Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who has gained a national reputation advocating for tough immigration enforcement and voter identification laws, is set to run for governor, based on a campaign website.
Kobach has been saying for months that he was weighing a run, and in recent weeks ruled out taking any position in President Trump’s administration. On Thursday, a campaign website was live with the logo “Kobach Governor.”
He offers voters a firebrand conservative option in the Republican primary. Kobach has proven a lightning rod – both in Kansas and nationwide.
He transformed the secretary of state’s office from a typically quiet position administering elections into a platform to successfully press for a law to require proof of citizenship in order to vote. That law faces legal challenges, however.
Kobach, an attorney who holds degrees from Harvard, Oxford and Yale, also convinced lawmakers to provide him with prosecutorial power to pursue voter fraud.
Kobach joins an unsettled Republican field for the August 2018 primary. Wichita businessman Wink Hartman is running, and entrepreneur Ed O’Malley, who runs the Kansas Leadership Center, is in the midst of an exploratory campaign.
Other officials who have drawn speculation are Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder.
On the Democratic side, former Wichita mayor Carl Brewer and former state representative Josh Svaty of Ellsworth have announced candidacies. House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, is also weighing a run.
Kobach backed Trump’s presidential candidacy early and enthusiastically – the first major statewide Kansas elected official to do so. He has served as an adviser to Trump on immigration and other issues.
Last month, Trump named Kobach to a commission to examine voter fraud and other election issues.
The commission and Kobach’s appointment drew criticism from civil rights groups and other critics who described the creation of the panel as a farce intended to perpetuate a false narrative that millions of people voted illegally in the November election. They said the commission’s finding will be used to justify unnecessary restrictions on the right to vote.
Kobach said the commission members are approaching their work with an open mind. He said the commission was not set up with the specific goal of validating Trump’s voter fraud campaign.
Kobach has previously said he advised Trump to investigate voter fraud.
Trump has stated that millions of illegal votes cast by noncitizens tipped the popular vote in the 2016 election to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton despite his victory in the Electoral College. Those claims have never been verified.
Since 2015, Kobach has had the power to prosecute voter fraud cases. He’s obtained nine convictions.