Who will the four successful candidates be in the 2020 Kansas House races?
From a political standpoint, you may think you have Kansas figured out, but it’s not that easy. Kansas is a typical red state on the presidential level, having given its electoral votes to the GOP every four years since 1968, and just once since World War II ended. Over that time, Kansas has seen a lot of Republicans get elected, but there has been a factional war going on in the Kansas GOP between its moderates and the conservatives, and political analysts have seen the moderates pushed away from power.1
So, what did a few of those Republicans do? Become Democrats, like Barbara Bollier, who is running for the open Senate seat in 2020. This partially helps to explain why red Kansas would see a Democrat like Laura Kelly win the governorship in 2018 against an arch-conservative like Kris Kobach: on the backs of endorsements from moderate Republicans, and there were a lot of them.2 The other parts were the incoming Democratic electoral climate and the unpopularity of the recent governor, Sam Brownback, who quit the year of the election to take an ambassadorial post.
At the same time as all this was going on, the Democrats saw success in the US House races. The GOP got picked off in one seat and almost lost a second. What will become of those House seats this year? We’ve predicted them all.
US House Rating Scale
This is the chart showing how we rate the 2020 Kansas House races, without any tossups.
2020 Kansas House Races Current Prediction Summary: September 10
Current Kansas US House Map
Republicans could in theory have trouble in a few other House districts in Kansas in any given year, but not the “Big First,” and overwhelmingly rural seat taking in all of western and much of central Kansas. This is as reliable a GOP seat as there is anywhere in the United States. The fact that Roger Marshall is standing down for a Senate run is irrelevant to our rating.
This was a scary one for the Republicans in 2018, with there having been a real chance they could have lost this seat. Steve Watkins won that open seat race for the GOP, however, and now he is an incumbent running in a presidential year. Republicans win here on a consistent basis both for president and in Congress, with an exception for the 2006 Democratic wave that put Nancy Boyda in for one term. Democrats recruited well here with the mayor of Topeka, Michelle De La Isla, and money is coming into the seat to help her win, to the point where her fundraising is outpacing Watkins’.3 This may not still be an easy one to pry away and while we are cautiously rating as a “weak lean,” we think this is somewhere between a “weak lean” and a “strong lean” for Watkins.
Note: Watkins lost his primary on August 4 after he was hit with felony charges in July. We are for the time being keeping this race as a GOP weak lean, however Jake LaTurner is in a better position to defend the seat for the Republicans than Watkins would have been.
This is the least Republican of Kansas’ four Congressional districts. Hillary Clinton won this district in the 2016 presidential election and this seat has elected Democrats to the House in the past. Sharice Davids won here by a convincing margin in 2018 and it’s hard to see that reversing so quickly, even if Trump edges ahead on the top of the ticket in the 3rd.
RATINGS CHANGE, SEPT. 10: R4 TO R3
We initially rated Ron Estes as very safe based on the fact that he had no opposition. He does have a Democratic opponent now, but did it change the bottom line in the 4th? Not really, just enough to drop it out of “very safe.”
1: Peter Hancock, “How moderates lost control of the Kansas GOP, and why they’re unlikely to win it back,” Lawrence Journal World, July 15, 2018, https://www2.ljworld.com/news/2018/jul/15/how-moderates-lost-control-of-the-kansas-gop-and-why-theyre-unlikely-to-win-it-back/)
2: Jim McLean, “Well-Known Republicans In Kansas Back Democratic Candidate For Governor,” NPR, October 22, 2018, https://www.npr.org/2018/10/22/659416425/well-known-republicans-in-kansas-back-democratic-candidate-for-governor/)
3: Bryan Lowry, “Topeka mayor outraises incumbent Republican Watkins in Kansas congressional race,” The Kansas City Star, April 16, 2020, https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article242051931.html/)