New polling suggests Democrat Chris Mann of Lawrence holds a 1.1% advantage in the race for Kansas attorney general against Republican nominee Kris Kobach of Lecompton. Voting concludes Tuesday, Nov. 8. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Democratic attorney general candidate Chris Mann held a wispy advantage Wednesday in polling that showed Republican nominee Kris Kobach trailing in a contest with nearly 11% of likely voters still undecided.
The survey of 1,000 Kansans from Oct. 27-29 by Emerson College Polling showed first-time political candidate Mann held 43.8% to veteran campaigner Kobach’s 42.7%. The results indicated 10.8% of voters remained undecided a week before the Tuesday election and 2.8% were thinking of voting for someone other than Kobach and Mann.
The same pollster determined in September that Kobach had a lead of 41% to 39% over Mann.
The 3 percentage point margin of error in the updated Emerson survey left the race in the realm of a statistical tie despite Kobach’s two decades as a candidate for Overland Park city council, secretary of state, governor, U.S. House, U.S. Senate and attorney general. Kobach, of Lecompton, twice won statewide races for secretary of state.
Kellie Kee, spokesperson for Mann’s campaign, said Mann build momentum in a campaign launched last year to replace departing Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is running for governor. Mann is a former Lawrence police officer and county prosecutor who works in private practice.
“He has built a bipartisan coalition based on his experience in law enforcement and his platform,” she said. “He has doubled his opponent’s fundraising. And now, for the first time, he’s ahead of his opponent, who is one of the most infamous names in Kansas politics.”
Danedri Herbert, Kobach’s campaign spokesperson, said the new poll illustrated the race was going to be close and come down to partisan turnout. She said Mann was outspending Kobach, but “can’t seem to get over the hump.”
On Tuesday, Kobach appeared on the KCMO talk show hosted by Pete Mundo to discuss the campaign. Kobach said in that interview polling available to his campaign showed his lead widened before flattening out in two recent polls.
“It’s going well in terms of where we stand right now,” Kobach said. “It’s been an interesting campaign because my opponent has never run for anything and he kind of ran a basement campaign during the primary cycle.”
The new Emerson poll emerged in aftermath of a miscue in which the Kobach campaign released an ad that depicted professional golfer Tiger Woods as a “cop killer.”
Kobach’s standing of 42.7% in the Emerson poll resembled his finish in the head-to-head contest with Democrat Laura Kelly in the the 2018 governor’s race. Kelly won with 48% to Kobach’s 42.9%, which included independent candidate Greg Orman at 6.5% as well as two others who claimed 2.5%.
Outcome of a statistically tied race can boil down to last-minute decisions by Kansans who had yet to make up their mind when polled, said Bob Beatty, a professor at Washburn University in Topeka.
“The key in this poll is the undecideds. Thirteen percent of those polled didn’t choose Mann or Kobach. So, where will they go?” Beatty said.
He said the poll showed 9% of Republicans were uncertain who they would vote for in the competition for attorney general, but only 2% of Republicans in the same poll were on the fence in the competitive governor’s race.
“If those undecideds break one way it could decide the election. If they divide evenly then, like the governor’s race, the turnout Democrats versus Republicans will be key,” Beatty said.
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