Former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who served as Health and Human Services secretary in the Obama administration, confirmed to POLITICO on Tuesday that she will not be jumping into the race for the Senate seat soon to be vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
Possibly the most prominent and popular Democrat in the state, Sebelius was elected governor in 2002 and reelected in 2006. She left Kansas in 2009 to become HHS secretary, serving during the rocky roll out of the Affordable Care Act.
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Sebelius said when she stepped down from HHS in 2014 that there was “not a chance” that she would run again for elected office in her home state. But that did not stop speculation that she would enter the Senate race as a formidable candidate, especially as Democratic optimism in the state rose following the 2018 midterms, when Democrat Laura Kelly upset then–Secretary of State Kris Kobach to become governor, and now-Rep.Sharice Davids ousted Republican House member Kevin Yoder.
The state hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate since the 1930s, but the party is hoping that a crowded GOP primary that includes the polarizing Kobach, fractures among state Republicans and frustration with President Donald Trump could put Roberts’ seat in play next year.
The Democratic primary race already includes former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom and former Rep. Nancy Boyda. Barbara Bollier, a state senator who recently switched parties to become a Democrat, has indicated some interest in throwing her hat in, as well.
In addition to Kobach, state Treasurer Jake LaTurner and former NFL player Dave Lindstrom are also running for the Republican nomination, and may soon be joined by Rep. Roger Marshall, state Senate President Susan Wagle and Washington lobbyist Matt Schlapp.