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Politics

Wichita Businessman Wink Hartman Drops From Kansas Governor Race

hartman_debate_cropped.jpg
Nadya Faulx
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KMUW, File Photo
Wichita businessman Willis “Wink” Hartman speaks onstage at Saturday's debate. He is now endorsing fellow conservative Secretary of State Kris Kobach for the Republican nomination for governor.";s:

Wichita businessman Willis “Wink” Hartman suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor Wednesday, becoming the second candidate to exit the GOP race this month.

Hartman, an oil producer and owner of the Jimmy's Egg restaurant chain who recently loaned his campaign $1.6 million, is urging his supporters to back fellow conservative Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The Kansas City Star reported late Wednesday that Kobach is considering Hartman as a potential running mate.

In a letter to his supporters posted online, Hartman said he decided to end his campaign after watching Kobach Saturday during the first GOP debate of the campaign.

“Standing on the stage Saturday night, I listened, and I heard a candidate speaking for me and for the conservative movement,” Hartman said in a letter to supporters posted to his campaign website.

Hartman said he feared being “the spoiler” who cost Kobach the nomination if he had remained in the race.

A recent poll showed Kobach locked in a tight race with newly installed Gov. Jeff Colyer, each with the support of about 20 percent of likely GOP primary voters.

Colyer, a former state legislator who served as lieutenant governor for the past seven years, was inaugurated in January when former Gov. Sam Brownback departed for an ambassador’s post in the Trump administration.

Hartman was among four candidates with single-digit support, according to the poll.

His departure likely makes it a five-candidate race. In addition to Kobach and Colyer, the field includes Topeka physician and former state Sen. Jim Barnett, Wichita construction executive and former member of the Kansas House Mark Hutton, and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer.

Four contenders are vying for the Democratic nomination: state Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, current Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward of Wichita, and former Kansas House member and state agriculture secretary Josh Svaty.

Johnson County businessman Greg Orman is gathering signatures to place his name on the November ballot as an independent candidate.

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Jim McLean is managing director of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics in Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @jmcleanks.