AG candidates angling for traction with lights, sirens of law enforcement endorsements

Mattivi, Kobach and Warren racing ahead with GOP campaigns

By: - August 1, 2021 12:43 pm
Tony Mattivi, a former federal prosecutor from Topeka, is seeking the Republican Party's nomination for attorney general in 2022 along with former Secretary of State Kris Kobach of rural Lecompton and state Sen. Kellie Warren of Leawood. (Submitted)

Tony Mattivi, a former federal prosecutor from Topeka, is seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for attorney general in 2022 along with former Secretary of State Kris Kobach of rural Lecompton and state Sen. Kellie Warren of Leawood. (Submitted)

TOPEKA — The Kansas State Troopers Association’s PAC and the Sedgwick County district attorney endorsed former federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi for attorney general.

Elsewhere in the Republican Party’s primary contest, 10 county sheriffs have placed their faith in Kris Kobach, the former secretary of state and unsuccessful candidate for governor.

And, Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden touted the GOP candidacy of one of his constituents, state Sen. Kellie Warren of Leawood, in the showdown for attorney general.

Early in the primary contest of August 2022, the three hopefuls continue to send signals of legitimacy by rolling out endorsements from the law enforcement community. It’s a time-tested approach of grabbing attention for candidates not well known to voters statewide or of offering assurances to voters who may be uneasy about established candidates in need of reputation rehabilitation.

So far, no Democrat in the deep red state has entered the race to become Kansas’ top prosecutor and law enforcement officer.

 

The prosecutor

Mattivi, of Topeka, became the latest entrant in the quest to find a replacement for Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who also with former Gov. Jeff Colyer aspire to the GOP nomination for governor. Mattivi recently retired from his job at the U.S. Department of Justice as assistant U.S attorney and the anti-terrorism and national security coordinator for the District of Kansas. He took a job as an attorney with Medcor, which works with companies to provide on-site and mobile clinics and telemedicine services.

“Mattivi is a career prosecutor with a resume replete with successfully pursuing the  interests of justice for the citizens of Kansas and the United States,” said Bryan Clark, of the KHP’s PAC. “During his 20 years as a federal prosecutor, Mattivi prosecuted drug trafficking, violent crime, racketeering, gangs, organized crime, money laundering  and terrorism cases.”

Former Secretary of State Kris Kobach received endorsements from 10 county sheriffs in his quest for the GOP nomination for attorney general. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Former Secretary of State Kris Kobach received endorsements from 10 county sheriffs in his quest for the GOP nomination for attorney general. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said Mattivi — not Kobach, nor Warren — was prepared to lead the attorney general’s office in Kansas.

“It is imperative to me that the attorney general is qualified, competent and professional,” said Bennett, who will be Mattivi’s campaign treasurer.

Mattivi led a team of Justice Department prosecutors who convicted three Kansas men who aspired to be domestic terrorists by plotting to blow up a Garden City apartment building and kill Somali immigrants. He prosecuted Terry Lee Loewen, the former U.S. Marine who pled guilty to attempting to detonate a van filled with explosives at the Wichita airport. He handled the case of John Booker, who pled guilty to trying to detonate a truck bomb at Fort Riley. He also worked on war crime cases in Iraq and the case against an al Qaeda operative accused in the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.

Mattivi said he was an experienced federal litigator who could effectively challenge overreach by the administration of President Joe Biden.

“I felt like there’s room in this race not just for a conservative, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment Republican, but for a conservative, pro-life, pro-Second Amendment Republican who is an experienced prosecutor, is an experienced litigator, and who will stand up credibly and confidently and competently for the citizens of Kansas,” he said.

 

And, the sheriffs

Warren, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Kansas Legislature, was endorsed by Hayden. The sheriff of voter-rich Johnson County said law enforcement agencies would find “no better friend and ally” than Warren in the office of attorney general.

“I know we can trust Kellie to always back the blue and support our brave men and women in uniform,” Hayden said. “As attorney general, she will be a respected and capable leader who we can trust to keep our families safe, run a highly efficient and organized office and aggressively fight back against radical ideas like defunding the police.”

Leawood state Sen. Kellie Warren, a candidate for the Republican nomination for attorney general, captured the endorsement of Johnson County's sheriff. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
Leawood state Sen. Kellie Warren, a candidate for the Republican nomination for attorney general, captured the endorsement of Johnson County’s sheriff. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Days before Mattivi stepped into the race, Kobach released endorsements from the sheriffs of Shawnee, Ford, Wichita, Leavenworth, Linn, Pawnee, Brown, Ness, Jackson and Anderson counties.

Kobach, of rural Lecompton, taught at the law school of the University of Missouri at Kansas City and was twice elected secretary of state, which placed him in charge of election oversight. He defeated Colyer in the 2018 GOP primary for governor, but lost to Democrat Laura Kelly in the general election. He also fell short in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 2020.

“I know Kris Kobach has our back,” said Brandon Mitchell, who serves as sheriff of Ness County. “As a constitutional lawyer, he is the most qualified and experienced candidate to serve as Kansas’s top law enforcement officer. Kris backs the blue, and we back him.”

Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse said Kobach was a “trusted conservative” dedicated to protecting the Constitution and standing up against the American Civil Liberties Union.

“His experience fighting the ACLU in court shows that he isn’t afraid to take on extreme leftists to defend our constitutional rights,” Morse said.

Kobach, as general counsel for the Alliance for Free Citizens, is attached to a federal lawsuit challenging an Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy discouraging deportation of certain illegal immigrants.

“Law enforcement protects our property and our families, and I will always have their backs,” Kobach said.

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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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