Kris Kobach stands outside the Kansas GOP watch party on Election Day. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Kris Kobach is set to take the Kansas attorney general seat, becoming the state’s top law enforcement officer and chief legal advisor after a series of political failures. Kobach said he will use the position to sue President Joe Biden’s administration.
At midnight on Election Day, Kobach had carried the vote by a slim margin, earning 493,775 votes to Democratic opponent Chris Mann’s 471,076, putting the two at 51% and 49% respectively.
The AP called the race Wednesday morning, hours after Kobach declared his win and delivered his victory speech. Mann has yet to concede, saying not all the votes have been counted.
Kelli Kee, Mann campaign spokeswoman, said they were waiting on the rest of mail-in ballots.
“As we stated last night, the race for the Kansas Attorney General is very close. There are tens of thousands of Kansas voters who mailed their ballots in before election day. They deserve for their votes to be counted as the law allows,” Kee said in a statement to Kansas Reflector.
Mann would need more than 22,000 mail-in ballots to make up the difference.
A former police officer and prosecutor, Mann has emphasized his public service record during the campaign. Mann said he believed Kansans wanted a moderate candidate focused on public safety.
“We’ve been about public safety over politics, and that’s resonated across the state,” Mann said Tuesday morning, before election results were in. “People are tired of career politicians who just want to pursue their own agenda.”
Kobach touched on former losses in his victory speech. Kobach lost the 2018 Kansas governor’s race to Gov. Laura Kelly in 2018. In 2020, he lost the Kansas GOP U.S. Senate primary, with some voters alienated by his extremist views.
“I don’t care who you are, or where you come from, you gotta love a comeback story,” Kobach said. “Know that my victory is not about me. It’s about a desire to save our state and save our country. I’m so honored that so many Kansans put their trust in me.”
Kobach said he would protect women’s sports, keep fentanyl out of Kansas, and go after the Biden administration, protecting the state from federal overreach.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas said it would be watching Kobach’s actions. Micah Kubic, Kansas ACLU executive director, said the ACLU would challenge the attorney general’s policies if necessary.
“Should Mr. Kobach decide to follow through on his campaign promises of attacking civil liberties, denigrating democracy, and undermining the rule of law, we will relentlessly, persistently, and unflinchingly challenge those policies. And, as Mr. Kobach well knows from his long history of defeats dealt by the ACLU of Kansas, when we have challenged his policies on behalf of the Constitution, the Constitution has won – and will win – every time,” Kubic said Wednesday in a statement.
Kobach has long been a polarizing figure in Kansas politics. During his time as secretary of state from 2011-19, he implemented a widely condemned voting law. It required residents to prove their citizenship before registering to vote and prevented 35,000 eligible voters from participating in elections.
After a five-year legal battle about the law’s constitutionality, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office had to pay $1.9 million in fees and expenses to the ACLU and other attorneys when the law was ruled unconstitutional, with no evidence supporting claims of widespread voter fraud. Kobach was ordered by a federal judge to take six hours of remedial law class after the trial.
As the top law enforcement officer in the state, Kobach will be able to provide legal services to state agencies and boards, issue opinions, protect consumers and defend the state in civil proceedings.
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