Former U.S. attorney for Kansas Barry Grissom on Monday launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate and the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
Grissom, a Democrat, hopes to take advantage of a crowded and divisive GOP primary and capitalize on his work as the chief federal prosecutor for Kansas from 2010 to 2016.
He led the prosecution of domestic terrorists who plotted attacks at Fort Riley and a Wichita airport and touted his efforts to work with law enforcement agencies in western Kansas to eradicate the violent Nortenos gang from Dodge City.
"Now I’m running for the United States Senate," Grissom said, "because I know we can do more for our healthcare and rural hospitals, we can fight harder for good paying jobs and education, and we must continue to keep the American people safe."
Grissom joins former U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda as Democrats who have signaled their candidacy for next year's race, which has drawn the attention of numerous Republicans. Democrats, who haven't won a U.S. Senate race in Kansas since 1932, hope to build on the momentum of 2018 elections that saw Democrats win the governor's race and a U.S. House seat.
Next year's election cycle provides a rare "open seat" opportunity for Democrats, meaning they won't have to overthrow an incumbent. Roberts won four terms, beginning with the 1996 election, and Republican Sen. Nancy Kassebaum held the seat for the three previous terms.
Mike Kuckelman, chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, highlighted Grissom's connection to President Barack Obama, who hired Grissom as a federal attorney. Grissom also served as an adviser to former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Grissom's "liberal agenda is in no way fitting with Kansas values," Kuckelman said.
"The Kansas Republican Party has a deep bench of qualified potential candidates, and we will put forward someone who will represent the values of our great state," Kuckelman said.
Republican businessman and former Kansas City Chiefs player Dave Lindstrom announced his candidacy last week. Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner also has entered the race, and Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle has said she is likely to enter.
Speculation of additional candidates on the Republican side centers on the possibility of a rematch between former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Gov. Jeff Colyer, as well as candidates that could include Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall or U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Before Grissom was appointed to the U.S. attorney post, he represented clients in civil rights and labor-related cases through his private practice. He attended Johnson County Community College and the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in science in 1977, then earned a law degree at Oklahoma City University. He also worked as a model in the early 1980s.