TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansas State Treasurer Jake LaTurner had his sights on the open senate seat, but he announced on Wednesday he will challenge freshman congressman Steve Watkins.
LaTurner says it was a decision that was tough to make. He says it comes after encouragement from former Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer and other Republicans nationwide.
Colyer said too many Republicans were fighting for the senate seat.
Senator Pat Roberts held that seat for 22 years and will be retiring this next term.
LaTurner says he thinks the second congressional district spot is best filled by someone who can be elected confidently. Steve Watkins won the seat last year by less than one percentage point.
“He barely squeaked by last time, and had to have President Trump and Mike Pence come,” LaTurner said of Watkins campaign. “The Kansas second congressional district should never be in jeopardy. If you can’t get elected you can’t get anything done at the end of day. Congressman Watkins has put this seat in jeopardy and that’s why I’m in the race.”
KSNT News Political Analyst Bob Beatty says primaries in Kansas are typically ideological battles, “meaning moderates versus conservatives in the Republican Party. That’s not the case here; this is really almost a personal primary, a stylistic primary,” Beatty said.
But the match up between Jake LaTurner and Steve Watkins is different. Beatty says this is more personal.
“It really is about two candidates, Watkins and LaTurner saying I’m going to be the better representative. I’m in some ways the better person for you to have as a representative,” Beatty said.
Beatty says there is a chance this can turn into a negative campaign.
KSNT News reached out to Watkins for reaction. His campaign did not get back to us.