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Republicans Keep Kansas’ Open Senate Seat By Electing Roger Marshall

Jim McLean
Kansas News Service

Marshall’s win over Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier keeps intact Republicans’ winning streak in Kansas U.S. Senate races, which dates back to 1938.

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas — Kansas Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall is moving up to the U.S. Senate after surviving a challenge from Democrat Barbara Bollier in Tuesday’s election.

The 60-year-old two-term congressman from Great Bend will succeed Republican Pat Roberts, who is retiring after nearly 40 years in Congress. Marshall’s win also keeps intact Republicans’ winning streak in Kansas U.S. Senate races, a streak that dates back to 1938.

“This victory, like the U.S. Senate seat, belongs to the people of Kansas,” Marshall said to supporters at the Cyrus Hotel in Topeka. “This has been a year like no other. But I know better days are ahead. To the families who have lost loved ones amid this pandemic, the everyday workers and small businesses who are still struggling to make ends meet and the farmers and my ranchers concerned for their future, know that we will fight for you every single day.”

The Associated Press called the race for Marshall just after 10 p.m. Almost two hours later, with 91% of precincts reporting, Marshall had a nearly 11-point margin of victory.

Marshall closely aligned himself with President Donald Trump, who won Kansas by about 14 percentage points, short of his 2016 margin of 21 points.

He thanked Bollier for her “gracious” concession and complimented her on the race she ran.

“Putting your name out there in the state of Kansas as a Democrat is not an easy task,” he said. “And I just wish her the very best.”

Bollier said it was her “sacred, patriotic duty to accept tonight’s outcome,” and she was proud of the competitive race she ran.

“We cannot allow disappointment in the end result overshadow all we overcame to get this far. We were spirited and scrappy,” she said. “We broke record after record. We exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

Bollier, 62, used endorsements from nearly 100 current and former GOP officeholders to counter efforts to paint her as “too liberal” for Kansas.

The state senator from a well-to-do Kansas City suburb left the Republican Party in 2018. But her record-setting fundraising and the strategic help she received from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and national Democrats couldn't put her over the top.

During the Republican primary, Marshall moved to the right — closer to Trump’s positions on immigration, trade and a host of other issues — to break through a crowded field that included Kris Kobach, former Kansas secretary of state and the GOP nominee for governor in 2018.

During the general election campaign, Marshall took a page from the Trump playbook, warning there would be dire consequences should Democrats take control and implement their “extremist” agenda.

He sounded a call for bipartisanship in Washington on Tuesday night.

“We will fight to end the fighting between parties that doesn’t lead to progress,” he said. “We’re going to fight to find a path forward that all Americans can walk together, for our country faces too many challenges from mother nature, from internal foes as well as foriegn lands to be fighting against each other.”

But he didn’t back off from the issues he campaigned on. He vowed to fight to protect “our freedom of speech. Our freedom of religion. Our right to bear arms. And the sanctity of life.

“We’re going to fight for secure borders, a strong military … and always, we’re going to stand up for our law enforcement.”

At the end of his acceptance speech, Marshall also said: “I don’t know what’s going to happen nationally, but I think Kansans have chosen freedom over socialism. Kansans have chosen liberty over tyranny, and we’ve chosen liberty over lockdown."

Marshall will succeed Roberts, who is the only person in U.S. history to have served as chairman of the agriculture committees in both the House and Senate. Marshall, who is on the House ag committee currently, has said he intends to land a seat on the Senate’s committee.

(Note: Counties will send their election results to the state within two weeks and the state’s Board of Canvassers must meet by Dec. 1 to certify the election.)

Jim McLean is the senior correspondent for the Kansas News Service. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks or email jim (at) kcur (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Jim McLean is a political correspondent for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration based at KCUR with other public media stations across Kansas. You can email him at jim@kcur.org.
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