TOPEKA — Republicans meeting at their national convention in Cleveland this week adopted what some are calling the most conservative platform in Republican Party history.
In fact, one of the people calling it that is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach who played a significant role in drafting many of its statements.
"Yes, I absolutely believe that to be the case," Kobach said in a telephone interview from the convention Monday.
Kobach was chosen by Kansas Republicans to be one of the state's 40 delegates to the convention, and one of nine who are pledged to support presumptive nominee Donald Trump for president. And last week, before the full convention began, he spoke to the party's Platform Committee urging adoption of statements on issues ranging from immigration and gun rights to abortion and same-sex marriage.
That platform endorses Trump's campaign pledge to build a wall along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border; opposes any effort to restrict ownership of any type of guns or ammunition; opposes the use of federal money to fund Planned Parenthood or similar organizations; and expressly condemns the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
"I was involved in drafting language that criticizes the Obergefell decision (legalizing same-sex marriage) and the flimsy reasoning of the Obergefell decision," Kobach said.
According to recent polling data, many of those positions put the party directly at odds with rapidly changing public opinion, particularly on the issue of marriage equality. But Kobach made no apologies about that.
"I would compare it to the life issue, the abortion issue," Kobach said. "The Republican Party, after Roe vs. Wade (in 1973) took a stand and said we think the decision is wrong, and we think that the Supreme Court made a mistake, and we think the laws on this subject are still open to debate. And the party began persuading the public ... and public opinion has shifted. Now, for the first time, since Roe v. Wade, you have the majority of Americans stating that they are pro-life."
But recent polling data on abortion is far from conclusive. A CNN/ORC International poll conducted in March showed 78 percent of those surveyed believe abortion should be legal at least some of the time. And in a separate poll by Suffolk University and USA Today in December, a sizeable majority, 58 percent, said they opposed defunding Planned Parenthood.
On the issue of marriage equality, a CBS News poll last month found 57 percent of those surveyed saying it should be legal for same-sex couples to marry, although a majority of Republicans in the survey disagreed.
Most recently, a CBS News/New York Times poll earlier this month showed 57 percent of voters overall oppose building a wall along the Mexican border, although 73 percent of Trump voters support the idea.
The GOP platform, and Kobach's involvement in drafting it, has prompted a predictable level of outrage on the editorial page of the New York Times, which condemned the platform Monday under the headline, "Kansas Zealot Helps Shape the G.O.P.’s Right-Wing Platform."
It's the kind of criticism Kobach says he's grown accustomed to, and which bothers him not at all.
"Generally, if the New York Times editorial page disagrees with what I'm doing, then I think I'm probably doing the right thing," he said.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Monday announced his endorsement of New York billionaire Donald Trump for president, while State Treasurer Ron Estes fell in line with most other elected GOP officials endorsing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Kobach became the first major elected state official to endorse Trump, but his announcement came on the heels of endorsements from two other "establishment" Republicans, former candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.
Kobach, who has built his political career on his strident stands against illegal immigration, said that is his paramount concern in the 2016 elections.
“For me, the most important issue in the Republican presidential contest is immigration and its effect on our national security," Kobach said. "On that issue Mr. Trump stands head and shoulders above the other candidates. He has made it clear that ramping up the enforcement of our immigration laws will be his top priority. And he has forcefully rejected the notion of giving amnesty to illegal aliens living in the United States.”
Estes, who has maintained a much lower public profile than Kobach since taking office in 2011, said one of his duties as treasurer is administering the state's 529 higher education savings program, and he said he believes Rubio is the better candidate to address the rising cost of higher education.
"We must move beyond the idea of throwing more federal money at the problem and encourage a national conversation about the appropriate career education at the appropriate cost," he said. "More than any other candidate, Marco Rubio has shown a passion for reining in the rising cost of higher education. Marco continuously demonstrates a desire to modernize an education system that has left far too many students unable to start their adult lives on solid financial footing."
Most other elected Republican officials in Kansas, including Gov. Sam Brownback and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, have thrown their support behind Rubio. Others, including 1st District Congressman Tim Huelskamp, have endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
Second District Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, whose district includes Lawrence, and U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran have not endorsed any of the current candidates, although Jenkins was an early supporter of Carly Fiorina, who has since dropped out of the GOP race.
On the Democratic side, former Gov. and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has thrown her support behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
But a poll by Fort Hays State University last week showed the largest segment of Kansas voters in both parties were still undecided a week out from the March 5 caucuses.
The Kansas State AFL-CIO executive board has endorsed two Democrats, Paul Davis for governor and Jean Schodorf for secretary of state, in the 2014 election.
Davis, the House minority leader from Lawrence, is the presumptive Democratic nominee to take on Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican.
Schodorf, a former Republican state senator from Wichita who switched to the Democratic Party, has announced she will seek the Democratic nomination to face Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican. Mission Hills businessman Randy Rolston, a Democrat, has already filed to run in the race.
"Union members are looking ahead to new leadership for a stronger Kansas," said Bruce Tunnell, executive vice president of the Kansas State AFL-CIO. "We are proud to support Paul Davis for Governor and Jean Schodorf for Secretary of State. We are confident that Davis and Schodorf are the right candidates for the job at hand," he said.
A clay-shooting fundraiser for the re-election campaign of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is scheduled for Oct. 12.
Kobach also will discuss Second Amendment rights at the event, which will be held at the Ravenwood Lodge in Topeka.
Participation options run from $25 to $1,000.
Kobach, a Republican, is running in 2014 for his second four-year term as secretary of state.
Former Republican state Sen. Jean Schodorf of Wichita, who has switched to the Democratic Party, has announced that she will seek the Democratic nomination. Mission Hills businessman Randy Rolston, a Democrat, has already filed to run in the race.
Kobach promotes Voter Registration Kit on National Voter Registration Day; doesn’t mention problem of voters in ‘suspense’
Topeka — It's National Voter Registration Day and like secretaries of state across the nation, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Tuesday encouraged people to register to vote.
But Kobach made no mention of the more than 17,000 Kansans whose voter registrations are on hold because of the proof-of-citizenship requirement that he fought to get into law. The law took effect in January.
Instead, Kobach, in a news release, promoted a 14-page Voter Registration Kit that details requirements to register to vote in Kansas.
The booklet can be downloaded at www.gotVoterID.com.
The booklet contains information about the proof of citizenship requirement for new voters, methods for delivering paper or digital copies of citizenship documents to county election officials, and contact information for those officials.
"We are pleased to offer a new portable tool to help civic organizations, parties and agencies to facilitate voter registration," Kobach said. "I encourage all United States citizens who are 18 years of age or older to register to vote if they haven’t already. And people who have moved should make sure their voter registration records are updated with their current address information," he said.
Kobach has said the proof of citizenship requirement is needed to prevent undocumented immigrants from voting. Voting rights advocates say the requirement is unnecessary because seldom does an undocumented immigrant try to vote, and it is a hardship for some people, such as the elderly, who have trouble getting their birth certificates to prove citizenship.
The American Civil Liberties Union has threatened to file a lawsuit over the growing number of voter registrations in "suspense."
Topeka -- Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday didn't seem to want to get involved in the controversy over the 13,000 Kansans whose voter registrations are up in the air.
When asked about it, Brownback, a Republican, referred to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, also a Republican. "It's in the secretary of state's purview," Brownback said.
Brownback acknowledged an interest in the voting booth being "open for people." "We'll watch and review the process as it's coming forward, but there is a constitutional officer that's in charge of that." Again, that's a reference to Kobach.
Since the state proof of citizenship requirement took effect at the start of this year, more than 13,000 new Kansas voter registrants have been unable to complete the process because they didn't provide citizenship documents, such as a birth certificate or passport.
Voting rights advocates say the new law needs to be repealed and that the large number of incomplete registrations shows the state wasn't ready for such a proof of citizenship requirement.
Topeka —Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has taken his fight for voter photo ID to Alaska.
In the process, Kobach, a Republican who has become a national figure on immigration restrictions and voter ID, has thrust himself into a state legislative battle and a U.S. Senate race there.
Here's a link to a story about Kobach's efforts inlink text Alaska that starts with a question: "Why has Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach taken such an active interest in Alaska's elections?
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was in Washington, D.C., yesterday testifying against an immigration bill before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
Kobach cited the recent Boston Marathon bombing as one of several reasons he opposed the proposed legislation, saying that the bill provided insufficient background checks to prevent terrorists from gaining amnesty.
According to his written testimony, Kobach said that under the bill "any illegal alien can invent a new name with a totally clean record and present that name when applying for the amnesty.
"In other words, an alien who has a terrorist background can call himself `Rumpelstiltskin' without having to prove that that is his real name."
He said marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a shoot-out with police, was able to travel internationally and gain terrorist training before returning to the United States.
Supporters of the immigration bill, however, say it will strengthen security by increasing border security and enforcement. The measure would also require employers to check their workers' legal status, and it would provide a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants now here illegally.
Kobach has worked with several cities and states, such as Arizona, in passing measures aimed at reducing illegal immigration.
His use of the term "self-deportation," to describe the departure of undocumented workers because of tough immigration enforcement laws became an issue during the November presidential campaign. Kobach was an adviser on immigration issues to Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who also used the term "self-deportation." Some have said that hurt Romney among Hispanic voters.
During Tuesday's committee meeting, Kobach got into a discussion about "self-deportation" with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Kobach said, "Self-deportation is not some radical idea. It is simply the idea that people may comply with the law by their own choice.
"Self-deportation is something that Arizona has proven that if you ratchet up the penalties for violating the law, people chose to leave and it has been proven that they do that."
But Durbin said, "The voters had the last word on self-deportation on Nov. 6, so we're beyond that now. You can stick with that theory as long as you'd like, but I think what we are talking about now is whether America is a better country if we have an immigration system that brings 11 million people out of the shadows, to register with this government, so we know who they are, where they are, do a criminal background check, or whether we leave them in the shadows."
Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist is coming to Kansas at the behest of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce to oppose "restrictionist" policies on immigration reform.
"We are bringing Mr. Norquist to Kansas so legislators can hear what real immigration reform should look like," said Mike O'Neal, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Chamber.
"Each year, the business coalition has been forced to oppose harmful, anti-business legislation pushed as the only solution to this country's and Kansas' immigration woes. Mr. Norquist's insight will give lawmakers a fresh perspective into what direction this country should head as it searches for a solution to the broken and inefficient immigration system," O'Neal added.
Norquist, who is better known nationally as the president of Americans for Tax Reform, will speak at a breakfast for legislators at 8 a.m. Jan. 16 at the Maner Conference Center Shawnee Ballroom in Topeka. The breakfast will be hosted by the Kansas Chamber and the Kansas Business Coalition for Immigration Reform.
In the past, the Kansas Chamber and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach have been at odds on the subject of illegal immigration.
Kobach has pushed, both in Kansas and nationally, for more stringent restrictions, which the chamber has said would place a burden on businesses. The chamber has championed a measure to place some illegal immigrants in jobs if the state declares that an industry has a labor shortage. But Kobach has described that as an amnesty proposal.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Thursday there were no problems during the Nov. 6 general election with the photo ID requirement to vote, and he said he would push next year for the Legislature to give his office the authority to prosecute allegations of voter fraud.
"I think it makes sense that if we as a state take voter fraud seriously when it does occur that we prosecute the cases," Kobach said after a meeting of the State Board of Canvassers, which officially certified the results of the election.
Kobach pushed the photo ID law, saying it was needed to combat election fraud, but he acknowledged that there have no reports of voter fraud in Kansas this year.
The authority to prosecute voter fraud currently rests with county attorneys, but Kobach said those offices don't get around to investigating and prosecuting those cases because they are over-worked and under-staffed.
He said there have been 235 cases of alleged voter fraud in Kansas between 1997 and 2010 and not one has been prosecuted.
Kobach has tried to get authority to prosecute alleged voter fraud cases before, but the state Senate balked. Now that conservative Republicans will takeover leadership of the Senate next year, Kobach said he believes he can get such a bill approved.
On photo ID, the recently concluded election was the first general election in Kansas with the requirement.
Out of 1,182,771 votes cast, 838 provisional ballots were issued due to lack of sufficient photo ID, Kobach said. Of those, 306 voters presented ID before the county canvass to make their votes count. That means 532 provisional ballots were not counted.
But Kobach said he was confident nearly all those voters had photo ID. He said he bases that on checking on those who cast provisional ballots after the August primary against driver's license records.
In the Nov. 6 election, 66.8 percent of Kansas' nearly 1.8 million registered voters cast ballots. Republican Mitt Romney defeated President Barack Obama in Kansas by 59.7 percent to 37.9 percent with the remaining votes going to minor party candidates.