Kobach picks Wichita oilman Wink Hartman to be his running mate, says negative publicity from voter trial won’t hurt his campaign

photo by: Peter Hancock

In this file photo from March 21, 2018, Willis "Wink" Hartman, right, announces he is running for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Hartman, a Wichita oil executive, has loaned more than $1.5 million to the campaign.

Topeka — Republican candidate for governor Kris Kobach on Wednesday officially introduced his former rival, Wichita businessman Wink Hartman, to be his lieutenant governor running mate in the 2018 elections.

Kobach, the current secretary of state, said Hartman would bring a wealth of business experience to state government.

“He is someone who has created thousands of jobs, actually created jobs, not government creation of jobs,” Kobach said at a news conference in Topeka, next to his campaign bus that sported slogans like “Pro-Gun” and “Pro-Life,” among others.

At the same time, Kobach released the results of an internal poll conducted for his campaign showing him with a double-digit lead over other major candidates in the Republican primary.

The poll, conducted March 15-17 by the firm JMC Analytics & Polling, showed that the biggest segment of likely GOP primary voters, 36 percent, are still undecided about the race.

It showed Kobach with support from 31 percent of those sampled, followed by incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer with 18 percent; former state Sen. Jim Barnett with 10 percent; and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer at 4 percent

The survey of 500 likely GOP voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

Hartman dropped out of the race in February and endorsed Kobach. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, he said he made that decision following a Feb. 12 candidate forum in Wichita that convinced him that he and Kobach shared many of the same political views.

His campaign finance report filed in January showed that he and businesses he controls had contributed just over $1.5 million to his own campaign.

Speaking to reporters after the announcement, he indicated he may be willing to put even more money into the Kobach campaign.

“Our team will do what is necessary when the time comes to put (together) the money necessary to win this campaign,” he said. “I don’t think we should put a limit on the amount of money. I think we will suffice to have the money we need.”

Kobach’s announcement came one day after the conclusion of a trial in which a law he championed as secretary of state requiring people to show documentary proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote is being challenged in federal court.

“When I decided to run for Kansas secretary of state, I made a few promises,” Kobach said. “I said, if I became secretary of state, we would have the number-one election security system in America. We’d have the toughest protections against voter fraud in America, and I kept that promise.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents some of the plaintiffs in the case, is also asking that Kobach be held in contempt of court for his actions during the course of the case. And on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson harshly criticized Kobach from the bench for not properly carrying out her instructions after she issued an injunction blocking that law from being enforced against people who registered to vote through motor vehicle offices.

Kobach, however, said he did not think negative publicity from that trial would affect his campaign.

“I think the only maybe indirect effect might be that people just see that I’m defending our proof-of-citizenship law against the ACLU and are reminded of that fact,” he told reporters. “Some people do follow judicial proceedings pretty closely, but I think most people probably don’t.”

During the announcement, Kobach made one factual error when he said the Kansas Constitution does not give the lieutenant governor many responsibilities “other than casting tie votes in the Senate.”

The office of lieutenant governor has no such authority in Kansas, and Kobach later admitted he misspoke.

“Yeah, they don’t cast the tie-breaking vote, I recall that,” he said.