Hartman decides against governor’s race

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Wichita businessman Wink Hartman on Sunday announced that has decided against running for governor, leaving no other known candidate that might challenge Attorney General Derek Schmidt in the Republican primary.

Hartman said last week that he was considering a run for governor after making a bid in 2018 before withdrawing and campaigning with former Secretary of State Kris Kobach as his running mate in an unsuccessful campaign against Gov. Laura Kelly.

Hartman issued a statement on Sunday backing Schmidt that was released through the attorney general’s campaign. Hartman confirmed the statement.

“Conservatives in Kansas should be thrilled with the prospect of Derek Schmidt as governor,” Hartman said in the statement.

“He’s been a warrior for our cause – for life, for the Second Amendment, and for individual liberty,” he said.

“Derek is a leader worth uniting around, and he has my full support in his campaign to make Laura Kelly a one-term governor.”

Hartman said last week he expected to make a decision on whether to run for governor within 30 days and most likely by mid-September.

Hartman, in a brief interview, declined to elaborate beyond the statement issued Sunday.

“Right now, my concern is making sure that Derek makes Kelly a one-term governor,” he said.

Hartman had been weighing a run for a couple of years and he was the only known potential candidate who had the deep pockets to self fund a campaign.

Four years ago, Hartman loaned his campaign for governor about $1.6 million before  deciding to leave the race in February of 2018.

Hartman later became  Kobach’s running mate, loaning that campaign $2.4 million. Hartman later wrote off those loans to the Kobach campaign.

While it’s unclear how much of an obstacle Hartman would have been to Schmidt, the Wichita oil producer would have most certainly forced the attorney general to spend money that could otherwise be directed to a general election campaign in the fall.

It was generally believed that Hartman would not ultimately get into the race given that Schmidt had already been traveling the state for months campaigning and collecting endorsements from key Republicans.

The Schmidt campaign has been working to fence off the primary from other challengers after former Gov. Jeff Colyer pulled out of the governor’s race last week because of a cancer diagnosis.

The attorney general has rolled out a series of high-profile Republican endorsements that essentially show there’s no room for any other candidate in the GOP primary.