U.S. Army veteran Steve Watkins won the Republican House primary in Kansas’ 2nd Congressional District and will face in November former Democratic state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, who ran unopposed.
Watkins edged out six other Republican candidates and won the the race with 26.2 percent of the vote after all precincts were reported Wednesday morning.
The crowded field of Republicans were running to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins in a race that had no clear frontrunner, a trait that worried some Republicans who felt this created an opening for Democrats in the fall.
Davis’ camp likened his campaign to that of Conor Lamb’s, the Pennsylvania Democrat who won in a usually conservative district in March.
“I’m doing a lot of the same things that Conor Lamb did in his campaign,” Davis told The Kansas City Star. “Just making it very clear to voters that I am an American long before I am a Democrat.”
Davis, like Lamb, has said he would not vote for Nancy Pelosi for House speaker.
None of the GOP candidates were able to surpass Davis’ million dollar campaign contributions, and several of them, including Kansas state Sens. Steve Fitzgerald and Caryn Tyson, and first time politician Watkins, made personal loans to their campaigns of $150,000 or more to remain relevant.
Watkins’ father created a super PAC, in which he donated nearly $587,000, so he could provide unlimited support to his son’s campaign.
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) announced three candidates to their “Young Guns” program, which included Watkins, Tyson and Fitzgerald. (RELATED: How One Congressman Is Changing Grassroots Campaigning Forever)
Other GOP candidates included former Kansas House Speaker Doug Mays; state Sen. Dennis Pyle; Kevin Jones, an Iraq veteran and house representative; and Vernon Fields, an Army veteran and retired federal law enforcement officer.
Kansas’ 2nd congressional district, which is usually safely red, is listed as a “toss up” on Real Clear Politics’ prediction board, further signaling a potential Republican slip of control in the district.
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