Kathleen Sebelius Might Be Running For Senator in Kansas

Illustration for article titled Kathleen Sebelius Might Be Running For Senator in Kansas

When Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius resigned last week, it was seen as an inevitable attempt by the Obama Administration to blame someone for their embarrassingly "botched" roll-out of the Affordable Care Act's healthcare.gov. But Sebelius isn't done yet: she could be considering a run for Senate in Kansas.

The New York Times reports that several Democrats have encouraged Sebelius to run against GOP Senator Pat Roberts, who was a family friend of hers until he said the rollout of healthcare.gov reflected her "gross incompetence" and suggested that she step down.

"It isn't personal," Roberts said then, who will reportedly have a difficult time getting reelected to his seat because he spends most of his time in Washington D.C. and is seen as a bit of a carpetbagger. "Was it tough? Sure, it was tough."


Sebelius moving into a position as a Senator wouldn't be a totally weird move; as you may recall, she was Governor of Kansas for two terms before becoming the head of Health and Human Services. Before that, she was a representative in the Kansas State House of Representatives. She's also been rumored to have been considered as a vice presidential candidate for both John Kerry and President Obama and was on the shortlist to be a member of Obama's cabinet before she withdrew her name. In 2008, when Kansas GOP Senator Sam Brownback announced that he'd be retiring from the Senate (he'd eventually run for Governor and win), Sebelius was speculated as a replacement for him but ultimately kept her appointment as head of HHS.

Though Sebelius has a long history in Kansas, several things would have to happen to get her into that seat, all of which would be difficult. First, she'd have to decide to run, which the Times reports is a move that is "seriously doubted" by her friends in and outside of the political sphere. Second, she'd have to win a Senate seat in Kansas, which hasn't been held by a Democrat since the 1930s. Kansas is also becoming more of a Tea Party state, an issue that is threatening Roberts' hold on his seat as well. Lastly, she'd have to win after coming off an incredibly professionally difficult number of months in which she was blamed for the failings of one of the biggest governmental projects of the last few decades. (On this latter point, if someone could please explain if there's actual data proving that when administrations make people resign to take the fall for their mistakes that that scapegoating actually changes polling numbers for the better, that would be great.)

Even if healthcare.gov continues to be a disaster, at least we know Sebelius will be fine just look at her career record) and that she's still proud of her work on the Affordable Care Act. In her resignation speech (where a page of her speech was oh-so-poignantly missing), she called it "the most meaningful work I've ever been a part of."

"In fact, it's been the cause of my life."

Image via Mark Wilson/Getty

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I find the continued description of healthcare.gov as "botched" and a "disaster" curious. According to people who "roll out" websites for businesses for a living, it is rare for a site like that to be perfect at the beginning. Glitches are normal and expected. The only way for most of those glitches to be discovered and to find out what little details may have to be tweaked is for people to use the site. In this case, every usage of this particular site was finely scrutinized, with Republicans and the media waiting expectantly to report on what a "failure" it was.

It just seems like the media is very invested in describing the website as negatively as possible, scaring people and discouraging them from using it. A woman I know who volunteered for an organization that helped people to get signed up was on FB constantly assuring people not to believe the hype, and saying that there had been little to no problems for most people.