Pompeo’s vacancy creates special election buzz


Mike Pompeo meets with The Sunflower in November 2016. At the time, Pompeo, who is now U.S. Secretary of State, was a Kansas congressman.

Former Kansas U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo’s recent appointment to director of the CIA created a Congressional opening in the state’s Fourth District.

On April 11, this vacancy will be filled with a special election—a procedure Kansas has not undertaken in more than 20 years.

Given the shortened special election time frame, party primaries will not be held before the election. Instead, special delegates from the Republican and Democratic parties and registered Libertarians will convene later this week to choose nominees.

Junior Paige Hungate is a Sedgwick County alternate for the 126 Republican delegates who will meet Thursday to fill the party’s nomination.

Hungate, who earned her position from experience as Republican Sen. Jerry Moran’s campaign field director, has brushed up on what it takes for a candidate to make the ballot that will decide the nomination.

“In order to be a candidate, you just have to have one of the delegates nominate you for the position so anybody could be nominated without even formally announcing,” she said.

However, Hungate and the other delegates have a pretty good idea about the names that will make the ballot.

“Ron Estes is probably the favorite based on what I’ve heard, but I think that Alan Cobb is going to give him a run for his money,” Hungate said.

Estes is the Kansas State Treasurer, and Cobb served as a top adviser to Donald Trump during the presidential campaign.

Other major candidates include Todd Tiahrt who formerly held the Fourth District, 1995-2011, seat before Pompeo; George Bruce, an attorney; and Joseph Ashby, a conservative radio host.

Hungate said she has an idea of what the party wants in a nominee.

“I think a lot of people are looking for somebody who’s going to be able to win the seat again in 2018, not just have it for a year and a half,” Hungate said.

An ideal candidate would also reflect conservative values.

“Wichita has a really large pro-life segment, so I expect many delegates to want somebody who will focus on those issues as well as insuring that the federal government doesn’t impose restrictions on farmers and ranchers and small businesses,” Hungate said.

On the Democratic side, candidates are also announcing their bids for the Fourth District seat.

Dennis McKinney, a former Kansas State Treasurer and a former member of the state legislature, is one of the favorites going into Saturday’s Democratic convention.

Other candidates include Robert Tillman, a two-time candidate for the district, Charlie Walker, Laura Lombard, James Thompson, and Kevass Harding.

The Kansas Libertarian party will also decide its nominee on Saturday with Gordon Bakken, the Libertarian nominee from last year’s Fourth District election being a potential frontrunner.

The last Kansas Congressional seat vacancy occurred in 1996 when Bob Dole resigned from his Senate seat to become the Republican nominee for president. He lost to incumbent Bill Clinton.