Warren enters GOP contest for attorney general, knocks ‘never-win’ candidates

Rival Kobach responds with endorsement from Ashcroft

By: - July 6, 2021 11:12 am
Sen. Kellie Warren R-Leawood, formally launched a campaign for the Republican Party's nomination for attorney general. Her rival in the 2022 election will be Kris Kobach, a former secretary of state. Their quest is to replace Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is running for governor. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Sen. Kellie Warren R-Leawood, formally launched a campaign for the Republican Party’s nomination for attorney general. Her rival in the 2022 election will be Kris Kobach, a former secretary of state. Their quest is to replace Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is running for governor. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — State Sen. Kellie Warren entered the campaign for Kansas attorney general Tuesday by denouncing liberal Democrats and taking a swipe at Republican primary rival Kris Kobach.

Kobach hit back by announcing an endorsement he secured from former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, a Republican who also represented Missouri in the U.S. Senate.

The opportunity for both candidates exists because Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is a candidate for the GOP nomination for governor.

Warren, a Johnson County attorney who has served four years in the Kansas Legislature, said she was weary of “liberal, socialist Democrats” and was following the path of Republican officeholders who understood the importance of winning elections.

“That’s what conservatives want,” Warren said on a campaign announcement video. “Leaders who will fight back and win. Some people are great at creating headlines, but they never win. Ultimately, it’s our values that pay the price. But I fight and then I win.”

Kris Kobach, a Republican candidate for Kansas attorney general, announced an endorsement from former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican candidate for Kansas attorney general, announced an endorsement from former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Her commentary was aimed at Kobach, who served as Kansas secretary of state for a decade but lost the 2018 campaign for governor to Democrat Laura Kelly. Kobach won a narrow GOP primary victory over then-Gov. Jeff Colyer, but lost to Kelly by more than 50,000 votes in a deeply red state where the Republican Party’s candidates typically prevail in statewide elections.

Ashcroft said Kobach was “one of my most qualified, competent and dedicated attorneys at the Justice Department” while he served as the nation’s attorney general. Kobach was a White House fellow and worked as counsel to Ashcroft.

“His experience and skill as an attorney are among the best in the nation,” Ashcroft said. “He is a man of integrity who does not run away from the fight.”

Warren, 52, of Leawood, worked at the large firm of Shook, Hardy and Bacon from 2006 to 2013 and at the Property Law Firm since 2013. She defeated moderate GOP state Rep. Joy Koesten to win a seat in the Kansas House in 2018, and followed in 2020 by ousting moderate state Sen. John Skubal.

Warren chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, which provided a public forum to challenge Kelly’s executive orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The senator also shared her critique of President Joe Biden, who defeated President Donald Trump in 2020.

“I’ve taken on government overreach and helped roll back Gov. Kelly’s orders, which closed our schools, our businesses and even our churches,” Warren said on the announcement video.

Kelly’s orders moved K-12 instruction online during the pandemic, required a portion of businesses to close temporarily and limited mass gatherings at churches. The Legislature worked deliberately during the past two sessions to reshape the state’s emergency management law to strip Kelly of authority to respond to a pandemic that so far contributed to the death of 5,259 Kansans. During the pandemic, more than 318,000 Kansans have been infected by COVID-19 and 11,100 have been hospitalized.

“It is time for us to stand against the Biden administration and the liberals who are dedicated to suing until Kansas is blue,” Warren said.

She also touted her work at the Capitol in support of pro-life abortion law and in opposition to Kelly’s judicial preferences.

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Tim Carpenter
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.

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