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Kansas has an all-out race for the 2nd District in Congress. Here’s what to know

This map compares the new 2nd District drawn in 2022 to the previous district. The new boundaries changed the demographics and political landscape of the district.
Daniel Wheaton of the Midwest Newsroom
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U.S. Census date compiled with Datawrapper
This map compares the new 2nd District drawn in 2022 to the previous district.

The district's new boundaries changed the demographics and political landscape. The race is attracting attention from both parties after sitting Republican Congressman Jake LaTurner said he would not run for reelection.

Zane Irwin contributed to this report

When Kansans elect their U.S. congress members this fall, it’ll be the first time there’s an open seat in the 2nd District since the districts were redrawn in 2022.

The district covers much of the eastern third of Kansas and is attracting a lot of attention heading into November. Here’s a look at how the district was redrawn and how that could affect elections:

Kansas lawmakers redrew the state’s districts in 2022, but it wasn’t a smooth process.

  • Republicans control the Kansas Legislature, so they were in charge of drawing the new districts in Kansas. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed the plan but lawmakers later overrode the veto.
  • A district judge also tried to strike down the new map over what he called pro-Republican gerrymandering, but the Kansas Supreme Court ultimately overruled his decision.

Lawmakers changed the political landscape of the 2nd District by removing certain areas. 

  • A big area impacted by the new districts is Kansas City, Kansas. It was previously in the 3rd District – the only one represented by a Democrat. But now, the city is split across the 2nd and 3rd Districts.
  • Republicans also moved much of Lawrence, which is consistently Democratic, out of the 2nd District and into the heavily conservative 1st District. 
  • The 2nd District did become slightly more diverse after picking up parts of Kansas City. But as it’s drawn now, it still went solidly for Republican former President Donald Trump in 2020. 
  • Altogether, these changes make it more difficult for Democrats to flip the 2nd District.

Incumbent Republican Rep. Jake LaTurner announced he wouldn’t seek re-election so he could spend time with his young children. A lot of people are stepping up to replace him.

  • There’s typically a large pool of candidates when you have an open seat like this.
  • In this race, there are five Republicans and two Democrats running.
  • That includes Republican former state Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Nancy Boyda, a Democrat who represented the 2nd District more than 15 years ago.
  • Last time there was an open race, there were seven candidates in the Republican primary alone.

With a crowded pool of candidates, some are trying to stand out from the pack.

  • Some Republicans are positioning themselves as more conservative or loyal to Trump than so-called establishment Republicans. 
  • This district voted for Trump by about 57%, so that could be an effective strategy.
  • As for Democrats, one candidate is taking a more progressive approach — maybe trying to reach some of that new Kansas City constituency. 
  • The other Democrat, however, is breaking with the Kansas Democratic Party platform on the issue of transgender girls participating in girls' sports.

Candidates are hitting national political talking points as well as some issues that are top of mind for Kansans.

  • Fort Hays State University conducted a statewide public opinion survey in 2023.
  • The economy and crime were both top of mind for voters.  
  • Certain measures like Medicaid expansion and legalizing cannabis were also popular in the poll. 
  • Candidates are hitting some of these points in their messaging, especially the economy and public safety. But those are also common, national political talking points. 

Kansas is still a Republican stronghold, but the race might attract outside attention from both parties. 

  • At the federal level, Republicans currently only control the House by a margin of seven members. 
  • Any additional seats they pick up or hold, such as in the 2nd District, could protect that slim majority. 
  • Democrats, on the other hand, are hoping to flip the majority in the House and retain their hold on the Senate and presidency. 

The primary election in Kansas is Aug. 6. The registration deadline is July 16, and early voting starts the next day.

Daniel Caudill reports on the Kansas Statehouse and government for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. You can email him at dcaudill@ku.edu.

Zane Irwin reports on politics for the Kansas News Service. You can email him at zaneirwin@kcur.org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Updated: July 9, 2024 at 2:02 PM CDT
This story has been updated to clarify a candidate's position on transgender issues.
Daniel Caudill reports on Kansas state government for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service.