By Stephan Bisaha Stephen Koranda, Nadya Faulx, Aviva Okeson-Haberman – Kansas News Service
Democrats and Republicans in Kansas will keep their seats in the U.S. House, as Tuesday’s election favored the incumbents and the Republican candidate in the 2nd Congressional District.
Nationally, the House looks to be staying in Democrats’ hands, with Sharice Davids playing a role in that in the 3rd District.
But young GOP rising star Jake LaTurner defeated Topeka’s mayor to replace embattled Congressman Steve Watkins in the 2nd District that covers a vast stretch of eastern Kansas.
Statewide, more than 813,000 Kansans voted in advance, which the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office said was a record. And more than 100,000 new voters registered for this election compared to 2018, the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office said Tuesday.
The office didn’t have a breakdown of new registrants’ ages or other demographics, but state election director Bryan Caskey called it “a very high number.”
For a full look at tonight’s unofficial congressional winners, read on. (Note: Counties will send their results to the state within two weeks and the state’s Board of Canvassers must meet by Dec. 1.)
If you’re curious about Kansas Statehouse races in your area, go to this Kansas Secretary of State webpage.
Republican Tracey Mann will be the next congressman in Kansas’ 1st District, with The Associated Press calling the race at 9:25 p.m. By midnight, Mann was up 70.7% to Democrat Kali Barnett’s 29.3%.
Mann, who lives in Salina, campaigned on removing coronavirus restrictions to boost the country’s struggling economy. He also said he would vote for a stimulus package that is limited and targets only specific industries.
The former lieutenant governor also wants to change the U.S.’ immigration system to help bring more workers to western Kansas but said that border control must be addressed first.
Mann said Republican congressional leaders have promised him a spot on the House Agriculture Committee.
“I want to roll up my sleeves and go to work to advocate for our farmers and ranchers in Washington,” Mann said. “It’s such a big economic impact for the Big First.”
The former real estate manager said his experience on his family farm and the knowledge he developed of agriculture as the lieutenant governor gave him the edge.
“The voters were trying to find someone who had that experience and background who was willing to go to Washington and stand up for us — and also for our basic, conservative Kansas values as well.”
The Big First came open when current U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall decided to run for Senate. Marshall has represented the 1st District since 2017.
Barnett, a Garden City music teacher, received about 32% of the vote.
Republican Jake LaTurner won the 2nd Congressional District in eastern Kansas, dashing Democrats’ hopes that they could win the seat for the first time since 2006.
The Associated Press called the race for LaTurner after 10 p.m. He beat Democrat Michelle De La Isla by nearly 14 percentage points with 55.3% of the vote as of midnight.
LaTurner’s watch party was in his southeast Kansas hometown of Galena, where talked about small government and cutting taxes while also saying we need a safety net.
LaTurner says his family struggled financially and was on welfare when he was young.
“I understand what it’s like to be down on your luck,” he said. “Our government needs to be there as a social safety net, but we also need a government to do what it does well and have the humility to know that it can’t do everything for everybody all the time.
“I think you need to keep more of your hard-earned money. We need common-sense regulations,” he said.
It was a race that hinged on health care, the nation’s response to the coronavirus and widespread protests over policing and race.
De La Isla wanted to go to Congress to protect federal funding that helps states expand Medicaid for low-income residents. LaTurner has opposed the Affordable Care Act but wants to keep protections for preexisting conditions.
The two fought through attack ads. De La Isla objected to ads that edited her past comments to make it sound like she supported defunding law enforcement. De La Isla said she has supported the police and worked with them as Topeka’s mayor.
The race drew national attention after sitting Republican Congressman Steve Watkins was charged with voting-related felonies shortly before the primary election. Watkins has called the charges politically motivated, but he ultimately lost in August; the next court date in his criminal case is Dec. 3.
Democrat Rep. Sharice Davids won her reelection bid for the Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District, keeping it blue for another two years after first flipping the district in 2018.
Davids outraised Republican challenger Amanda Adkins, and focused her campaign on health care and the federal government’s coronavirus response.
Unofficial election results from The Associated Press show she beat Adkins by about 10 percentage points in the district that covers all of Johnson and Wyandotte counties and a part of Miami County.
Davids went after Adkins for her ties to former Gov. Sam Brownback; Adkins managed his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign and later was appointed to chair a state advisory group on early childhood programs.
“In this race, Kansans spoke loud and clear,” Davids said Tuesday night. “They rejected the tired politics of the past — of this slash school budgets, of being denied coverage because of having a pre-existing condition. They chose a different vision for who we send to the United States House.”
Davids’ first two years in Congress included a House vote to impeach President Donald Trump, lawmakers approving trillions of dollars to fight the coronavirus and a racial justice reckoning.
She’ll head back to the nation’s capital with her top priority in mind: another large COVID-19 relief package since lawmakers failed to reach an agreement before the election.
During a speech at the Kansas Democratic Party’s virtual event, Davids also alluded to a disappointing loss for Democrats in the U.S. Senate race.
“Our state motto — “Ad Astra per Aspera” — to the stars through difficulties, has never felt more real than it does right now,” Davids said. “… I can tell you this, for as long as I am here, we are going to fight for every single seat across this state.”
Adkins, a former Cerner executive, had touted her experience in health care and supported repealing most of the Affordable Care Act.
Adkins’ team also had volunteers out canvassing while Davids’ outreach efforts were virtual, but the in-person voter contact wasn’t enough to sway voters.
In a statement, Adkins congratulated Davids on her victory.
“Our nation is worth fighting for, and it’s at a turning point today,” Adkins said. “America must continue to be a beacon of freedom and prosperity for the world, and we have to carry our fight forward.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Estes will stay in Congress after winning re-election in Kansas’ 4th District.
The Associated Press called the race at about 9:25 p.m. As of midnight, Estes had received about 65% of the vote. Democratic challenger Laura Lombard got about 35% of the vote.
This will be Estes’ second full term; he was first elected in a close 2017 special election to replace now-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and easily won his re-election bid in 2018. Prior to serving in Congress, Estes was Kansas’ state treasurer.
Speaking at a watch party in Wichita on election night, Estes called for bipartisanship.
“Unfortunately the last few months we’ve had a lot of politics, a lot of partisan activity related with the election,” he said, “and once we put today behind us, we need to move forward, we need to get back together and work on things that are better for Kansas and better for the country.”
Lombard is an international trade specialist who ran unsuccessfully for Democratic nominations in 2017 and 2018.
The district has historically been represented by a Republican; only three Democrats have held the seat in the past century, the last being Dan Glickman, who lost his bid for a 10th term in 1994.
Stephan Bisaha reports on education and young adult life for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha or email him at bisaha (at) kmuw (dot) org.
Stephen Koranda is the Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda.
Aviva Okeson-Haberman is a government and politics reporter at KCUR. She can be reached on Twitter @avivaokeson.
Nadya Faulx is a reporter and digital news editor for KMUW. She can be reached on Twitter at @NadyaFaulx.
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.