Gov. Sam Brownback is in the running to lead the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Rome, where he would coordinate the work of agencies involved in food and agriculture programs, a public radio report said Wednesday.
Kansas Public Radio reported a “former high-ranking government official” revealed an agreement was in place between the second-term governor and the administration of President Donald Trump to take the post in Italy. The public radio station didn’t identify the source.
It is unclear when a public announcement might be made or when Brownback would be formally nominated.
Melika Willoughby, a spokeswoman for Brownback, declined to dispute or confirm the KPR report.
“Governor Brownback is focused on working with the Legislature to pass a balanced budget and a modern school-finance formula,” she said.
Since Trump won election in November, speculation has swirled at the Capitol about the potential for Brownback to join the administration. In addition to its unnamed source, Kansas Public Radio reported that David Lane, who had previously held the U.S. position, said he had heard Brownback may be selected for the position.
Clay Barker, director of the Kansas Republican Party, said Wednesday he didn’t have any information on Brownback.
Brownback is a former U.S. senator and previous published reports said he had been interviewed for the U.S. Department of Agriculture post. The UN-affiliated job would require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
The posting would involve working with officials from the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the USDA.
Brownback would head the United States Mission to the U.N. Agencies in Rome. The mission works “to advance U.S. policies and support U.N. efforts in the areas of emergency food assistance, sustainable agricultural development, food safety standards, fisheries, forests and financing for rural development,” the mission’s website reads.
The posting would represent a confluence of interests for Brownback. He has a history in agriculture, having previously served as Kansas agriculture secretary. Brownback is also a devout Catholic, and the mission’s headquarters in Rome would put him close to the Vatican.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a Johnson County Republican, would assume the governorship in Kansas amid deep political strife about the state budget, tax policy and funding of K-12 public schools.
Brownback was elected governor in 2010 based on a conservative platform tied to reducing the size of government, budget constraint and lower taxes. He vowed to be the leading opponent of abortion and has signed more than a dozen bills limiting the procedure in Kansas.
His re-election in 2014 was a closer race than expected in red-state Kansas while public opinion polling showed he had become of the most unpopular governors in the nation.