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Kansas Senate president considering 2020 race for US Senate

January 9, 2019
FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2016 file photo, Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, answers questions from reporters during a news conference at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Wagle says she's considering running for the U.S. Senate in 2020 and plans to form an exploratory committee. Wagle told The Wichita Eagle on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, that she is taking a "serious look" at the race. Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts announced Friday, Jan. 4 that he will not seek re-election. Wagle is the latest prominent Republican to express an interest. Wagle is from Wichita and has served in the Legislature since 1993. (AP Photo/John Hanna, File)

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The top Republican in the Kansas Senate said Wednesday that she is considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2020, saying she believes Congress needs more conservative Republican women.

Senate President Susan Wagle told the Wichita Eagle that she plans to form an exploratory committee for a possible race for the GOP nomination. Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts announced last week that he would not seek a fifth-term.

A run by Wagle could complicate the annual session of the Legislature that begins Monday and new Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s efforts to win passage of key initiatives such as expanding the state’s Medicaid health coverage for the needy. Wagle would have less incentive to compromise if she would be facing the GOP’s conservative-leaning primary electorate.

“It’s very, very disappointing to me that conservative Republican women really are not having a voice in Washington,” Wagle said, noting that 89 Democratic women were elected to the U.S. House last year, compared to 13 GOP women. “There is a shortage of conservative women.”

Wagle expressed frustration with the partial shutdown of the federal government and elected officials who cannot “fix immigration.”

While she said companies are “desperate” for workers, she supports building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border as an anti-drug trafficking measure.

However, drug trafficking is concentrated at land ports of entry , not remote stretches of the border, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agencies said in a report last year that the most common smuggling method is hiding drugs in vehicles as they drive across the border.

Wagle, from Wichita, is the latest prominent Republican to express an interest in the race.

State Treasurer Jake LaTurner announced his candidacy Tuesday. Departing Gov. Jeff Colyer, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall of western Kansas and Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, all have said they’re considering the race.

Another potential GOP candidate is departing Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, endorsed by President Donald Trump in losing the governor’s race to Kelly last year. Also on some Republicans’ list is U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman.

Among Democrats, Barry Grissom, a former U.S. attorney for Kansas, said he was considering the race before Roberts’ announcement.

The 65-year-old Wagle has served in the Legislature since 1991. She will finish her second, four-year term as Kansas Senate president in 2020 and has said she won’t seek another.

LaTurner, 30, also is a conservative and tweeted Wednesday that he supports building a border wall. He issued a “Contract with Kansas” that includes backing congressional term limits, supporting work requirements for welfare recipients and voting to confirm only anti-abortion, gun-rights and “pro-religious freedom” federal judges.

“Kansans deserve to have a conservative choice that represents generational change,” LaTurner said in an interview.

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