Kris Kobach said he would work with law enforcement agencies to halt fentanyl distribution. (Rachel Mipro/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Republican attorney general candidate Kris Kobach unveiled a three-part plan Thursday to work with southern law enforcement agencies to reduce the flow of fentanyl into Kansas, increase penalties for fentanyl distributors and prevent retail crime in Kansas.
At the news conference, held outside the Attorney General’s Office in Topeka, Kobach said he would urge legislators to implement a death-caused enhancement to drug-trafficking crimes.
Kobach also announced he’s been endorsed by 33 Kansas sheriffs, including Johnson, Shawnee and Leavenworth county sheriffs. Kobach said he would work with law enforcement statewide on criminal problems.
“This plan addresses new criminal threats that have only emerged in recent years,” Kobach said.
Fentanyl has been a key platform issue for Kansas Republicans who are using it as a rallying point ahead of the November election. GOP gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt has blamed Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly for not doing enough to stop fentanyl distribution in the state during several debates and campaign events.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. Illegal fentanyl is commonly mixed with other drugs because it’s a cheap addition that creates a more powerful high. Since fentanyl isn’t detectable without a test strip, people taking fentanyl-laced drugs are at a greater risk of overdose.
Kansas Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would legalize fentanyl testing strips earlier this year. When asked if he would support the decriminalization of fentanyl test strips, Kobach said he would defer to law enforcement on the issue.
“If we get to the point where we think we can do that without having a negative effect of somehow making it easier to have these transactions occur, then I’m certainly open to it,” Kobach said.
Kobach also said he would create a statewide task force to reduce what he called organized retail crime.
“Large box stores are now being plagued by what are called ‘push outs,’ where criminals fill a shopping cart full of expensive power tools and other items and then they just push the shopping cart right out,” Kobach said.
Topeka resident Mel Adams said he was at the news conference to support Kobach. Adams said he liked all of Kobach’s ideas.
“We’re either going to go forward, or we’re going to keep regressing,” Adams said. “The progressives want us to go backwards. They call themselves progressives, but they’re actually regressives.”
Kobach’s opponent, Democrat Chris Mann, a Lawrence attorney and former law enforcement officer, released a statement in response to Kobach’s plan, saying the plan did not focus on any real Kansas issues.
Mann’s campaign said Kobach lacked the necessary law enforcement experience, mentioning Kobach’s proof of citizenship law.
During Kobach’s time as Kansas secretary of state from 2011 to 2019, he pushed a law requiring residents to prove their citizenship before registering to vote. The law prevented thousands of eligible voters from participating in elections and was declared unconstitutional after a five-year legal battle with the American Civil Liberties Union and other attorneys.
The Kansas Attorney General’s Office had to pay $1.9 million in fees and expenses. A federal judge ordered Kobach to take six hours of remedial law class after the trial.
“Kobach does not have the knowledge or experience to enforce law and order in Kansas,” the news release read. “His ignorance has directly contributed to white-collar crime, an increase in state spending, and property crime.”
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