Aug. 3 primary:
He has lived in Kansas his entire life.
Elizabeth “Libby” Ensley
She has lived in Kansas her entire life.
He grew up in Topeka and has lived in Kansas for 39 years.
A national debate on illegal immigration has loomed over the Kansas Republican Party primary for secretary of state.
That’s because one of the GOP candidates, Kris Kobach, has become a lightning rod on the issue for helping Arizona and other areas pass laws aimed at catching illegal immigrants. Critics say the laws are unconstitutional and inhumane.
The other two candidates in the race are Shawnee County Election Commissioner Elizabeth Ensley and J.R. Claeys of Salina, an independent consultant.
The winner of the Aug. 3 primary will advance to the November general election to face the winner of the Democratic Party primary between Secretary of State Chris Biggs and state Sen. Chris Steineger of Kansas City. Phillip Horatio Lucas of El Dorado is the Libertarian candidate, and Derek Langseth of Valley Center is the Reform Party candidate.
Biggs was appointed to the post after Ron Thornburgh, a Republican, left office to pursue a job in the private sector.
Ensley touts her experience. She has worked for 11 years in the secretary of state’s office before becoming Shawnee County’s top election official, a position she has held for 18 years.
She has been endorsed by several Republican heavyweights, including former Gov. Bill Graves, and former secretaries of state Jack Brier and Thornburgh.
Ensley said she has identified and helped convict 12 criminals of election crimes.
“I am the only candidate in this race who has tackled election fraud head on,” she said.
Claeys is a former chief executive officer of the National Association of General Contractors. He said he now helps nonprofit organizations with fundraising efforts.
He has touted his experience as a certified international elections observer and has served in this capacity in Bolivia and El Salvador. Those countries require IDs to vote, and Kansas should too, he said.
Ensley and Kobach have also said they favor requiring Kansans to produce an ID when they go vote.
But Kobach has taken it a step further.
He said if elected he would push for a law that would require proof of citizenship to register to vote, and that he would want greater statutory authority to prosecute allegations of election fraud.
Kobach helped write the Arizona law that allows local law enforcement to question suspects on their citizenship status. The law is opposed by the Obama administration.
Kobach has also made headlines because of a recent Federal Elections Commission audit that criticized financial dealings of the Kansas Republican Party when Kobach was chairman.
The FEC said that taxes weren’t paid, illegal contributions were accepted and questionable expenditures made. Kobach has blamed the problems on the party’s executive director at the time, who was Christian Morgan. Morgan has blamed Kobach.