Here’s who could replace retiring Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts in 2020 US Senate race

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- After nearly 40 years in Congress, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts says he won't seek another term.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become the longest serving member in our state's history," Roberts said Friday as he made the announcement at Kansas State University.

The Republican chaired six committees in his 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives and 22 years so far in the U.S. Senate. Roberts currently chairs the Agriculture Committee, which recently passed a historic farm bill.

"I've always proudly been a champion for agriculture," Roberts said.

"Sen. Roberts was more content to focus on Kansas issues, be a reliable Republican vote more broadly, and sort of stay out of the headlines," said Kansas City Star columnist and FOX4 contributor Dave Helling.

Hours after his announcement, the headlines quickly turned to who might replace Roberts in 2020.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) gestures as he speaks on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

As GOP leaders commended Roberts on his leadership and career, pundits dissected their statements and tweets for clues as to whether big names would be throwing their hats in the ring.

At the end of outgoing Gov. Jeff Colyer's tweet, he said, "Kansans have been able to rely on Pat Roberts' expertise, energy and gravitas. It is essential that our next U.S. Senator bring these same qualities to the job."

Colyer lost the 2018 Republican Gubernatorial Primary to Kris Kobach, who didn't win the general election against Democrat Laura Kelly. Kobach's office said Friday that Kobach is still considering a run for U.S. senator.

Outgoing Congressman Kevin Yoder said Roberts "will leave behind a strong legacy and very large shoes to fill."

Neither Yoder nor Colyer has said whether they might want to fill those shoes. Other possible candidates include U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall, State Sen. Susan Wagle and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Fundraising for what could be a costly race will likely begin soon.

"It's wide open. It's really down to who can come up with the dough, who has the fire in the belly, and whoever is best organized to capture whatever enthusiasm out of the gate," Helling said.

Ethan Corson, Kansas executive director of the Democratic Party,  said, “As the November 2018 elections showed, Kansas Democrats are well-positioned to win what will be an open U.S. Senate seat in 2020.”

But whether or not a Democrat will actually take the seat remains to be seen.

"Kansas has elected Democrats to the governorship repeatedly. John Carlin, Kathleen Sebelius, Joan Finney, now Laura Kelly. That happens a lot. But they don't elect Democrats to the U.S. Senate," Helling said.

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