Former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum announced her endorsement of Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier in the race for U.S. Senate, the latest in a line of Republicans to endorse Boller.
Kassebaum, who also endorsed Gov. Laura Kelly in 2018, served from 1978 to 1997 and was replaced by current U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, who both Bollier and Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall are running to replace.
"I’ve known Barbara for many years, and she has the character, know-how, and compassion to represent all communities in our state," Kassebaum said in a press release.
In the statement, Kassebaum praised Bollier’s bipartisanship and said it would be an asset in handling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"I was proud to represent Kansans for 18 years in the Senate," she said. "Barbara shares my belief in working with members of both parties to solve problems and get things done. Barbara has a clear record of accomplishment for the people of Kansas, and she will work effectively at the national level on their behalf."
When she was elected in 1978, Kassebaum was the only woman in the U.S. Senate, and the first woman to win a term without her husband previously serving.
Kassebaum, whose father is prominent former Gov. Alf Landon, has continued to be a respected voice among Republicans in the state.
But she broke with her party to endorse Kelly in 2018 and has been consistently critical of President Donald Trump and the polarization in modern politics.
"I don’t know that we have had with it a direction that gives us some sense of security that we know where we’re going and how best to get there," she said in 2019. "We’ve lost touch, I think, with trying to talk in a dialogue that helps all of us reason together."
The endorsement is also a break from her former U.S. Senate colleague, Robert Dole, who backed Marshall in the primary.
Bollier praised Kassebaum’s legacy in a statement, calling the endorsement "an incredible honor."
"She has always been a role model for me, personally," Bollier said. "She has advocated and advanced the interests of Kansans by working cooperatively to find solutions."
A line of moderate Republicans have backed Bollier, with 75 current and former GOP elected officials announcing their endorsement last month. Bollier was a Republican until 2018, switching parties in response to changes within the party.
Marshall and Republicans have consistently criticized Bollier’s voting record, even before the party change, arguing it is more liberal than she lets on.
While there have been no polls in recent weeks, the most recent data shows the race to be a close one. A Public Policy Polling survey from Aug. 7 shows Marshall with a two-point lead over Bollier.
No Democrat has represented Kansas in the U.S. Senate since 1939.