Mike Pompeo has been a lawyer, a business executive, and a successful entrepreneur in the aerospace industry. He can now add member of Congress to his blue-chip résumé. Pompeo prevailed in a contentious August GOP primary and went on to easily win the House seat of Republican Rep. Todd Tiahrt who ran for the Senate this year. Pompeo is a staunch conservative much like Tiahrt.
Pompeo’s mother met his father over the phone while she was working as a purchasing clerk for Boeing in Wichita, Kan., and he was selling parts to the company from Southern California. They married in Wichita and moved to Santa Ana, Calif., in the heart of conservative Orange County, where Pompeo was born, raised, and attended high school. He graduated first in his class from West Point, and served as a tank platoon leader, cavalry troop executive officer, and squadron maintenance officer in Germany.
Pompeo left the Army with the rank of captain. He went on to Harvard Law, where he was an editor on the Harvard Law Review. After graduation, he moved to Washington, D.C., to join the prestigious Williams & Connolly firm, specializing in tax law. He also volunteered to represent a group of Arkansas residents who were enmeshed in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to uphold term limits for members of Congress.
Pompeo moved to Kansas in 1996, at the invitation of a friend, to start the company Thayer Aerospace. The company later opened a factory in Mexicali, Mexico, which became an issue in the primary campaign. His opponents claimed it was evidence that he was willing to outsource jobs from Kansas. Pompeo said in response that he had to start the plant to meet the conditions of a contract that resulted in the Kansas site adding about 40 to 50 jobs.
Pompeo had been active in Republican politics, working on Sen. Sam Brownback’s campaigns and ultimately serving as a GOP national committeeman. When Tiahrt decided to run against Rep. Jerry Moran for the Senate seat Brownback vacated to run for governor, Pompeo saw an opportunity to bring his pro-business, limited-government philosophy to Congress. The passage of the Democratic health care overhaul in March, he said, “proves political elites have lost their way.”
In the Republican primary, Pompeo faced competition from state Sen. Jean Schodorf, as well as from businessmen Wink Hartman and Jim Anderson. Hartman was initially seen as the frontrunner and spent more than $1.6 million on the race, but he ran into trouble after Pompeo’s campaign charged that he had taken up residency in Florida for tax purposes. The moderate Schodorf, meanwhile, faced a series of negative ads in the final days of the campaign from outside groups supporting Pompeo; one of them featured a man seeking a hunting license to “bag a RINO”—a reference to “Republican in name only,” a pejorative term conservatives often use to describe moderates.
Pompeo won the August primary with 39 percent of the vote, with Schodorf taking 24 percent, Hartman receiving 23 percent, and Anderson getting 13 percent. Both Schodorf and Hartman told The Wichita Eagle that they were dismayed by the campaign that Pompeo had run, and Hartman briefly considered running in the general election as a Libertarian before dropping the idea.
Pompeo’s Democratic opponent in the general election, state Rep. Raj Goyle, sought to emphasize his commitment to helping workers victimized by thousands of layoffs in Wichita’s aircraft industry. But Pompeo took a commanding lead in fundraising, collecting more than $920,000 in the third quarter—about $550,000 more than Goyle—and reaped the benefits of Kansans’ historically anti-Democratic leanings.