Even as Republican support builds for Attorney General Derek Schmidt in the governor’s race, there’s one potential candidate out there with deep pockets who still hasn’t ruled out mounting a campaign for governor.
Wichita businessman Wink Hartman, who ran a short-lived campaign for governor four years ago, said in an interview that he is still looking at whether he might join the Republican primary for governor.
“I haven’t made a decision,” Hartman said. “I am physically fit and mentally tough. I’ve just got to decide if I want to get back out and start shaking people’s hands.”
Hartman said he wants to make a decision in the “very near future,” which he placed at less than 30 days or by mid-September.
He’s expected to put a poll in the field sometime later this week.
Hartman said the effort will take a full-time commitment.
“You’re hardly ever home if you do it right,” Hartman said of a possible campaign.
“It’s time consuming and very expensive to run for public office at that level,” he said.
“It takes a large commitment financially, personally and then with the assumption that you hope to win and be able to serve the people of Kansas,” he said.
He added that he didn’t go want to get into a race “half way” where he campaigns a little and hopes for contributions.
“That’s not the way you go into a governorship campaign,” he said. “You’ve got to be fully committed in all ways to do the job correctly.”
Two years ago, Hartman said he was 90% sure he would run for governor, saying at that time he could not “see anything on the horizon” that would change his mind.
Neither Hartman nor Schmidt’s campaign would say whether the two men had met since former Gov. Jeff Colyer withdrew from the gubernatorial primary on Monday.
While Colyer’s departure from the race seemed to open a clear path for Schmidt to the nomination, Hartman is one candidate who would have the financial wherewithal to put millions of dollars into a self-funded 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 Kris Kobach’s running mate for governor, 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 be to Schmidt, the Wichita oil producer would most certainly force the attorney general to spend money that could otherwise be directed to a general election campaign in the fall.
The potential of Hartman candidacy helps explain why the Schmidt campaign continues to line up Republican endorsements even after Colyer dropped out of the race.
On Tuesday, 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.
More endorsements are expected to be announced on Wednesday.
Kansas Republican Party Chairman Mike Kuckelman was already talking on Tuesday like there would be no primary campaign.
He referred to Schmidt as the “presumptive” nominee for governor.
“I have not heard from a single person that they’re even considering it,” Kuckelman told conservative Kansas City talk-show host Pete Mundo on Tuesday.
“I feel pretty confident that race with the two of them in it was pretty much sealed up as a two-person primary,” he said.
He allowed for the possibility that someone else could still join the field.
“It’s a little bit late at this point. I have not heard from anybody, but, hey, stranger things have happened,” he said.
“It just seems like hey’re pretty far behind at this point given all the campaigning that’s been going on with both Attorney General Schmidt and Gov. Colyer.”