Antonio Soave, a candidate with a colorful resume who appeared destined for a career in politics, has taken himself out of the running for a congressional seat in a Kansas district that Republicans are fighting to keep.
A former pick by Gov. Sam Brownback to head the Kansas Department of Commerce, Soave withdrew Tuesday as a candidate for the 2nd District seat held by five-term Republican Lynn Jenkins, who is not running for re-election.
A former semi-professional soccer player, model and romance novelist, Soave has recently been the subject of several news stories about his business dealings and his 18-month tenure at the commerce department.
The stories, most of which were reported by the Kansas City Star, detailed Soave’s legal battle with a former business partner and his practice of awarding lucrative state contracts to other former associates.
Brownback’s office on Friday confirmed that he fired Soave in June, reversing several weeks of public denials.
Soave made no direct reference to the spate of negative publicity in a statement posted to Facebook announcing his decision. Instead, he cited growing family pressures.
“By the grace of God, we are awaiting our sixth child soon,” Soave wrote, noting that the campaign had been more stressful than he or his wife had anticipated. “As a result, we feel it is best to focus our attention on our children and our home.”
In a generic defense of his record, Soave wrote that he did his “very best” to bolster the Kansas economy while at the commerce department.
Soave’s exit leaves five Republicans competing for the right to run against likely Democratic nominee Paul Davis.
Davis, a former Kansas House minority leader who narrowly lost a 2014 bid to unseat Brownback, has so far outraised any of his potential Republican opponents.
Soave’s departure doesn’t significantly affect the dynamics of the GOP primary, said University of Kansas political scientist Patrick Miller, noting that the former commerce secretary wasn’t among the candidates being promoted by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“The real effect it seems is that there is just one less conservative Republican in a field of conservative Republicans,” Miller said, referring primarily to Steve Fitzgerald and Caryn Tyson, two state senators vying for the 2nd District nomination.
The 2nd District, which covers the eastern third of the state excluding the Kansas City metropolitan area, is one of two in Kansas being targeted by national Democrats in an effort to regain the majority in the U.S. House.
Democrats also are targeting the 3rd District seat now held by four-term Republican Kevin Yoder. It includes the KC metro area.
Jim McLean is managing director of KMUW's Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and KCUR covering health, education and politics in Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @jmcleanks.