On Wednesday, Kansas state Treasurer Jake LaTurner announced that he was dropping his bid for the Senate and would instead challenge freshman Rep. Steve Watkins in next August’s GOP primary for the 2nd Congressional District.
About two weeks ago, multiple media outlets reported that there was intense speculation in GOP circles that Watkins could resign, though there’s still no word on why his own party wants him to quit. Watkins has insisted he’s the target of a “whisper campaign” by state GOP operatives, and he’s said he’s not going anywhere.
LaTurner didn’t drop any obvious clues about what the rumors dogging the congressman actually are in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, and he denied that he or his campaign had anything to do with them. Instead, LaTurner declared, “When a campaign spends its time trying to pin blame on people, it’s probably the reason why his campaign is such a wreck. They’re not focusing on what matters the most, which is advancing President Trump’s agenda.”
In a separate interview with the Associated Press, LaTurner also insisted that those rumors about Watkins didn’t play any role in his decision to run. Instead, LaTurner pointed to the congressman’s narrow 48-47 win last year in a seat that Donald Trump had carried 56-37 as evidence that the incumbent was weak. The treasurer said, “It should not be a seat that is in play,” and, “It was in play, big-time, this last election, and it's going to be in play again if he's the nominee for the party.”
LaTurner’s Senate campaign ended June with $470,000 on-hand, and he can immediately transfer all of that money to his new House bid. Watkins, by contrast, had just $260,000 in the bank to defend himself. However, he loaned his campaign a total of $475,000 last cycle, so Watkins may be able to do some more self-funding. Last year, Watkins’ wealthy father also donated $766,000 to a super PAC he’d set up to aid his son’s campaign, so the congressman may once again get some familial help if he needs it.
Want more great elections coverage like this? Sign up for our free daily newsletter, the Morning Digest.