressional election of the Trump era. Attorney Dan Giroux, who lost to Pompeo last week, is considered a potential candidate but could face an uphill climb to get the nomination in a party convention due to his pro-life stance, The Celock Report has learned.
Trump’s other potential picks from Kansas could send reorganization around the state. A Moran appointment would open his seat for Brownback to name a successor to serve until the November 2018 election for the remaining four years of the term. If Kobach were to receive a Trump appointment or Estes win the congressional seat, Brownback would be able to appoint a new secretary of state or treasurer to fill the remaining two years of the terms. If Brownback were to leave office early, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) would take over and be able to appoint his successor as lieutenant governor.