Rep. Marshall's primary win in Kansas buoys GOP Senate hopes

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FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2019, file photo, state Sen. Barbara Bollier, D-Mission Hills, speaks during a meeting of Democratic senators at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. Bollier, a Kansas legislator, is running for the U.S. Senate in the Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 primary. (AP Photo/John Hanna File)

TOPEKA, Kan. – Republicans brimmed with newfound confidence Wednesday about keeping an open Senate seat in Kansas after establishment-backed Rep. Roger Marshall won the party's nomination, advancing to face an unusually formidable Democrat in a tough year for the GOP.

Marshall's first tasks were quickly refilling his campaign treasury and rebuilding Republican unity after an often-bitter primary campaign. But he and other Republicans immediately previewed the fall campaign in which they are expected to use the threat of Democrats capturing a Senate majority to try and blunt Barbara Bollier's efforts to woo GOP-leaning independent voters and moderate Republicans.

Republicans are trying to keep their 53-47 Senate majority with competitive races in other states such as Arizona, Colorado and Maine and the coronavirus pandemic causing President Donald Trump's standing with voters to slide. GOP leaders had feared that the Kansas seat would be in play if lightning-rod conservative Kris Kobach won the nomination after losing the 2018 Kansas governor's race.

But Marshall prevailed comfortably and won 85 of the state's 105 counties, including four of its five most populous ones. Trump, who had refused to intervene in the primary despite prodding from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, tweeted his “Complete and Total Endorsement” of Marshall early Wednesday morning.

“It not only landed butter-side up, but I think it was toasted and had a little cinnamon on it — cinnamon toast,” said retiring four-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, who had endorsed Marshall. “We avoided a situation where it would be very difficult for us.”

Bollier, a state senator and retired Kansas City-area anesthesiologist, raised more than $8.2 million through July; her campaign said the total is now $9 million and that she began the fall campaign with $4.5 million cash. Marshall, a two-term congressman for western and central Kansas, said he had about $600,000 in cash when Tuesday's polls closed, after raising about $2.9 million ahead of the primary.

Marshall can count on a more-robust statewide Republican organization, and registered GOP voters outnumber Democrats by more than 3-to-2. The GOP has won every Senate race in Kansas since 1932, and Roberts won a contentious race in 2014 by nearly 11 percentage points largely by arguing that Republicans couldn't recapture a Senate majority that year without his reelection.

“THE issue is who controls the Senate majority. It's going to be razor-thin one way or the other," Marshall said. “We have to have a Republican senator from Kansas to keep the Senate majority.”