KS Rep. Jake LaTurner to Retire

This week brought another US House retirement, which brings the total number of open seats heading into the next election to 50. Four of the vacancies will be filled in special elections prior to November.

The first, to replace New York Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo), comes on April 30th. The CA-20 (McCarthy-R) vacancy will be filled on May 21st, OH-6 (Johnson-R) on June 11th, and CO-4 (Buck-R) on June 25th. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) will resign shortly, but his seat will not be filled until the November election.

Two-term Jayhawk State Congressman Jake LaTurner* (R-Topeka) yesterday surprisingly announced that he will not seek re-election later this year, and further stated that he would not enter any of the Kansas statewide contests in 2026. Gov. Laura Kelly (D) will be ineligible to seek a third term at that time, and speculation was already surrounding Rep. LaTurner as a possible gubernatorial candidate.

The Congressman, at 36 years of age, is the youngest Republican House member, thus his decision not to seek another term was all the more unexpected. While acknowledging the dysfunction in the House, that does not appear to be his overriding reason for retiring early. Rather, he wants more time with his young family and is looking for other opportunities likely in the private sector.

Prior to winning the congressional office in 2020, Mr. LaTurner had served as Kansas’ State Treasurer, and twice elected to the state Senate. He won his first term in the legislature at age 24 and has been in elected office for the past 12 consecutive years.

Already, two individuals have expressed interest in running for the now open seat. State House Majority Leader Chris Croft (R-Overland Park), who does not live in the 2nd District, and Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson are the first two to come forward. Former Attorney General and 2022 Republican gubernatorial nominee Derek Schmidt’s name has also been mentioned as a potential candidate without confirmation of interest from the principal.

Kansas’ 2nd District stretches from the Nebraska border all the way to Oklahoma, winding its way around the Kansas City metropolitan area before running east of Wichita along the Missouri line until reaching the state’s southern border. Included are 24 whole counties and parts of three others. The 2nd contains most of the Kansas City, KS municipality and houses the state’s capital city of Topeka. The district’s population is 73.3% white, 10.6% Hispanic, 9.8% black, and 2.2% Asian.

The LaTurner decision means there are 25 open seats from the Democratic Conference, 24 from the Republicans, and one newly created district in Alabama. The GOP nominee will be the favorite to hold the Kansas seat in November. Former President Donald Trump carried the district 57-41% in 2020. The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates the seat as R+21. The Daily Kos Elections site ranks KS-2 as the 83rd most vulnerable seat in the Republican Conference.

In its various configurations over the decades, the 2nd District has elected nine different Republicans and four individual Democrats since the 1960 election. The most recent Democrat to hold the seat was Nancy Boyda who unseated then-Rep. Jim Ryun (R) in 2006 but was herself defeated for re-election two years later.

In this century, the Republican presidential nominee has carried the district in every election with a consistent vote percentage. The Republican range moves from a low of 54% (George W. Bush in 2000), to a high of 60% (George W. Bush in 2004).

With the Kansas candidate filing deadline not until June 1st in conjunction with the August 6th primary, potential contenders have several weeks to ready their campaigns. Expect a crowded Republican field to emerge with the eventual winner becoming Rep. LaTurner’s successor.

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