Nov. 3, 2020 U.S. Senate                                      

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+Roger Marshall (R)
Barbara Bollier (D)
Jason Buckley (L) 68,263


Plurality: 156,432 votes (8.07 percentage points).
 KS Secretary of State

Sen. Pat Roberts (R), first elected to the Senate in 1996 after serving eight terms in the House, announced in Jan. 2019 that he would not seek re-election.  U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall (R) won a competitive primary and defeated state Sen. Barbara Bollier (D) and Jason Buckley (L) in the general election.  Despite the Kansas's solid Republican orientation—the last time a Democrat was elected to the U.S. Senate was in 1932 (>)—the Marshall-Bollier race drew national resources and media attention.  Laura Kelly's successful campaign for governor in 2018 had showed a Democrat could win in Kansas, the national battle for control of the Senate was intense, and polls showed the race closer than the final outcome. 

Bollier, a retired anesthesiologist from Mission Hills, was elected to the Kansas House as a Republican in 2010 and 2012 and to the Kansas Senate in 2016; she switched to the Democratic Party in Dec. 2018.  She announced her candidacy for U.S. Senate on Oct. 16, 2019.  Former U.S. Attorney for Kansas Barry Grissom dropped his bid and endorsed Bollier the next day.  In the Aug. 4 Democratic primary, Bollier won 85.34% of the vote over Robert Leon Tillman. 

A crowded field of 11 candidates sought the Republican nomination. 
One person who did not run was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; there were rumors in the latter part of 2019 that he would enter the race, but he ruled it out on Jan. 6, 2020.  Kris Kobach, the 2018 nominee for governor and former secretary of state, announced his candidacy on July 7, 2019.  Marshall, an OB/GYN from Great Bend who was first elected to Congress in 2016 representing CD-1 ("the Big 1st"), announced his candidacy on Sept. 7, 2019.  Bob Hamilton, who had over three decades built a big plumbing firm in Kansas City, provided a wildcard with a multi-million dollar ad campaign following his late entry at the end of March 2020.  Marshall benefited from a couple of big endorsements, former Sen. Bob Dole (Jan. 14) and outgoing Sen. Roberts (July 21).  What was seen as a very competitive race between Kobach and Marshall turned into a fairly comfortable win for Marshall.  He won the Aug. 4 primary with 40.28% of the vote, Kobach finished second at 26.10%, and Hamilton finished third at 18.71%. 

Democrats, seeing Kobach as the more beatable opponent, sought to influence the primary.  In the final weeks of the primary campaign, the Democratic-funded Sunflower State PAC spent $5.3 million.  One ad from the latter part of July stated,
"Mitt Romney Republicans and never Trumpers are coming for Kris Kobach.  They think Kobach's too conservative.  The Romney crowd loves Roger Marshall, the guy who's part of the Washington swamp...(>)"

The third candidate in the general election race, Libertarian Jason D. Buckley, is a Navy veteran and IT technician from Overland Park.  In his mission statement he argued, "
Lets build a world where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power."  He emphasized controlling budget deficits and the national debt by cutting spending.

Marshall and Bollier participated in two general election debates. 
On Sept. 19 Kansas Agriculture Network, Kansas Information Network and 580 WIBW hosted a virtual debate, normally held as part of the Kansas State Fair (>).  On Oct. 22 the candidates engaged in an in-person debate hosted by KWCH Channel 12 and KMUW radio (>); the two candidates were at podiums in studio separated by a plexiglass divider.  Bollier's performance in the second debate was somewhat uneven.

Although the two candidates were doctors, they took decidedly different approaches to the pandemic.  Marshall eschewed a mask on the campaign trail and emphasized the harm done to businesses by shutting down the economy.  His campaign had an active field team knocking on doors, while keeping distance.  Bollier stressed following guidelines.  The Bollier campaign's 28 staff (in addition there were coordinated staff) all worked remotelyIn September she did start doing socially distanced lawn chair chats.
At the Dole Institute of Politics post-election conference, Marshall campaign manager Eric Pahls, emphasized Marshall's geographic appeal to the mostly rural state and his ideological alignment with Kansans' values.  Of Bollier he said, "While registered as a Republican for a long time, there wasn't really an issue on which she was conservative."  Referencing Bernie Sanders, the campaign launched a "Barbara or Bernie: Who Said It?" website making the point that "Barbara Bollier plays a moderate in her TV ads... but is she really?"  Pahls said the fact that some Republicans endorsed Bollier was "frustrating" but "it wasn't exactly a who's who of Kansas conservative influencers."   He summed up, "We were able to demonstrate, both with voting record and video and whatever else we needed that the person we were running against was not who she was campaigning as."

As part of the same conference,
Bollier campaign manager Max Glass said the Democratic campaign focused in particular on wooing moderate Republicans, seeking to "show them a more moderate stance that would pull them our way and give them permission that they could vote for Barbara without compromising their values."  Bollier touted endorsements of almost 100 Republicans led by former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, who endorsed her on Sept. 17.  Ads featured Republican legislators and emphasized her independent-mindedness (>).  Glass said the campaign sought "mimic as much as possible the Laura Kelly path to victory in 2018."  Ultimately, however, Glass said, "Republicans in Kansas have every advantage, every advantage conceivable" and "with Trump on the ballot it [the outcome] was just so baked in." 

The race was the most expensive in Kansas history.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Bollier campaign outspent the Marshall campaign by 4:1, $28.5 million to $7.0 million (>).  Spending by outside groups reduced the difference.  The biggest spenders on the Republican side were the Senate Leadership Fund ($17.6 million) and the NRSC ($5.1 million).  The biggest spender on the Democratic side was Duty and Honor, a super PAC affiliated with the Senate Majority PAC ($6.4 million).

Campaign Managers
Roger Marshall: 
Eric Pahls
(Sept. 2019)  Senior advisor to U.S. Rep. Marshall from June 2019.  Director of communications for Carly Fiorina and Unlocking Potential, Dec. 2017-June 2019.  Press secretary to U.S. Rep. Marshall, Jan.-Dec. 2017; press secretary on Kansans for Marshall, Apr. 2016-Dec. 2017.  Degree in journalism from University of Kansas, 2016; chaired KU College Republicans, Apr. 2015-May 2016.  From Beloit, KS.

Barbara Bollier:  Max Glass
(Oct. 2019)  Campaign manager on Abdul El-Sayed for Governor (MI), June 2017-Aug. 2018.  Campaign manager on Lisa Blunt Rochester for Congress (DE), Nov. 2015-Sept. 2016.  State director of the North Carolina Voter Registration Project, Aug.-Nov. 2014. 
Campaign manager on Gordon Eustace Lagana for New Jersey, Apr.-Nov. 2013.  Campaign manager on Tulsi Gabbard for Hawai'i, Feb.-Nov. 2012.  Campaign manager on Colgan for Senate (VA), Sept.-Nov. 2011.  Campaign manager on Libby Garvey for Senate (VA), Jan.-Aug. 2011.  Campaign manager for the Iowa Senate Democratic Caucus, Apr.-Dec. 2010.  Campaign manager on Caputo for Delegate (VA), Jan.-Nov. 2009.  Regional field coordinator in Durham and Orange counties on Kay Hagan for Senate (NC), Aug.-Nov. 2008.  Field organizer on Zack Space for Congress (OH), June-Ag. 2008.  Vice president and co-founder of Indieroots DC, Oct. 2006-Aug. 2008.  Assistant to the deputy campaign manager on Hillary Clinton for President, Jan.-June 2008.  Director of government relations research at Vocus, Inc., Sept. 2000-Jan. 2008.  M.A. in applied politics from American University, 2008; B.A. in American politics/international relations from University of Virginia, 2000. 

See also:
Dole Institute of Politics Post-Election Conferences: Eric Pahls, Max Glass (Jan. 2021).

Bryan Lowry and Jonathan Shorman.  "Moderate Kansas Republicans likely hold the balance in Bollier-Marshall Senate contest."  Kansas City Star, Sept. 14, 2020.