Kris Kobach not banking on Trump endorsement in U.S. Senate race

In conversation for Kansas Reflector podcast, Kobach says ‘president is being pushed in multiple directions’

U.S. Senate candidate Kris Kobach says on the Kansas Reflector podcast that he doesn't expect a repeat of the 2018 Twitter endorsement he received from President Donald Trump. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
U.S. Senate candidate Kris Kobach says on the Kansas Reflector podcast that he doesn't expect a repeat of the 2018 Twitter endorsement he received from President Donald Trump. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Republican Kris Kobach says he won’t be counting on a last-minute endorsement from President Donald Trump to bolster his campaign to capture the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

Trump’s decision to embrace Kobach rather than Gov. Jeff Colyer in the August 2018 gubernatorial primary proved influential in that contest narrowly won by Kobach. It came in the form of a brief Twitter post declaring Kobach a “fantastic guy” who has “my full and total endorsement.”

Kobach went on to lose the general election to Democrat Laura Kelly, which has given rise to the view of Kobach as a hardcore conservative unwilling or incapable of moving to the center after the primary to broaden his appeal with moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats. It is part of the calculus of influential Republicans who have embraced U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall in the Aug. 4 primary race that includes wealthy plumber Bob Hamilton and retired NFL player Dave Lindstrom. They are competing to be the GOP nominee for the seat to be vacated by retirement of U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts.

“Recognizing that the president has, you know, different forces pushing on him I haven’t asked him to endorse me,” Kobach said on the Kansas Reflector podcast. “The president is being pushed in multiple directions.”

Kobach missed out on the endorsement of Kansans for Life’s political action committee, which supported Kobach in the past. KFL chose to put its weight behind Marshall, the western Kansas congressman.

“They decided to play politics and basically become oddsmakers and say, ‘Well, we think that your probability of winning the general election might be slightly less than Roger Marshall,’ ” Kobach said. ” ‘So, we’re not going to make an endorsement based on pro-life credentials. We’re going to make an endorsement based on, you know, reading the tea leaves.’ ”

He warned GOP voters not to be fooled into believing Kansas was on a path to elect the first Democrat to the U.S. Senate since the 1930s. State Sen. Barbara Bollier, a retired physician with fundraising prowess, is the presumptive Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate.

Kobach, a former law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, served as Kansas secretary of state from 2011 to 2019. He said his accomplishments in that office included establishment of Kansas laws mandating proof of citizenship to register to vote and requiring voters present photograph identification to cast ballots. The citizenship statute was struck down as unconstitutional.

If elected to the U.S. Senate, he promised to serve as Trump’s point person on immigration policy and the expansion of border wall with Mexico.

Kobach said he would show Republicans in Washington, D.C., how to slash federal spending. For example, Kobach said, he would target the National Endowment for the Arts, because the organization throws money at “things that have a very left-wing political content to them.”

He promised to expose covert moderates nominated to federal courts and to help confirm conservatives invested in the right to bear arms, religious freedom and restraint of abortion.

“There aren’t that many people in the U.S. Senate who have the expertise to really grill a judge: Is this judge really who he says he is? Or, is this judge trying to conceal something?” Kobach said.

He praised Trump’s handling of COVID-19 and criticized Kansas’ governor for exceeding her legal authority during the pandemic. Trump wisely limited travel from China and Europe to the United States, he said. At the same time, Kelly issued orders closing schools, forcing people to stay at home and limiting church attendance. Kelly stumbled again by issuing a statewide mask order in violation of a law signed in June, he said.

“She does not have the authority in that statute to mandate the wearing of masks,” Kobach said. “I think that’ll end up in court as well.”

Kobach said he wears a mask if in close proximity to people outside his family for an extended period of time, such as an airline flight. The issue of masks illustrates a difference between the Republican and Democratic parties, he said.

“Conservatives like me, we favor liberty. We favor responsibility,” Kobach said. “If you and I are going to be in a room, we have to make a decision: Are we going to wear a mask or not? But that should be our own free choice based on the information we have. And we should take responsibility for whatever happens.

“The left, throughout this whole pandemic, has always taken the approach of heavy-handed government control,” he said. “It’s been a real interesting unmasking, if you will, of the parties because you see how the Republicans have consistently been for liberty and responsibility. The Democrats have been for government control.”

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.