WASHINGTON — Secretary of State and former Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he will not run for an open Senate seat from Kansas this fall, two people close to McConnell said Monday. Pompeo’s decision complicates the GOP’s chances of holding what should be a guaranteed seat in the deep red state.
The news comes days after the U.S. used an airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump to kill Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most powerful general and leader of that country’s elite Quds Force. Iran has vowed revenge on the U.S., making it an uncomfortable time for Pompeo to leave his post.
Pompeo indicated that he will not run in a conversation with McConnell on Monday afternoon, the two people say. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private talk.
Pompeo, a former congressman from Kansas, has traveled repeatedly to the state in recent months, and many Washington Republicans had expressed a belief that he would be a candidate. If he ran, he was considered all but certain to prevail in the GOP primary and the November general election.
Now, Republicans worry that former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a polarizing conservative, could win the GOP nomination. GOP officials worry that if Kobach is the nominee, they would lose the general election, repeating the defeat he suffered in 2018 when he was the Republican candidate for governor.
Republicans consider retaining the Kansas seat crucial in this fall’s voting, when they will defend their 53-47 Senate majority. The seat is being vacated by GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, 83, who’s served in the Senate since 1997 and, before that, in the House since 1981.
Pompeo’s conversation with McConnell was first reported by The New York Times.