PITTSBURG — Throughout 2019, there was considerable speculation that Mike Pompeo, the former Kansas congressman and Central Intelligence Agency director and current secretary of state, would jump into the race for the seat currently held by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), who is not running for re-election.

More recently, those predictions do not appear to be coming to fruition.

“I think those of us in Kansas are now sure that Mike Pompeo will not be running for US Senate,” Laura Kelly, the state’s Democratic governor, said in an interview this week, adding that “when Bob Dole came out and endorsed another candidate I think it made it clear that that decision is final.”

The candidate Dole endorsed last week, Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kansas 1st District), visited the state’s southeast corner on Monday, telling members of Pittsburg State University’s College Republicans that getting the former Kansas senator’s endorsement “would be, you know, like Babe Ruth signing you to a rookie contract or something, it blew me away.”

Marshall met with the small group of students for nearly an hour Monday evening at the Hampton Inn at Kansas Crossing Casino following a stop in Columbus, where he met with about a dozen representatives of the Cherokee County Farm Bureau.

In Pittsburg, Marshall took questions from students and discussed a wide range of topics, from issues impacting veterans, to the influence of Silicon Valley tech companies on online discourse and freedom of speech, to the 2nd Amendment, to foreign policy, to the environment. Asked what he would want to accomplish if elected to the Senate, Marshall gave a list of top priorities.

“There’s lots of things that are important, but if I could say ‘here’s my top three priorities,’ I would like to build the wall, balance the budget, and fix healthcare,” Marshall said. “If I could do those three things that would be an incredible success.”

Marshall, who is also a medical doctor, discussed a variety of changes he would like to see made to healthcare in the US. He said he wanted to ensure that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions and make medical records easily available to patients through a mobile app accessible on their phones.

“I could go on and on one piece at a time to fix healthcare, but it all centers on empowering patients, giving them more choices, and encouraging innovation,” Marshall said, adding that promoting competition in healthcare was an important priority.

“We have monopolies in insurance companies, in hospitals, and in pharmacy benefit managers,” he said. “We’ve got to break up those monopolies.”

Medicaid expansion, however, would not necessarily solve problems with the healthcare system, Marshall said.

“I don’t think Medicaid is actually access to healthcare,” he said. “Less than half of specialists accept Medicaid, so having Medicaid is not having healthcare.”

Madalyne Reid, secretary of the PSU College Republicans and a biology major with a pre-med emphasis, said she liked what Marshall had to say about healthcare.

“Being pre-med, what he said about healthcare reform is really the best answer I’ve gotten from somebody in political office, so I’d definitely be willing to vote for him,” said Reid, who is from Columbus.

Following the discussion with Marshall, Grant Wilson, president of the PSU College Republicans, said he was happy his organization had a chance to talk with the congressman and he agreed with most of the positions Marshall outlined in response to its members’ questions.

“They would benefit not only, you know, myself or my family but also the people of Kansas and I think all across the United States,” Wilson said.