2022 midterms

Kris Kobach Won’t Go Away

Kris Kobach addressing a Trump MAGA rally in 2018. Photo: Mark Reinstein/Getty Images

If you’ve been wondering why Democrats have been surprisingly competitive in recent statewide political contests in deep-red Kansas, two names pretty much explain it all. One is former senator and governor Sam Brownback, whose calamitous supply-side fiscal policies nearly wrecked the state before Donald Trump bailed him out of office by appointing him to a new pander-driven gig as U.S. ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom. The second bad boy is famous vote suppresser, nativist, and Trump ally Kris Kobach. In 2018, Kobach, who was then Kansas’s secretary of State, challenged Brownback’s successor, Jeff Colyer, in the 2018 gubernatorial primary and narrowly won. This gave Democrats a rare breakthrough opportunity, which Laura Kelly seized, beating Kobach handily.

But Kobach wasn’t through with his reckless self-promotion. When veteran Republican senator Pat Roberts announced in 2019 that he was retiring, Kobach leaped into that race, touting his friendship with Trump and boasting of his unsavory national reputation as a badge of honor. He led the Republican primary field in early polls but eventually lost to congressman Roger Marshall, more of a mainstream Trump lover who successfully warned voters that Kobach might again lose a general election with frightful consequences for the GOP. Marshall is now in the Senate.

Now Kobach is back for his fifth statewide contest, announcing a run for attorney general in 2022 (yet another position he hopes to occupy like a cowbird, as the incumbent, Republican Derek Schmidt, is running for governor). Kobach is again trading on his national fame as an own-the-libs living scandal and will apparently campaign on national issues, rather than anything to do with Kansas, the Associated Press reports:

In a news conference in Wichita, Kobach, a former constitutional-law professor, said states’ attorneys general are the last line of defense against unconstitutional overreach by the Biden administration.

“On a host of issues from a federal takeover of elections to attempts to restrict our Second Amendment rights, the Biden administration and its allies in Congress have disregarded the constitutional limits on federal power. The most important officer who can fight back against such unconstitutional actions is a state attorney general,” Kobach said.

He’s also borrowing another Trump theme, pretending he’s going to protect police officers from the left (in Kansas!):

Presumably, most Kansans are wise to Kobach’s act by now. He first gained big-time attention before running for secretary of State, when he took credit for drafting Arizona’s notorious SB 1070 (the so-called “show your papers” law authorizing police interrogation of people who looked as though they might be undocumented). Once in office, he linked his signature anti-immigrant and “voter fraud” causes by sponsoring a bill that (among other hostile-to-voters provisions) required proof of citizenship for anyone registering to vote. It was subsequently declared unconstitutional by a federal judge who mocked Kobach’s poor preparation for the proceeding and fined him for contempt of court because he had ignored an earlier injunction to stop enforcing the law. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently refused to accept a petition to overturn the ruling.

Kobach’s reputation for sloppy work on legal issues was significantly enhanced by the fiasco surrounding the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a Trump vehicle to which Kobach was appointed vice-chairman (effectively chairman, since that position was occupied by Mike Pence as a figurehead). The commission was dissolved after just two meetings, as it became obvious it was goosing a ghost in trying to document Trump’s claim that he would have won the popular vote in 2016 if it hadn’t been for illegal voting.

Still, Kobach will likely tout his self-identified expertise as a constitutional lawyer, while flaunting his degrees from Harvard, Yale, and Oxford and his experience at George W. Bush’s Justice Department (where, prophetically, he worked on toughening visa requirements for people from Arab countries).

It’s anybody’s guess as to whether Kobach has finally worn out his welcome. But Kansas Democrats are probably cheering for him.

Kris Kobach Won’t Go Away