Sources: Secretary of State Pompeo won't run for Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he will not run for an open Senate seat from Kansas this fall, two people close to McConnell said Monday.

Pompeo's decision complicates Republicans' chances of holding what should be a guaranteed seat in the deep red state as they battle to retain their slim Senate majority in November's elections.

The news comes days after the U.S. used an airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump to kill Qassem Soleimani, Iran's most powerful general and leader of that country's elite Quds Force. Iran has vowed revenge on the U.S., spurring an international crisis that makes this an awkward time for Pompeo to leave his post and seek elective office.

Pompeo indicated he will not run in a conversation with McConnell on Monday afternoon, the two people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private talk. Others familiar with the matter said Pompeo met with McConnell, R-Ky., on Capitol Hill.

A former congressman from Kansas, Pompeo has traveled repeatedly to the state in recent months, and many Washington Republicans had expressed a belief that he would be a candidate.

If he ran, he was considered all but certain to prevail in the Aug. 4 GOP primary and the November general election. Candidates have until June 1 to file for the Kansas Senate race, leaving a theoretical door open for Pompeo to reconsider.

Republicans worry that without him, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a polarizing conservative with hard-right immigration views, could win the GOP nomination. GOP officials say that if Kobach is the party's choice he would alienate moderate voters and lose the general election, repeating the defeat he suffered in 2018 when he was the Republican candidate for governor. Trump carried the state by nearly 21 percentage points in 2016.

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Politische Schwergewichte: Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel begrüßt US-Außenminister Mike Pompeo (M.) und UN-Generalsekretär Antonio Guterres bei der Libyen-Konferenz.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the Libya summit in Berlin, Germany, January 19, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holds a meeting with CIA Director nominee Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., in his Capitol office on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Mike Pompeo (L) is sworn in as CIA Director by Vice President Mike Pence (R) as wife Susan Pompeo (2nd L) looks on at Eisenhower Executive Office Building January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. Pompeo was confirmed for the position by the Senate this evening.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - JUNE 28: Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., right, chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, conducts a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center, June 28, 2016, to announce the Committee's report on the 2012 attacks in Libya that killed four Americans. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., also appears. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican from Kansas and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director nominee for President-elect Donald Trump, swears in to a Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. Pompeo is seeking to reassure senators that he can shift from an outspoken policymaker to an objective spy chief if confirmed.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., holds a meeting with CIA Director nominee Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., in his Capitol office on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016.

(Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) arrives to testify before a Senate Intelligence hearing on his nomination of to be become director of the CIA at Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (R) finishes swearing in Mike Pompeo, flanked by his wife Susan Pompeo, to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the vice president's ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Mike Pompeo gets a hug from supporter Jennifer O'Connor after arriving at the Sedgwick County Republican headquarters at Market Centre in Wichita, Kansas, on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

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Adam Schiff (D-CA) left, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) center, and moderator Chuck Todd, right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015.

(William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for the director of the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) attends his confirmation hearing before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on January 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mr. Pompeo is a former Army officer who graduated first in his class from West Point.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) listens as Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) speaks during his confirmation hearing to be the director of the CIA before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on January 12, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mr. Pompeo is a former Army officer who graduated first in his class from West Point.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., speaks during the news conference before a group of House Republican freshmen walked to the Senate to deliver a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday, March 30, 2011. The letter called on the Senate to pass a long term continuing resolution with spending cuts.

(Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

US Congressman Mike Pompeo (C), R-Kansas, sits in the dark after a power failure with US Senator Pat Roberts (L), a former Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and former US Senator Bob Dole (R), R-Kansas, as he prepares to testify before the Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, January 12, 2017, on his nomination to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the Trump administration.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., center, nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is introduced by former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., right, and Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., during Pompeo's Senate Select Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing in Dirksen Building, January 12, 2017. The hearing was moved from Hart Building due to a peer outage.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Incoming Trump administration cabinet secretary nominees including Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson (L-R), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director nominee Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary nominee James Mattis arrive for meetings at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 13, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Mike Pompeo (2nd L), flanked by his wife Susan Pompeo (2nd R) and their son Nick Pompeo (R), signs his affidavit of appointment after being sworn in as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) in Pence's ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 23, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

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Republicans consider retaining the Kansas seat crucial in this fall's voting, when they will defend their 53-47 Senate majority. GOP senators in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina face potentially tight reelection contests, while Doug Jones of Alabama is the Democrat in greatest danger of defeat.

The Kansas seat is being vacated by GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, 83, who's served in the Senate since 1997 and, before that, in the House since 1981.

Pompeo, 56, finished first in his class at West Point, served in the Army and earned a law degree from Harvard. He was in his fourth House term when he resigned in 2017 to become President Trump's first CIA director. In 2018, he replaced the fired Rex Tillerson atop the State Department. He has evolved into one of Trump's most trusted advisers.

McConnell and other top Republicans have been eager for Pompeo to run for the Senate.Just last month, Trump called Pompeo “a tremendous guy doing a tremendous job" and said if he thought the Kansas seat were in peril for Republicans, "I would sit down and talk to Mike.”

To many, that suggested Trump had given Pompeo a green light to run. Feeding the buzz, Pompeo kept his old House campaign committee alive, and it had nearly $1 million at the end of June that could be used for a Senate race. That's a significant amount to start with in an inexpensive-media state like Kansas.

But one person said Pompeo had never signaled to his State Department colleagues that he wanted to run and told several that he didn't want to.

Kobach’s opponents in the GOP primary include Rep. Roger Marshall, state Senate President Susan Wagle and Dave Lindstrom, a businessman and former Kansas City Chiefs football player. The leading Democratic candidate is state Sen. Barbara Bollier, a retired Kansas City-area anesthesiologist who switched from the GOP at the end of 2018.

Pompeo's conversation with McConnell was first reported by The New York Times.

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