Kansas GOP gears up for Trump visit amid Kavanaugh vote

photo by: Peter Hancock

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach speaks to reporters on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, a day in advance of President Donald Trump's visit to Topeka to campaign on his behalf.

TOPEKA – Kansas Republicans on Friday were making final preparations in advance of President Donald Trump’s scheduled campaign rally on Saturday in Topeka, which could be the president’s first public appearance after the U.S. Senate votes on the highly charged nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Trump is scheduled to speak at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Kansas Expocentre, during a rally for GOP gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach and 2nd District congressional candidate Steve Watkins.

The president has held a number of political rallies in recent days as the Senate, and much of the American public, has been swept up in the controversy over Kavanaugh, who has been accused of sexual misconduct while he was in high school and college in the 1980s.

On Tuesday, Trump spoke in Southaven, Miss., where he appeared to mock one of Kavanaugh’s accusers, psychology professor Christine Blasey Ford. Those comments sparked harsh criticism, even from some Republicans.

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Trump’s upcoming rally in Topeka to draw supporters and protesters from Lawrence, Oct. 4, 2018

Kobach, however, said in a news conference Friday that he is not worried that Trump’s remarks Saturday in Topeka might cause embarrassment.

“No, I don’t have any concerns at all,” Kobach said. “I think it’s great when the president goes off script and talks about current events. I expect that he might say something, depending on what’s happening in the United States Senate and the Kavanaugh vote, and this indeed might be the first time after a vote that the president is speaking at a public event. But we don’t know. Things keep changing in the U.S. Senate and the schedule keeps changing, so I wouldn’t bet anything on when the vote will be.”

Kobach made that statement about the same time the Senate voted to end debate on Kavanaugh’s nomination. The so-called “cloture” vote passed, 51-49. A final vote on his confirmation is expected Saturday, possibly just hours before Trump speaks in Topeka.

Meanwhile, Kobach said, people planning to attend the event should plan on showing up early. He estimated that more than 20,000 tickets were issued to the event, but that the Expocentre only has a capacity for about 10,000, so people will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Doors to the Expocentre will open at 2 p.m., and Kobach said people can expect long lines to get into the event because people will have to pass through security screening. In the event of rain, people are allowed to bring collapsible-style umbrellas, but not long umbrellas with sharp points on the end.

Before the president speaks at 6:30, Gov. Jeff Colyer, incumbent 2nd District Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins and Watkins also are scheduled to give remarks.

Demonstrators, meanwhile, will be kept outside a perimeter fence that has been erected around the Expocentre property, and pro-Trump demonstrators will be kept separate from anti-Trump demonstrators, officials have said.

Kobach faces Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, and independent candidate Greg Orman in the general election. Kelly has a full day of campaign events of her own scheduled for Saturday, including public events in Wichita and Emporia.

Watkins faces Democratic candidate Paul Davis, of Lawrence, in the 2nd District congressional race.

Trump’s visit to the Expocentre will be the first presidential visit to Topeka since 2006, when then-President George W. Bush appeared at the same venue to campaign on behalf of former 2nd District Rep. Jim Ryun.


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