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Army Veteran Wins Kansas GOP Nod for Jenkins Seat

Republican Steve Watkins will face off against Democrat Paul Davis in November

Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., is retiring after five terms in the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kan., is retiring after five terms in the House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated Aug. 8, 11:25 a.m. | An Afghanistan War veteran won the Republican nomination in Kansas’ 2nd District, which GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins is vacating.

Democrats are targeting the eastern Kansas district, as well as the Kansas City-area 3rd District, where a mixed martial arts fighter beat out a Bernie Sanders-backed candidate in a crowded Democratic primary.

2nd District

Army veteran Steve Watkins won the 2nd District Republican primary to take on former state House Minority Leader Paul Davis, the only Democrat on the ballot.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Watkins, a newcomer to politics, led a seven-way GOP field with 26 percent of the vote, according to The Associated Press. State Sen. Caryn Tyson was just behind with 23 percent. 

President Donald Trump carried the 2nd District by 18 points in 2016, but Davis is considered a strong candidate for Democrats — district voters backed him during his unsuccessful run for governor in 2014.

Davis was also one of the first Democratic candidates to announce that he would not back House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for leader.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Leans Republican.

Also Watch: Democrats Make a Play for West Virginia Congressional Seats

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3rd District

In the 3rd District, MMA fighter Sharice Davids won the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder in a district that Hillary Clinton carried by 3 points in 2016.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Davids led a crowded six-way field with 37 percent of the vote, according to the Associated Press. Brent Welder, the candidate backed by onetime presidential hopeful Sanders, trailed with 34 percent.

The primary raised questions about whether a candidate further to the left could succeed in the largely suburban district.

EMILY’s List spent significantly on television ads to boost Davids, with its independent expenditure arm dropping more than $708,000 on the race. Davids would be one of the first Native American women in Congress if she defeats Yoder in November (a title she could share with Deb Haaland, the Democratic nominee in New Mexico’s 1st District). Davids would also be the first openly gay woman to represent Kansas in Congress.

Inside Elections rates the 3rd District race Leans Republican.

4th District

GOP Rep. Ron Estes easily survived a primary challenge from a candidate who shared the same name as him, which caused some confusion among 4th District voters in the south central Kansas.

With all precincts reporting, Rep. Estes, who is bidding for a first full term, defeated Ron M. Estes 81 percent to 19 percent.

The congressman won a closer-than-expected special election last year in the 4th District, which Trump carried by 27 points in 2016. He defeated Democratic Army veteran James Thompson by 6 points, and will face him again in November after Thompson defeated consultant Laura Lombard 65 percent to 35 percent in the Democratic primary. 

Inside Elections rates the race Solid Republican.

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