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Kris Kobach’s gubernatorial campaign has suffered continuous negative hits in the weeks following his controversial and razor thin victory in the Republican primary. Most recently, his campaign has been dogged by reports of factual inaccuracies and scrutiny of his anti-immigrant policies. In addition, dozens of prominent current and former Republican elected officials endorsing Kobach’s Democratic opponent, Laura Kelly.
A pioneer in the divide and distract strategy — which has become the Trump/GOP 2018 playbook — Kobach has made his long history of anti-immigrant politics the centerpiece of his campaign. Kobach has tried to falsely blame immigrants for the state’s problems in order to divide voters and distract them from his own consistent pattern of failure. But the very strategy he helped pioneer may endanger him this election, as it has frequently been a losing one.
Kobach’s divisiveness has certainly been helping to bleed him of support from his own party. Two former Republican U.S. Senators from Kansas, Nancy Kassebaum and Sheila Frahm, endorsed Kobach’s Democratic opponent Laura Kelly. Former Republican Governor Bill Graves and two dozen other Republicans have also turned from Kobach to endorse Kelly. And some 40 percent of Republican state representatives have shied away from endorsing Kobach. The vocal and consistent support for Kelly from Republican officials comes even after ominous warnings from House Majority Leader Don Hineman that not supporting Kobach “could well be a career-ending move”.
In the first gubernatorial debate two weeks ago, the independent candidate, Greg Orman, made headlines asserting that Kobach’s anti-immigrant policies make him unfit to lead the state and shows that Kobach does not know how the agricultural economy works. Undeterred, Kobach used the debate to double down on his extremist views; when asked how he differs from President Trump, Kobach said he would have ended DACA for Dreamers earlier.
In the second debate a few days later, Kobach used a debunked statistic about the total cost of state benefits for undocumented immigrants — falsely placing the blame of an underfunded budget on immigrants. Kobach’s numbers come from a report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Institute classifies as a hate group. Moreover, the CATO Institute has said the report Kobach’s data originates from is “fatally flawed.”
But Kobach’s use of hate group data is unfortunately unsurprising. Kobach worked for the legal arm of FAIR for more than a decade and is deeply entangled in white nationalist John Tanton’s network of anti-immigrant organizations. And he has repeatedly used this false data, citing it in the kick off for his general election campaign.
Kobach has also used a number of other misleading or false statements in his campaign to point fingers at immigrants for state problems. Earlier in the campaign, Kobach ran completely false ads that blamed undocumented students for rising tuition costs. Kobach is also fond of making the false claim that Kansas is the “sanctuary city of the midwest.”
Kobach’s recent campaign issues come on the heels of three new legal troubles — one involving a grand jury, one involving a lawsuit from Rev. Jesse Jackson, and one involving a deposition with the New York Attorney General. Kobach was held in contempt of court and sent to remedial law classes after his last major courtroom appearance, which found his voter suppression law unconstitutional. And we haven’t even gotten to Kobach’s other baggage, including: being tied to the white nationalists recently fired from the White House, allegations that Kobach had three white nationalists on payroll, controversy surrounding the Trump’s failed elections commission, support for the deeply unpopular and failed tax cuts of the from the last Kansas gubernatorial administration, and in-depth reporting on the failed and costly anti-immigrant legislative campaign Kobach previously waged across the country.