A lot of politicians were testing the wind but nobody was willing to take the jump Friday into a special election to replace U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency — and widely expected to win Senate confirmation — which would open up a political sprint to fill his Wichita-centered congressional seat.
It will be up to the voters of Kansas’ 4th Congressional District to choose Pompeo’s successor.
Several 4th District politicians said they’re eyeing a run for the suddenly open seat. Among the potential candidates:
▪ State Treasurer Ron Estes, who flirted with running for the 4th District seat earlier this year, issued a statement saying “I’ve been 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.”
▪ Alan Cobb, Trump’s national coalitions director during the election and a member of Trump’s transition team. Cobb, who spoke Thursday to classes at Wichita State University, has been a close associate of Pompeo and has been an executive with Koch Industries and the Koch-founded political group Americans for Prosperity.
▪ Pete Meitzner, a Wichita City Council member. He said he’s been contacted by constituents about running and he’s “kicking the tires.”
▪ Michael O’Donnell, currently a state senator. “I’ve been getting text messages from delegates in the 4th Congressional District asking me if I would run, so that kind of triggered some consideration,” he said. O’Donnell, who was elected to a seat on the Sedgwick County Commission 10 days ago, wouldn’t have to give that seat up to run for Congress.
▪ Mark Kahrs of Wichita, a lawyer, outgoing state representative and current Republican national committeeman. He said he’s strongly leaning toward running.
▪ Mark Hutton of Wichita. Like Kahrs, Hutton opted not to run for re-election to the state House this fall. He said it was time to move on from that body, but is considering the congressional run. “When I left, I never said I was done” with politics.
▪ State Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita, who hinted at possibly running for the seat earlier this year and was mentioned as a potential candidate by state party Chairman Kelly Arnold. Late Friday, she issued a statement that could be read as throwing water on the idea: “My focus right now is continuing to serve as President of the Kansas Senate.”
▪ Ty Masterson, a state senator from Andover, was mentioned by several party leaders as a possible contender for Pompeo’s job. He could not be reached for comment.
▪ Dan Giroux, a Wichita lawyer who faced Pompeo in the Nov. 8 election, said he was leaning toward restarting his campaign but wanted to consult with his family first. Giroux drew 30 percent of the vote, splitting the not-Pompeo vote with independent candidate Miranda Allen.
▪ Robert Tillman, a retired court services officer from Wichita, who lost to Pompeo in the 2012 general election and lost a close Democratic primary to Giroux this year. “I would certainly be interested, yes,” he said.
Filling the seat
The U.S. Constitution requires that a general election, open to all voters in the district, be held to replace a representative.
While the governor can make an interim appointment of a senator until the next election, the process is different for the House.
House interim appointments are not allowed. Between the time a representative leaves and when a replacement is elected, the House seat stands vacant and no one has authority to cast a floor vote representing the district on any legislation.
Until the replacement is elected and sworn in, the representative’s Capitol office remains open and the staff stays on, under supervision of the Clerk of the House, to provide basic services for constituents.
Details of the nominations and electoral processes are left to the state, and Kansas’ top elections and party officials were talking Friday afternoon to figure out when and how an election would take place.
Arnold said when Pompeo officially resigns from Congress, or when there’s a true vacancy in the position, Gov. Sam Brownback has five days to call a special election in the 4th District.
The Democratic and Republican parties then would each select a nominee for the ballot. Voters would vote no sooner than 45 days after Brownback calls the election, and no later than 60 days.
“My phone has been ringing this morning with people that would like to meet to discuss potential options of running,” Arnold said. “I believe you’re going to see a handful of very strong contenders.”
Arnold would call a district convention to select the GOP candidate. The convention would consist of 126 party activists from across the 4th District, selected at each county party’s reorganization meeting.
More than half the members, 66, are from Sedgwick County, which held its reorganization meeting Aug. 11 at the Wichita Marriott hotel.
The next-largest group, Butler County’s 16 members, will be selected Monday night, said Clay Barker, executive director of the state party.
Per party rules, all counties have to have their reorganization meeting by Tuesday, Barker said.
Democrats would follow similar procedures, although they aren’t due to have their organizational meetings finished for another couple of weeks, party officials said.
Because of the difference in scheduling, the number and distribution of Democratic 4th District delegates was not available Friday.
Contributing: Bryan Lowry and Gabriella Dunn of The Eagle
Number of 4th District GOP delegates per county
▪ Barber County 2
▪ Butler County 16
▪ Chautauqua County 2
▪ Comanche County 2
▪ Cowley County 8
▪ Edwards County 2
▪ Elk County 2
▪ Greenwood County 2
▪ Harper County 2
▪ Harvey County 10
▪ Kingman County 2
▪ Kiowa County 2
▪ Pratt County 2
▪ Sedgwick County 66
▪ Stafford County 2
▪ Sumner County 2
▪ Pawnee County 2
Source: Kansas GOP