He’s ba-ack. Kris Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, voter-fraud conspiracy monger and all-around anti-immigrant xenophobe, is running for the GOP nomination for his state’s open U.S. Senate seat this year — and Republican leaders are in a panic. Knowing the mood of the country has shifted away from Trumpian divisive politics, the party has launched a concerted effort to keep this right-wing wrecking ball off the ticket.
Pardon us for rejoicing in their dilemma. The GOP built this monster, and others like him, by playing footsie for years with the worst fringe elements of the right. Long before Donald Trump started promoting the virtually non-existent bogeyman of illegal-alien voting, Kobach was pioneering this dark art.
As a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, he helped write Arizona’s infamous “show us your papers” law in 2010, giving local authorities undue power to harass immigrants and even American citizens. It was partly struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Later, Kobach used his power as head of Kansas’ state election system to carve out a national reputation as one of America’s most prominent anti-immigration, vote-restriction crusaders. He implemented draconian voter identification regulations and attempted to block some 18,000 voters from the rolls for alleged voter fraud. Kobach ultimately managed to secure convictions against just nine out of Kansas’ 1.8 million voters — exactly one of whom was a non-citizen. Most of the others were elderly voters who misunderstood the voting regulations.
Trump, apparently impressed with this shameful record, made Kobach co-chair of his ego-driven voter-fraud commission, tasked with showing that millions of illegal immigrants denied Trump the 2016 popular vote. After the commission failed miserably at its mission (because no such fraud happened), Kobach slunk back to Topeka, ran for Kansas governor — in a campaign funded in part by white nationalists — and managed to lose that deeply conservative state to Democrat Laura Kelly.
Now Kobach is back, trying to bring his unique blend of toxic ideology and political incompetence to the GOP’s Senate ticket. What could go wrong?
As Politico reports, the national GOP is in a tizzy over the possibility that Kobach could win next Tuesday’s Republican primary to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., potentially putting that currently safe Republican seat in play in the fall. A political action committee tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has booked $1.2 million in ads to promote U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., in the primary.
Where was all this Republican concern when Kobach was out there, for years, pumping his xenophobic poison into their party? Apparently it’s okay if a Republican politician builds his career on bigotry and lies. It only becomes a problem when it’s clear that enough voters have been repulsed that it could actually cost the party a seat. We can only hope.
Views from the editorial board, opinions from guest and national columnists plus the latest letters from our readers.