Well-known, polarizing Kris Kobach faces newcomer Chris Mann for Kansas attorney general | KCUR 89.3

OVERLAND PARK, Kansas — The final challenge to Republican Kris Kobach’s political upsurge may depend on how strongly Kansas voters align with national Democrats and how concerned they are about a liberal agenda encroaching on their state.

Or it depends on how they perceive the branding reputation that has made him a polarizing, national figure.

To loses a candidacy for governor four years ago and the Republican primary for a US Senate Seated two years ago, Kobach returns to Kansas voters with the same thorny issues and a plea to be their attorney general.

He promises to annoy the Democrats in the White House.

“And we will win,” said Kobach. “I’ll wake up every morning at breakfast thinking about what our next lawsuit against Joe Biden will be.”

But in a Republican-dominated state, Kobach is fighting against himself in many ways, and for making some Kansas voters fond of loathing him.

His opponent, Democrat Chris Mann, has kept the race close by capitalizing on anti-Kobach sentiment and focusing on the traditionally dull affairs of state that the prosecutor usually focuses on. He also touts his background as a former police officer, former prosecutor, and private attorney.

The relatively unknown candidate points to Kobach’s high-profile omissions, such as his voter ID law that was struck down in federal court. Kobach’s defense of that law cost the state nearly $2 million and led to a federal judge ordering him to take legal aid courses.

“My opponent, Kris Kobach, has already proven that he poses a threat to democracy in Kansas,” Mann said. “The last thing Kansans need is a politician like Kris Kobach.”

Kobach ties Mann’s candidacy to a leftist agenda and other national Democratic measures that Kansas generally opposes, such as lowering bail costs for suspected criminals.

But the Republican establishment did not endorse Kobach in the GOP primary. Popular as he is among grassroots Republicans, he’s a bit of a bogeyman to Democrats and many moderates.

Groups that almost always support Republicans are drifting away, leaving the reliably conservative candidate to see if he can mostly win alone.

Kris Kobach

Republican Kris Kobach speaks to an audience at a Kansas Chamber of Commerce candidate forum.

Dylan Lysen


Kansas News Service

Republican Kris Kobach’s bid for Kansas Attorney General may depend on how voters perceive the stinging reputation that has made him a polarizing, national figure.

Kobach has made a political career out of two main issues – illegal immigration and his unsubstantiated claims that voter fraud is a widespread problem.

But these issues are no longer just Kobach’s politics. Former President Donald Trump helped make them the mainstream Republican talking point.

If elected, Kobach can pursue these issues as a prosecutor. But his laser focus on her seems to have waned, and his new goal is to stop national Democrats from protecting Kansans from federal laws they hate. He has previously sued Biden’s government twice as a private attorney on behalf of groups questioning COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Michael Smith, a political scientist at Emporia State University, said the postponement may be best for what an attorney general is empowered to do. But it also shows that Kobach’s often-used election campaign material has entered the political mainstream.

“The allegations of voter fraud have taken on a life of their own,” Smith said. “So Kobach is still trying to get that under control.”

But his focus on national issues still resonates with many Kansanians.

Johnson County Republican Party Chairwoman Marisel Walston said ahead of the primary that Kobach’s views on certain issues are well known, making it easier for voters to understand where he stands. That might have helped him Win a three-way race in the primary with less than 50% of the votes. He defeated Senator Kellie Warren, who was supported by the state’s Republican leadership.

After that win, Kobach said he didn’t need the support of the establishment.

“It shows that ordinary voters in our country,” said Kobach, “are not told who will represent them.”

Chris man

Democrat Chris Mann speaks to an audience at a Kansas Chamber of Commerce candidate forum.

Dylan Lysen


Kansas News Service

Democrat Chris Mann continues to focus on state affairs and his background as a former police officer and prosecutor in his campaign for Kansas Attorney General.

Mann has never run for office. He was injured while serving as a Lawrence Police Officer when a drunk driver hit him with a car.

The injury caused him to give up that career to become a lawyer. He initially served as a Wyandotte County prosecutor, trying cases ranging from drunk driving to murder. He later entered private practice as a criminal defense and personal injury attorney in the Kansas City area.

Mann says he wants to become Attorney General to help ordinary Kansanians instead of using the office for hot political battles. One of the issues he will be focusing on is consumer fraud targeting older Kansans.

Mann said he will also seek to stop federal laws that violate the rights of Kansanians, particularly the business and farming communities. Even if these laws come from Democrats.

“I will protect the rights of Kansans no matter who is in administration,” Mann said. “I will ensure that we are protected from abuse if necessary, but I will not enforce my political agenda in doing so.”

tight race

In the run-up to the primaries, critics often said Kobach was prone to losing to a Democrat. He’s done it before, handing over the governorship to Democrat Laura Kelly in 2018.

Two years later, that loss was used against him when Republicans preferred Roger Marshall as US Senator. The lingering impact of these losses continues to hamper his ability to rally support.

A recently KSN and The Hill survey conducted by Emerson College shows Kobach and Mann essentially bonded.

Kobach received high-profile endorsement from conservative Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who said Kobach was the state’s best shot at fighting an woke federal government.

But well-known conservative groups are not so sure. The Kansas Livestock Association endorses Mann, noting that he focuses on state crimes such as cattle rustling. The Kansas Farm Bureau is staying out of the running, according to the Sunflower State Journal. And the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, normally an almost automatic Republican supporter, backed Warren in the primary and has yet to announce support for the general election.

Smith said the race was close because even conservatives could tire of Kobach’s fighting style.

“I can easily see,” Smith said, “that someone who voted for Donald Trump, who has no regrets about voting for Donald Trump, and would vote for Donald Trump again, would say, ‘Yeah, but Kobach just did lost too many elections. I think it’s time to give someone else a chance.’”

Election day is November 8th. The last day to register to vote is October 18th.

Dylan Lysen reports politics for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanLysen or email him at dlysen (at) kcur (dot) org.

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