Sebelius Said to Weigh Run for Kansas Senate Seat
By JEREMY W. PETERSAPRIL 16, 2014
WASHINGTON — In her darkest hour last fall, Kathleen Sebelius suffered one of the deepest cuts from an old family friend who accused her of “gross incompetence” over the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and demanded that she resign as secretary of health and human services. Now she is weighing revenge.
Ms. Sebelius is considering entreaties from Democrats who want her to run against that old friend, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas.
Several Democrats said this week that Ms. Sebelius had been mentioned with growing frequency as someone who could wage a serious challenge to Mr. Roberts, 77, who is running for a fourth term and is considered vulnerable. One person who spoke directly to Ms. Sebelius said that she was thinking about it, but added that it was too soon to say how seriously she was taking the idea.
It was only last week, after all, that Ms. Sebelius, 65, said that she would step down from her cabinet job.
Even if Ms. Sebelius had not presided over the Department of Health and Human Services at a time of turmoil and self-inflicted distress — and while carrying out a law that inspires such anger on the right — her candidacy would be a tough sell in Kansas. Democrats have not held a Senate seat in the state since 1939. And even before the president’s popularity started to take a steep slide last year, he fared especially poorly in Kansas, winning only 38 percent of the vote there in 2012.
Democrats say that Ms. Sebelius would be their best hope at winning in a tough state, especially if Mr. Roberts loses his primary to Milton Wolf, a Tea Party-backed radiologist who has alarmed mainstream Republicans with some of his actions, such as when he posted gruesome pictures of gunshot victims on Facebook.
Perhaps more significant, Ms. Sebelius would force Republicans to spend money in Kansas as they tried to fight off her challenge. Her family has a long history in the state, and she was a popular, twice-elected governor. In 2006, she was re-elected with 58 percent of the vote.
But friends and Democrats who know her said that they seriously doubted she would follow through and mount a campaign, considering how personally difficult the past six or seven months had been. She has been mocked and excoriated by Republicans on Capitol Hill, who made her the face of the Affordable Care Act’s problems. And she has told people that she anticipated staying on in her job as secretary for a while longer. President Obama has already nominated a successor, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the current director of the Office of Management and Budget, but her appointment must be approved by the Senate.
Ms. Sebelius would have until June 2 to decide, the deadline for filing for the Senate primary in Kansas.