While in the midst of his second term, Republican Big First District Congressman Roger Marshall Saturday morning officially announced his intent to run for U.S. Senate in 2020, seeking the seat being vacated by the upcoming retirement of longtime Sen. Pat Roberts. The announcement came as the Great Bend doctor-turned-politician addressed attendees of the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson.
But, on Friday night, he gathered with friends and supporters at Matt and Dena Hiss’ home in Great Bend for a tailgate party prior to the Great Bend High School Panthers' first home football game of the 2019 season against Andover.
“I am going to announce that we are running for the United States Senate,” he said during an impromptu speech in the Hiss backyard. “I wanted you to be the first to know.”
He then jokingly asked those attending to refrain from posting anything to social media until Saturday.
“It’s been a privilege and an honor to live in this community,” Marshall said, flanked by his wife Laina and other family members. His four kids were raised here and all had the same teachers and coaches.
“When I’m talking about community, that’s exactly what I’m talking about,” he said. As a physician, he delivered many of those standing in the audience.
He’s been married to Laina for 36 years and is proud to call Great Bend Home. “I’ve lived the American Dream,” he said.
That is a big reason why he is tossing his hat into the ring.
“I think the next senator has to be willing to fight for those rural American values,” he said. “I would be so honored to represent you as your senator.”
He dismissed what he called excessive Democratic plans like the Green New Deal and efforts to expand the Affordable Care Act. Instead, he said he backs what he believes to be more reasonable reforms.
A busy field
Marshall is joining a crowded field:
• On the GOP side, other declared candidates include: Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach; businessman and ex-Kansas City Chief Dave Lindstrom; conservative GOP radio commentator Bryan Pruitt; Gabriel Mark Robles; and state Senate President Susan Wagle.
• On the Democratic side, the contenders are: Goddard school board member Elliott Adams; former Second District Congresswoman Nancy Boyda; former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom; Manhattan Mayor Pro Tem Usha Reddi; and two-time Fourth Congressional District also-ran Robert Tillman.
The primary will take place Aug. 4, 2020, with the general election following on Nov. 3.
Marshall’s office on Tuesday issued a statement on his intent to make an announcement Saturday. It was widely anticipated he planned a Senate bid.
So, following the Tuesday news release, Republican Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner dropped out of the 2020 U.S. Senate race, opting instead to challenge incumbent and fellow Republican Rep. Steve Watkins in the Second Congressional District seat, which covers most of eastern Kansas.
The move came just shy of a month after former Gov. Jeff Colyer suggested LaTurner challenge Watkins.
There is still one unknown. Republican heavyweight U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was planning a run, but has since indicated he won’t enter the race, Marshall said.
“Our polling shows it's a two-horse race,” he said. It pits Marshall against Kobach, who he sees as just a career politician.
With his experience in the Army Reserves, and having worked on a farm and in health care, Marshall said he feels he is the most qualified candidate. “These are all important issues to Kansans,” he said.
However, it was Republican Roberts' announcement on Jan. 4 that he would not seek reelection in 2020 that opened the door and got Marshall to thinking. Roberts had been a senator since 1996 and was previously a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1981 to 1997.
“I think there is a big void in leadership in Kansas,” Marshall said. “My wife said ‘you're going to have to do this.’”
He feels his time in Congress and his life experiences have led him to this place. “I am prepared to run for the Senate. I’m from here. I was raised here.”
Marshall, an obstetrician/gynecologist from Great Bend was a political newcomer when he upset two-term Republican incumbent Tim Huelskamp in the August 2016 primary, taking office in January 2017 for his first two-year term. He announced his first candidacy in downtown Great Bend in May 2015.
He was reelected in November 2018, defeating Democratic challenger Alan LaPolice. It was LaPolice, a Republican-turned Independent Marshall beat in the 2016 general election.
Marshall sits on the House Committee on Agriculture the Committee on Science and Technology.
Past First District congressmen include Bob Dole, Keith Sebelius, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, all of whom are Republicans.
Only one Democrat has ever represented the Big First. That was teacher and attorney Howard S. Miller from Morrill who served one term from Jan. 3, 1953, to Jan. 3, 1955.
The Big First encompasses 63 counties in western and northern Kansas (more than half of the state), making it the 12th largest congressional district in the nation.
Marshall has served as chairman of the Board of Great Bend Regional Hospital and has just completed his term as the district governor of Rotary International. A lifelong Republican, Marshall served seven years in the Army Reserves where he trained a mobile hospital support unit, rising to the rank of captain.
In addition, Marshall has been involved with the Golden Belt Community Foundation and is a commissioner for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
He and his wife Laina have four children.
A Kansas native, Marshall earned his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from Kansas State University before graduating from the University of Kansas School of Medicine. He received his medical doctorate in 1987.