GOP support for Schmidt snowballing

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With Wichita businessman Wink Hartman in the wings, Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt piled up more support Wednesday in his bid for governor, this time from Senate President Ty Masterson.

Masterson’s announced support rounds out all but one member of the Republican House and Senate leadership teams that have endorsed Schmidt for governor.

“As attorney general, Derek Schmidt has consistently defended conservative principles and has been a tireless advocate for the rule of law,” Masterson said.

“As governor, I trust he will continue to fight for our freedoms and put Kansans first, and that’s why I am endorsing him today.”

Masterson’s endorsement comes as Hartman says he’s still considering a bid for governor, remarks that drew skepticism from Kansas Republican Party Chairman Mike Kuckelman.

“I’d be surprised if he gets in that race,” Kuckelman said in an interview Wednesday.

“It’s too late. It would be very difficult to catch up at this point,” he said. “I don’t see anybody else getting in that race. It doesn’t make sense at this point.”

Kuckelman acknowledged that Hartman has the wealth to self fund a campaign – he spent more than $3.5 million on the 2018 governor’s race.

But he said Hartman hasn’t had any presence across the state as the governor’s race began in earnest when former Gov. Jeff Colyer first signaled his intention to run last March before withdrawing this week because of a cancer diagnosis.

“You’ve got to do both,” Kuckelman said. “You’ve got to fund raise or have the cash or the financial wherewithal, but you also have to be attending events.”

Hartman “hasn’t been around the state. He hasn’t been at events,” Kuckelman said.

“Attorney General Schmidt and Gov. Colyer have already been campaigning for months now attending events,” Kuckelman said.

In an interview, Hartman talked about the enjoyment he gets from campaigning.

“I enjoy the political process,” he said. “I enjoy the parades and the soup dinners. I really thrive on that. I think that’s what Kansas is all about.

“To get out there to all the people of Kansas and get to do all those things again, that’s a big draw for me,” he said.

Another Republican political operative not affiliated with any campaign in the governor’s race was much more blunt about the likelihood that Hartman would get in the race.

“I think it’s very slim at this point and probably frowned upon among most within GOP circles,” the source said.

“Conservative groups, moderate groups, establishment groups of Republicans are all uniting and unifying behind the Schmidt campaign.”

“I think everyone is tired of running primaries just to run primaries,” the source said.

“I think many people will shy away from another candidate getting in because we already have a good candidate.”

Earlier this week, Schmidt secured endorsements from the state’s three Republican congressmen as well as House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, who had been among the few lawmakers who had not yet taken sides in the govenor’s race.

Schmidt also has support from a coalition of other high-profile Republicans, including House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. and former Republican National Committeewoman Helen Van Etten.