Former Rep. Nancy Boyda, ex-prosecutor Barry Grissom are running for Senate

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former federal prosecutor and current executive in a company that invests in the legal marijuana industry on Monday launched his campaign in Kansas as a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Kansas City-area attorney Barry Grissom’s kickoff came three days after former U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda formed a campaign committee to run for the Democratic nomination next year. State Sen. Barbara Bollier, another Kansas City-area Democrat, confirmed Monday that she met with party officials in Washington last week and is also considering entering the race.

Four-term Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts is not seeking re-election in 2020, and at least 16 prospective candidates in both parties have expressed interest in the race. Grissom has been considering the race for months and tweeted weeks ago that he had decided to run.

Grissom, 65, stressed his experience as U.S. attorney for Kansas from 2010 to 2016. He was appointed by former President Barack Obama. He did not mention his work in the marijuana industry in his official announcement.

He is corporate counsel and a senior vice president of Las Vegas-based Electrum Partners , a venture development company with a focus on medical and recreational cannabis. Grissom said working as a prosecutor showed him law enforcement wastes a lot of resources pursuing and prosecuting cannabis-related crimes.

“The federal government needs to get out of regulation and criminalizing cannabis, and they should leave it up to states, just like they allow states to regulate alcohol and tobacco,” Grissom said during an interview Monday.

Grissom also said Kansas voters are concerned about issues such as access to health care in rural areas and students leaving college with large loans to pay off. Asked how he views President Donald Trump’s performance in office, Grissom said: “That’s really beyond the concerns of most Kansans.”

“Quite frankly, I’m not hearing anything about the president,” Grissom said.

Republicans haven’t lost a U.S. Senate race in Kansas since 1932. But Grissom, like other Democrats, is heartened by the victories last year of U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids in a suburban Kansas City district and Gov. Laura Kelly statewide.

Republicans have at least 11 prospective U.S. Senate candidates, though so far only State Treasurer Jake LaTurner and former Kansas City Chiefs player Dave Lindstrom are campaigning.

Other potential candidates include U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall of western Kansas and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who lost the governor’s race to Kelly. Earlier this year, some top Republicans nudged U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman, to enter the race, but he said he was focused on his job as the nation’s top diplomat.

Grissom said he would stand aside if ex-U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, a former two-term Kansas governor, sought the Democratic nomination. Sebelius has said repeatedly that she has no plans to run.

Boyda, 63, represented a northeast Kansas district in the U.S. House in 2007 and 2008, ousting a Republican incumbent in 2006, only to narrowly lose the seat two years later. She said during an interview Monday that she was legally required to file the paperwork after recently producing embroidered T-shirts for her campaign and donning one.

Boyda said she wants to help people “step out of the political process” to solve problems, with the well-being of children the first concern.

“My main focus is pulling people together and collaborating,” Boyda said, adding that her congressional term gives her a “bully pulpit.”

Bollier, a 61-year-old retired anesthesiologist, won her seat in the Legislature as a moderate Republican and switched parties last year. Bollier said she is exploring the race partly because health care is one of the biggest issues facing the nation.

“I know that issue and know it well,” she said.