Editor’s note: This story was updated at 3:45 p.m. Jan. 25.
Kansas 2nd District Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins said Wednesday she will leave her seat at the end of this term and explore jobs in the private sector.
There have been rumors about Jenkins running for Kansas governor in 2018, as Gov. Sam Brownback’s second term will be ending. In a statement, Jenkins seemed to put those rumors to rest.
“I will not be running for any office in 2018. In two years, at the conclusion of this Congress, I plan to retire and explore opportunities to return to the private sector, allowing a new citizen legislator to step up and serve Kansans,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said she wants to focus on policy for the next two years.
“This is a time for fighting for Kansas and making the tough calls; not fundraising and campaigning. This is a time we can fix the tax code, effectively reform the health care system and make the federal government as a whole work better for the nearly 720,000 Kansans I serve in Congress,” Jenkins said.
Some leaders in Congress praised Jenkins after hearing her announcement. House Speaker Paul Ryan called her “a true leader and tireless fighter for hardworking Kansans.”
While many Kansas political watchers expected Jenkins to consider a run for governor, she has been mum on the issue. After winning re-election in November, Jenkins dodged the question with a smile and a laugh.
“I’m focused on serving the people in the 2nd District for the next two years,” she said then when asked by a reporter about running for governor.
University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller said Jenkins’ decision not to run sets up a potentially competitive race for her 2nd District congressional seat in eastern Kansas. Her announcement will send ripples through other political races and could influence others considering a campaign for governor, he said.
“That may change some people’s calculations,” Miller said.
Some other Republican state officials mentioned as possible candidates for governor include Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.
However, Miller said this may not be the end of Jenkins’ political career. Politicians sometimes change their minds after deciding not to run for office again, he said.
“In a few months, a year, changing that, saying, ‘Here’s a need, people have asked. I’m going to step back in for the good of the state,’” Miller said.
In her announcement Wednesday, Jenkins thanked her supporters. She won her first House race in 2008, defeating Democratic incumbent Nancy Boyda.
“It has been and will continue to be an incredible honor to serve Kansans in Congress for what will be a decade at the conclusion of this Congress. For me, that is enough,” Jenkins said.
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service.