Dole endorses western Kansas congressman in US Senate race

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FILE - In this May 27, 2019 file photo, former Sen. Bob Dole, right, and his wife Elizabeth Dole acknowledge well-wishers during a Memorial Day ceremony, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. The political icon and 1996 Republican presidential nominee on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, endorsed western Kansas' congressman Rep. Roger Marshall in the state's GOP Senate primary. Marshall's campaign announced Dole's backing and Dole tweeted that Marshall is "a true friend to KS." Marshall has served in Congress since 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky File)

TOPEKA, KS – Kansas Senate candidate Roger Marshall won the endorsement Monday of political icon and 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, a boost for the congressman's efforts to show GOP leaders he can defeat hardline conservative Kris Kobach in the primary.

Marshall's campaign announced Dole's backing, and Dole tweeted that Marshall is “a true friend to me & a true friend to KS.” Marshall, a western Kansas physician, has served in Congress since 2017.

Dole's endorsement came a week after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he would not run for the Kansas seat. Four-term GOP Sen. Pat Roberts is not seeking re-election.

“You're going to start to see the financial donors and grassroots kind of start picking a horse,” said Kelly Arnold, a former Kansas Republican Party chairman. “They're looking at Marshall as that candidate to be the one that could challenge Kobach.”

Marshall holds the House seat that Dole, Roberts and fellow Kansas GOP Sen. Jerry Moran all held before being elected to the Senate in 1968, 1996 and 2010.

Dole was Senate majority leader in 1996 when he left Congress after a total of 35 years as part of his unsuccessful run for president. He said Monday in a statement that Marshall has “my full trust.”

"I know he will represent our state well," Dole said in the statement.

In Kansas GOP circles, Dole's endorsement is prized second only perhaps to President Donald Trump's. Dole backed then-Gov. Jeff Colyer in the GOP primary in 2018, but Trump tweeted an endorsement of Kobach the day before the election, and Kobach won a razor-thin victory.