Kobach campaign for attorney general triggers rebuke from Kansas Chamber

Former secretary of state vows to take on Biden, ACLU

Kris Kobach, a former Kansas secretary of state, kept a low profile last weekend at the Kansas Republican Party convention in Manhattan. On Thursday, he entered the race for attorney general. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
Kris Kobach, a former Kansas secretary of state, kept a low profile last weekend at the Kansas Republican Party convention in Manhattan. On Thursday, he entered the race for attorney general. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach launched a campaign Thursday for the Republican nomination for attorney general and came under fire from the state’s most influential business lobbying organization that declared a Kobach candidacy carried too much risk for Kansans.

Kobach, who lost the 2018 gubernatorial race to Democrat Laura Kelly as well as the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in 2020, said during a news conference in Wichita that retention of the attorney general’s office in Republican hands would enable Kansas to push back against the Biden administration’s attempts to undermine state rights.

Alan Cobb, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Chamber, said the business organization wants the 2021 Legislature and Gov. Laura Kelly to embrace a series of reforms to help the economy survive and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
Alan Cobb, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Chamber, questioned wisdom of Kris Kobach’s campaign for attorney general. Cobb asserted the next attorney general needs to be “trusted, competent and focused on Kansas.” (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

He said attorneys general across the nation were the last line of defense against unconstitutional overreach by Democratic President Joe Biden.

“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,” he said. “The most important officer who can fight back against such unconstitutional actions is a state attorney general.”

Alan Cobb, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Chamber, said election of Kobach as the state’s top law enforcement officer would put “too much at risk.”

“The next attorney general of Kansas needs to be someone who is trusted, competent and focused on Kansas,” Cobb said. “Our state needs a chief legal advocate dedicated to protecting our rule of law and ensuring a stable legal climate. The Kansas business community has great concerns that, as attorney general, whether Kris Kobach can adequately and effectively represent Kansas businesses and individuals successfully in court.”

For his legal work during a federal trial, Kobach was sanctioned in 2018 by a judge for his incomplete knowledge of court procedure. He was instructed to attend six hours of continuing education classes to help him with procedural rules. He was representing the state in a legal challenge of Kansas’ law requiring proof of citizenship to vote, but lost the case.

In addition, Kobach served as legal counsel to a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a border wall that has been embroiled in corruption charges.

Kobach, 55, of rural Lecompton, graduated from Harvard and from Yale’s law school and worked as a law professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City before elected secretary of state on a platform focused on the assertion illegal immigrants were undermining Kansas elections. He served in that office from 2011 to 2019 and worked to serve interests of President Donald Trump.

In 2017, Kobach was vice chairman on Trump’s presidential advisory committee on election integrity. Twenty years ago he was made a White House fellow by President George H.W. Bush and worked at the U.S. Department of Justice for Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Kobach said he would strive as attorney general to sustain restrictions on abortion and to thwart attacks by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“When the Legislature passes a law to protect the unborn or to protect our way of life in a manner the left does not like, the ACLU and its allies inevitably sue,” Kobach said. “The attorney general must have the expertise and the willingness to defend our laws in court.”

In 2016, he described members of the ACLU and the League of Women Voters as communists.

“The attack by the left against police officers across the country has reached a fever pitch. In Kansas, I will make clear from the top that we stand with law enforcement, and we value the officers who protect us,” he said.

The job of Kansas attorney general would be vacant assuming Attorney General Derek Schmidt remained in the GOP campaign for governor. He’s entered a contested primary against former Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Kobach narrowly defeated Colyer in the GOP primary for governor in 2018, but fell short of victory in the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by retired Sen. Pat Roberts. The primary was won by Republican Roger Marshall, who earned 40% of the vote against Kobach’s 26%, and Marshall went on to win the November election.