TOPEKA — A Kansas City-area businessman said Monday that he's dropping out of the Kansas secretary of state's race for family reasons and will endorse a former legislator who switched parties to run for the Democratic nomination.
Randy Rolston, of Mission Hills, jumped into the race at the end of last year and gained notice by immediately loaning $201,000 to his fledgling campaign for the Democratic nomination. Former state Sen. Jean Schodorf, of Wichita, who served 12 years in the Legislature as a moderate Republican, confirmed last month that she would also seek the Democratic nomination.
Schodorf's decision set up a contest in the August 2014 primary for the right to challenge conservative GOP incumbent Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Rolston said Monday that he reconsidered running after his 94-year-old father was diagnosed with untreatable leukemia earlier this year.
"I really can't spend the time on this," Rolston said of the campaign. "I am going to back out and endorse her."
Schodorf plans to formally launch her campaign Wednesday at a news conference in Wichita. In recent weeks, prominent Democrats have talked up her candidacy.
She was chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee but lost her Republican primary in 2012 as conservatives successfully targeted most of the chamber's GOP moderates.
Schodorf and Kobach did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment about Rolston's decision. Rolston said Schodorf will make a strong candidate against Kobach.
While Kobach has contributed some of his own money to his campaign, he's also been able to raise funds from outside contributors. Kobach began the year with about $61,000 in his campaign fund.
Kobach, a former law professor, is the architect of one state law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls and another mandating that new voters provide proof of U.S. citizenship when registering. Kobach contends the laws combat potential election fraud, but critics contend they will unnecessarily suppress turnout.
As a senator, Schodorf voted for both requirements in 2011. However, she's since criticized the proof-of-citizenship rule and has said voters should oust Kobach because of the number of registrations on hold.
As of Monday, about 17,200 prospective voters' registrations were on hold because they have not presented a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting their citizenship to elections officials. Until they do, they aren't eligible to vote.