Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday he would not run to fill a soon-to-be vacated Senate seat in Kansas this year, according to multiple reports.
Pompeo met with the majority leader just days after President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, dramatically increasing tensions with Tehran. The secretary told McConnell international diplomacy was too tense to leave his position and focus on a campaign, both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported.
McConnell had been intensely lobbying Pompeo, who was previously a member of the House representing Kansas’ 4th Congressional District, to run for the seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Roberts (R), who is retiring. Republicans had hoped the secretary would easily clinch the party’s nomination and help retain the GOP’s majority in the Senate as the 2020 election season heats up.
Republicans now face a much more difficult race in the state. Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who remains controversial over his deeply anti-immigration views, is vying for the seat after an unsuccessful run for governor in 2018. Democrats have put forward Barbara Bollier, a local lawmaker who left the GOP to join the party at the end of 2018.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien first noted last week that Pompeo had reached a similar decision and hoped he would remain in the Trump administration.
“I hope and I expect Secretary Pompeo will stay,” O’Brien told ABC News. “I spoke with him about this two nights ago. He said he’s not running for Senate. He said he’s staying as secretary of state.”
The Times noted that Pompeo could still change his mind as the filing deadline for the Kentucky primary isn’t until June.
“I’ve watched my life take turns that one would never have expected, but it’s not something I want to do,” Pompeo told Fox News last month. “I want to stay here and continue to perform the mission that I’m serving President Trump, and I hope doing a good turn for the American people as well.”