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Senate race hot in Kansas; GOP expects to keep 2 House seats

(WITN)
Published: Nov. 3, 2020 at 10:52 AM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has had its most competitive U.S. Senate race in decades, though President Donald Trump is expected to carry the state again and voters appear likely to elect two new Republican congressmen.

The marquee race heading into Tuesday’s election was the Senate contest between Republican Roger Marshall, a two-term congressman for western and central Kansas, and Democrat Barbara Bollier, a Kansas City-area state senator. The race was the most expensive in Kansas history, with Bollier setting a record for any Kansas political race by raising more than $25 million to Marshall’s $6.5 million and outside groups pouring in $41 million on advertising, the bulk of it from GOP groups backing Marshall.

The two are vying for the seat held by retiring four-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, and two of the state’s four U.S. House seats were also up for grabs this year.

Polls were to open statewide at 7 a.m. and were to stay open until 7 p.m. local time.

Here’s what to know about the election.

HOT SENATE RACE

Democrats have not won a Senate race in Kansas since 1932, but the Marshall-Bollier contest represented their best shot since 1974, when then-Republican Sen. Bob Dole won reelection by less than 2 percentage points following the Watergate scandal that forced President Richard Nixon from office.

Bollier, a former lifelong moderate Republican who switched parties at the end of 2018, was one of several Democratic candidates around the country who attracted millions of dollars in contributions from outside their home states as the party tried to take control of the Senate. Bollier pitched herself as an independent centrist.

Marshall and his allies attacked Bollier for her strong support of abortion rights and gun control measures, and he hoped wavering GOP voters would drift back to the fold, as they had in past elections.

PRESIDENTIAL RACE

Trump’s hold on Kansas' six electoral votes seemed secure heading into Election Day, given that no Democratic presidential candidate has carried the state since incumbent Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 national landslide. Trump won Kansas by nearly 21 percentage points over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

But with Trump’s support in suburban areas eroded, Democrats at leased hoped that presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden would do better than Clinton, particularly in the Kansas City area. Democrat Barack Obama topped 41% in 2008, and Jimmy Carter approached 45% in 1976.

RECORD NUMBERS EXPECTED

The state’s top elections official forecast a 70% turnout, predicting that a record 1.35 million of the state’s 1.94 million registered would cast ballots. The coronavirus pandemic led to an unusual surge in early voting, with more than 770,000 votes cast before Election Day by mail or in person.

NEW HOUSE MEMBERS

Marshall’s decision to run for the Senate opened up his seat representing the sprawling 1st Congressional District in central and western Kansas. The district is among the safest in the country for Republicans, making it an near-certainty that former Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann, a commercial real estate broker from Salina, would defeat Democrat Kali Barnett, a Garden City elementary school teacher.

Republicans also were expected to retain the 2nd District seat representing eastern Kansas after State Treasurer Jake LaTurner ousted Rep. Steve Watkins in the GOP primary. Watkins was charged with three felonies for allegedly listing a postal box at a UPS Inc. store as his residence for voter registration late last year. LaTurner was vying for the seat Tuesday with Topeka’s Democratic mayor, Michelle De La Isla.

INCUMBENTS EXPECTED TO WIN

The lone Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation, freshman Rep. Sharice Davids, was expected to defeat Republican Amanda Adkins and win a second term representing the state’s 3rd Congressional District, in the Kansas City area. Adkins is an executive on leave from medical computer systems firm Cerner Corp. and a former Kansas Republican Party chairwoman who has political ties to unpopular former GOP Gov. Sam Brownback. After winning the seat in 2018, Davids positioned herself as a centrist in Congress. Trump lost the district narrowly in 2016.

In the 4th District in the Wichita area, Republican Rep. Ron Estes was expected to win reelection easily.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.