Wichita businessman Willis “Wink” Hartman suspended his campaign for the Republican for governor Wednesday, becoming the second candidate to exit the GOP race this month.
Hartman, an oil producer and owner of a chain of restaurants who recently loaned his campaign $1.6 million, is urging his supporters to back fellow conservative Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The Kansas City Star reported late Wednesday that Kobach is considering Hartman as his running mate.
In a letter to his supporters posted online, Hartman said he decided to end his campaign after watching Kobach Saturday during the first GOP debate of the campaign.
“Standing on the stage Saturday night, I listened, and I heard a candidate speaking for me and for the conservative movement,” Hartman said in a letter to supporters posted to his campaign website.
Hartman said he feared being “the spoiler” who cost Kobach the nomination if had he remained in the race.
A recent poll showed Kobach locked in a tight race with newly installed Gov. Jeff Colyer, each with the support of about 20 percent of likely GOP primary voters.
Colyer, a former state legislator who served as lieutenant governor for the past seven years, was inaugurated in January when former Gov. Sam Brownback departed for an ambassador’s post in the Trump administration.
Hartman was among four candidates with single digit support, according the poll.
His departure likely makes it a five-candidate race. In addition to Kobach and Colyer, the field includes Topeka physician and former state Sen. Jim Barnett, Wichita construction executive and former member of the Kansas House Mark Hutton, and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer.
Four contenders are vying for Democratic nomination — state Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, current Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward of Wichita, and former Kansas House member and state agriculture secretary Josh Svaty.
Johnson County businessman Greg Orman is gathering signatures to place his name on the November ballot as an independent candidate for governor.
Jim McLean is managing director of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.