Editor's note: This story has been changed to correct information in the original version of this story, published Friday. Executives of aircraft companies, not the companies themselves, endorsed Mike Pompeo.
Executives of four of the five major aircraft manufacturing companies in Wichita endorsed businessman Mike Pompeo on Thursday in his run for the 4th District congressional seat.
Meanwhile, a poll of potential voters in the Kansas Republican primary, released Thursday, showed Wink Hartman with a wide lead over Pompeo and other candidates.
In the poll conducted for KWCH-TV, 36 percent of those polled said they would vote for Hartman if the election were held today. State Sen. Dick Kelsey received 11 percent of the support, state Sen. Jean Schodorf and Pompeo received 10 percent each and Jim Anderson got 6 percent. The poll of 423 likely Republican voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.
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The joint endorsement by the aviation executives, made at a gathering at the Wichita Marriott, miffed some candidates.
"This decision occurred without interviewing all the candidates for 4th District Congress or a review of their record, past support for aviation, or even the courtesy of a personal interview," Schodorf said.
"I am a strong supporter of the aviation community in our district, having spent 25-plus years of my career as a line pilot and fleet manager of the Boeing 737-800, which is what brought my family to Wichita," Anderson said. "My campaign reached out to the leadership of these companies early on, but we were turned away, clearly showing where their loyalty lies. Inside relationships were chosen over objectivity."
Top executives at Spirit, Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft and Bombardier Learjet endorsed Pompeo, who developed business ties and friendships with many aviation people after he helped found Thayer Aerospace in Wichita. He sold his interest in Thayer in 2006 and became president of Sentry International, which makes and sells equipment for oilfields and other businesses.
Pompeo and the CEOs who endorsed him spent little time talking about the other candidates, other than to say Pompeo needed a lot of help to get through the primary. Instead, they vehemently criticized Washington, D.C., and President Obama, saying that he damaged the aviation industry and, as Pompeo put it, "even now, today, trying to take over one-sixth of the national economy," with his proposals for health care legislation.
"What we are seeing from Washington with the current administration is almost unconscionable as far as how it is affecting our quality of life," said Jack Pelton, Cessna's CEO.
Jeff Turner, Spirit's CEO, did not attend the announcement, but made a five-minute video shown to reporters, endorsing Pompeo.
"He understands business in general and understands our industry," Turner said.
Above all, Pompeo "understands how much government we need and how much we don't need," said Bill Boisture, Hawker Beechcraft's CEO.