TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Republican Kris Kobach was trying to win a comeback bid for Kansas attorney general after two big losses raised questions about his eligibility in his home state.
With votes still being counted Wednesday, Kobach, a former Kansas Secretary of State who served two terms, had a small lead over Democrat Chris Mann, a former police officer and local prosecutor who was running for elected office for the first time. Kobach said his team was confident of victory, telling fans in Topeka, “You gotta love a comeback story.”
Mann’s spokeswoman Kelli Kee said the top priority of his campaign is to ensure every vote is counted.
“We live in a democracy and in a democracy your vote is your vote and we want to make sure every Kansaner has an opportunity to have their say on this election,” Kee said. “This is an unprecedented election that we must conduct safely to protect the democratic process.”
Kobach had losses in the 2018 Kansas gubernatorial race and a 2020 US Senate primary that Republicans blamed on lackluster campaigning and political baggage that scared off independent and moderate GOP voters.
Many Republicans said they’ve seen a Kobach this year who stayed more on the embassy, had a better organized campaign, and was calmer and more consistent than in the past. He spoke less about illegal immigration and didn’t use the signature prop of his 2018 election for governor, a flag-themed jeep with a replica machine gun mounted on it.
But Kobach remained focused on tightening voting procedures as there were no documented problems with fraud. In a debate in mid-October, he said Kansas needs to get rid of ballot boxes and that people who questioned whether there was voter fraud were “ignoring reality.”
His position put him at odds with current Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, a Republican who said state elections are safe and Dropboxes are safe. An Associated Press survey of state election officials found no instances of fraud, vandalism, or theft involving Dropboxes in 2020 that could have affected the results.
Prior to his election as Kansas Secretary of State in 2010, Kobach built a national profile and made enduring political enemies by becoming an advisor to state and local officials intent on cracking down on illegal immigration.
He also pushed the idea that many people could vote illegally, and advocated a strict proof-of-citizenship rule for new voters in Kansas, only to see the federal courts strike it down. An early Kansas supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential bid in 2016, he co-chaired Trump’s short-lived Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Fraud.
Kobach told Republicans during his successful primary race this year that every morning over breakfast he would consider how, as attorney general, he could sue President Joe Biden’s administration. But during his fall campaign, he softened that rhetoric, saying he would challenge Biden’s actions, which appear to violate federal law or the US Constitution.
Mann suggested that Kobach would continue to drag Kansas into frivolous and expensive litigation, and promised to focus on the bureau’s “day-to-day” work, such as public safety and consumer protection.
Mann became a police officer in Lawrence, northeast Kansas, in the late 1990s, but an accident on the job involving a drunk driver ended his career in uniform after just a few years. He then went to law school and worked as a district attorney in Kansas City, Kansas, and as a state securities commissioner before entering private practice. He was also a member of the national board of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.