U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall joins other top GOP officials, backs A.G. Derek Schmidt in governor's race

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall announced Tuesday he was backing Attorney General Derek Schmidt in the governor's race, bringing virtually all of the state's major Republican figures around the presumptive GOP nominee in the 2022 race.

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall announced Tuesday he was backing Attorney General Derek Schmidt in the governor's race, bringing virtually all of the state's major Republican figures around the presumptive GOP nominee in the 2022 race.

Marshall's endorsement isn't a surprise after Schmidt's principal rival, Jeff Colyer, dropped out of the race last week, citing a prostate cancer diagnosis. 

But it does mark a course reversal for Marshall, who initially backed Colyer in a high-profile announcement when the former governor first rolled out his campaign earlier this year.

Marshall said in a statement that Colyer had an "excellent" prognosis after his cancer diagnosis, saying "I know he will beat the disease." But his move to exit the race would help avoid "a costly, contentious, and detrimental primary race," Marshall added.

"Doing so will save Republicans precious resources to defeat the real opponent: Governor Laura Kelly, whose administration has turned its back on the values of Kansas since day one," Marshall said in a statement. “Attorney General Derek Schmidt will be the man for the job and he has our full and complete endorsement and support."

More:Republican U.S. House members back Derek Schmidt as party aims to unify in governor's race

Marshall's endorsement means virtually every key GOP figure in the state has elected to endorse Schmidt, limiting the path to victory for any Republican candidate looking to enter the race following Colyer's decision.

Wink Hartman, the 2018 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor who was long rumored to be mulling a bid, told the Sunflower State Journal on Monday that he wouldn't be seeking the governor's mansion in 2022.

Backing Schmidt are all three GOP members of Kansas' U.S. House delegation, who announced their support last week. Former U.S. Sens. Bob Dole and Pat Roberts also lent their endorsement in August, as have all four GOP legislative leaders.

More:Top Senate Republican, Majority Leader Larry Alley, backs Derek Schmidt in governor's race

The lone figure who hasn't backed Schmidt is Marshall's colleague, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. Moran told reporters in Topeka last week that he was holding firm to his longstanding practice of not endorsing primary election candidates.

"I have avoided this endorsement. Any endorsement is a suggestion that I know better than Kansans," he said. "I trust their judgment and it seems just a little bit arrogant for me to tell Kansans exactly what they should do."

Andrew Bahl is a senior statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached at abahl@gannett.com or by phone at 443-979-6100.