Can Reasonable Republicans Stop Kris Kobach?

Donald Trump wouldn’t be president today if a gigantic rift hadn’t opened up between the Republican establishment and the Republican base, and we’re going to get another taste of that this November when Kansans go to the polls to elect a new governor:

Kris Kobach may be the chosen standard-bearer for the Kansas Republican Party, but elected GOP officials are less than unified behind him in his run for governor.

Almost 40 percent of Republicans in the Kansas Legislature, when asked whether they will support Kobach in November, either would not say or did not respond to repeated inquiries. Four moderate Republicans, all from Johnson County, have said they will not support Kobach.

“I’m not going to take a position on that race. I just don’t feel like it’s any benefit to me to do that,” said House Majority Whip Kent Thompson, a Republican from Iola, without elaborating.

The numbers show the division within the Kansas Republican Party is real, said Michael Smith, a political scientist at Emporia State University.

Kansas is already well-known for its split of relatively moderate Eisenhower-ish Republicans and archconservative Brownbackian fire-breathers, but Kobach has taken an atomic chisel to this fissure. Since Trump became president, Kobach has distinguished himself by serving as chairman of the most farcical government commission (the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity) in the history of the country and being held in contempt of court for failing to follow a judge’s instructions in his role as Kansas’s Secretary of State. He’s a prominent birther who helped author and promote Arizona SB 1070, the state’s notorious racial profiling law, as well as a similar law in Alabama. None of this prevented him from narrowly beating the interim governor of Kansas in the primary and becoming the Sunflower state GOP standard bearer. Still, fifty-nine percent of Republican primary-goers voted against him.

Complicating the picture for the Democrats, however, is that the gubernatorial election will be a three-way race. Greg Orman, who ran a credible race against Senator Pat Roberts in 2014 as a Democratic Party-blessed independent, will be on the ballot splitting off anti-Kobach votes from the Democratic nominee Laura Kelly. That will probably (but not necessarily) be sufficient for Kobach to win with a plurality of the vote.

A new poll shows Democrat Laura Kelly and Republican Kris Kobach are virtually tied in the race for Governor, but Independent candidate Greg Orman says those numbers aren’t legitimate.

The poll was done by the Public Policy Polling group. It shows Kobach getting 39% of votes, Kelly getting 38% of votes and Orman with just 9%. It was paid for by the KNEA, a Kansas teachers union that supports Kelly. That connection is why Orman is questioning its legitimacy.

“That was just a highway partisan poll done by the ally of the Democratic party. It’s just another partisan dirty trick. The reality is they want to avoid competition and they want to avoid accountability,” Orman said.

KSNT News political analyst Dr. Bob Beatty said that as long as polling companies are transparent about their methods, there’s no reason to doubt their numbers.

“We’re able to look at these polls and really get a good sense of the race as long as they’re scientific, done in a scientific manner, and this one was,” Beatty said.

After the disastrous governorship of Sam Brownback, I think it would be tragic for Kansans to be saddled with Kris Kobach, and it appears that many Republicans feel the same way. Yet the chances are good that that is exactly what will happen to them.

And that’s a sad statement about the political culture of their state and our country.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.