Vice President Mike Pence plans to be in Kansas next week to help Republicans Kris Kobach and Steve Watkins raise money for their campaigns against stout challenges by Democratic Party nominees.
The plan is for Pence to host a private fundraising event for Kobach, the GOP's nominee for governor, during the evening Oct. 18 in Wichita, a Kansas Republican official said. On the morning of Oct. 19, the vice president is scheduled to be part of a similar event in Topeka for Watkins, the Republican nominee in the 2nd District.
"As a former congressman himself, Vice President Pence recognizes the importance of having a Republican-controlled Congress that will assist the administration in accomplishing their agenda," said Watkins spokesman Bryan Piligra.
Last Saturday night, President Donald Trump hosted a rally in Topeka that featured appearances by congressional candidate Watkins and gubernatorial candidate Kobach. The events strategically follow Trump's rallying at the Expocentre for about 11,000 supporters, said state Rep. J.R. Claeys, a Salina Republican serving as campaign manager for Kobach.
"I think the president and vice president are two very different people," Claeys said. "They have some different followers."
Claeys said cash generated for Kobach and running mate Wink Hartman, who contributed $1.8 million to Kobach's narrow primary election win, would be earmarked for the 20 days prior to the Nov. 6 election.
Kobach is battling in the general election against Democrat Laura Kelly, Libertarian Jeff Caldwell and independents Greg Orman and Rick Kloos. Most polling has shown Kelly and Kobach in a statistical tie, with Orman in third place.
Kelly Arnold, chairman of the state Republican Party, said he had known for a couple weeks that Pence was willing to participate in an event on behalf of Watkins, who is in a tight race with Democrat Paul Davis.
Out-of-state political action committees have invested millions of dollars in the 2nd District contest viewed as a piece of the puzzle related to control of the U.S. House in 2019.
Arnold said details of Pence's visit were still being worked out and it wasn't clear if time had been allotted for the vice president to make public appearances in Topeka or Wichita.
In July Pence was in the Kansas City area to raise money for U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, the 3rd District Republican who has trailed Democrat Sharice Davids in polling. Pence was guest speaker at a $1,000 a plate fundraiser for Yoder. People attending the event were eligible to pay $5,400 for the opportunity to have a photograph taken with the vice president.