Kansas GOP lawmakers divided over Kobach’s candidacy
photo by: Associated Press
TOPEKA — GOP state lawmakers are divided over whether they support fellow Republican Kris Kobach’s candidacy to become the Kansas next governor, according to a newspaper’s survey.
The Kansas City Star reported 28 percent of GOP lawmakers it surveyed would not say if they support Kobach’s candidacy and close to 10 percent did not respond to repeated inquiries. Four moderate Republicans from Johnson County have already said they will not vote for Kobach.
“I’m not going to take a position on that race. I just don’t feel like it’s any benefit to me to do that,” said House Majority Whip Kent Thompson, a Republican from Iola, without elaborating.
Among Democrats, 94 percent of those in the Legislature said they will support candidate Laura Kelly.
“She will be a great Governor and the alternative is too horrible to even contemplate,” Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, a Prairie Village Democrat, said in an email.
Kobach defeated Gov. Jeff Colyer by 343 votes in the August primary, confirming a deep divide between moderates and conservatives in the state GOP. Since Kobach’s victory, some conservatives have criticized moderates for not supporting the party’s nominee in his race against Kelly and independent Greg Orman.
In August, House Majority Leader Don Hineman, a moderate Republican from Dighton, said in an email to more than two dozen centrists that voting for Orman or Kelly “could well be a career-ending move for anyone who chose to do so.” He did not respond to The Star’s questions about whether he will support Kobach.
Others in the party are strong Kobach supporters.
“Secretary Kobach is the best candidate for governor this State has had in my lifetime,” Rep. Francis Awerkamp, a St. Marys Republican, said in an email.
Kobach has long espoused conservative views on immigration, taxes and social issues and he has indicated during the campaign that he will not work to attract moderate voters in the general election.
He said after the first gubernatorial debate in Overland Park that the lack of apparent support is part of the candidates’ strategic plans when they consider their district’s wishes.
“This is typical in any major election where you have people at different levels up and down the ballot,” Kobach said.
Sen. Barbara Bollier, of Mission Hills, a GOP moderate, said earlier this summer that she would vote for Kelly.
“I don’t understand why not, why they won’t,” Bollier said about moderates not coming out against Kobach. “It’s hard for me to understand. It’s about being electable, they believe, and for me it’s about doing the right thing for the state.”