Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla is considering requests to launch a campaign to be the Democratic Party's nominee for the congressional seat held by Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins.
Democratic Party representatives, as well as personal political allies, have encouraged De La Isla to run in the 2nd District that includes Topeka and extends to the borders with Nebraska and Oklahoma in eastern Kansas.
"I have been pretty resolute on my 'no,' " De La Isla said Friday in an interview. "My solid 'no' ... has transitioned to 'let me look into it.' "
De La Isla, 43, is the first Latina elected mayor in Topeka, a campaign she won in 2017. She was elected to the Topeka City Council in 2013. She works as a diversity and inclusion representative at Evergy, formerly known as Westar Energy in Topeka.
In October, Democratic candidate Abbie Hodgson, of Lawrence, withdrew from the 2nd District race due to an inability to raise sufficient contributions to compete in the 2020 election cycle.
The seat has been held by Republicans and Democrats in the past, but in 2018 the retirement of U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins led to the narrow victory by Watkins over Democrat Paul Davis. Watkins hasn't filed for re-election, but said he intends to seek a second term.
Watkins will have a Republican primary opponent in Jake LaTurner, who is the Kansas state treasurer and was encouraged to take on the incumbent by former Gov. Jeff Colyer and others. LaTurner entered the congressional race after ending a bid for the U.S. Senate.
De La Isla said she was in the process of exploring the opportunity to run for Congress. A campaign for the U.S. House wouldn't require her to surrender her job as mayor of Topeka.
"I love my city," she said. "I'm evaluating it, but I'm not ready to make a decision."
She previously worked as executive director of Topeka Habitat for Humanity and as chief financial officer of Housing and Credit Counseling.
In the past, De La Isla has spoken about growing up in Puerto Rico and her life as a single mother. She moved to Kansas nearly 20 years ago and earned a degree at Wichita State University.