Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday signaled that he is open to considering a run for an open Senate seat in Kansas, months after he declared that he had ruled out a bid.
In an interview with KCMO Radio in Kansas City, Pompeo repeated his familiar refrain that he intends to continue as secretary as state “so long as President Trump wants me to be engaged in this activity.”
But he left himself more wiggle room than he has previously, suggesting that the door remains open to a potential run for the seat of retiring Sen. Pat Roberts (R).
“I would have never dreamed that I’d be the secretary of state even a year before I became the director of the CIA, a year before that,” Pompeo said. “And so, I always leave open the possibility that something will change and my path in life will change too, but my mission set is really very clear.”
Pompeo’s statement comes a week after former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach (R) jumped into the Senate race. The entry of Kobach, who once headed Trump’s short-lived election integrity commission, prompted hand-wringing among some Washington Republicans who worry that a primary win by the immigration hard-liner could put Roberts’s seat within Democrats’ reach.
In a February appearance on NBC’s “Today” show, Pompeo appeared to have shut the door to a Senate run in no uncertain terms. “It’s ruled out. I’m here. I’m loving it,” said Pompeo, who has risen through the ranks in Washington from a congressman representing a Kansas district to CIA director and now the head of the State Department.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) courted Pompeo to consider running and has continued to float him as the best Republican for the job.
“The Kansas race is still unfolding,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol last week when asked about Kobach’s entry into the race. “And I’ve said several times — I’m not sure the president agrees with this — that I’d love to see the secretary of state run for the Senate in Kansas. But the filing deadline’s not till next June. So I think at this early stage in Kansas, I don’t really have anything to add.”
On Wednesday, Pompeo was asked about the comments from leading Republicans and whether his thinking about the Senate race has changed over the past few months.
“I do see this from time to time,” Pompeo said. “There is a lot more people talking about this and spending time on it than Susan and I are spending time thinking about it. Look, we love Kansas, but I am very focused on my mission serving America and President Trump as the secretary of state.”
Asked about Kobach’s candidacy in particular, Pompeo said he would keep his distance from the race as long as he’s working in the administration.
“As the secretary of state, I’ll have no role in Kansas politics,” he said. “I have good faith in the people of Kansas to make a good decision about who their next senator will be.”
John Wagner contributed to this report.