Notorious anti-immigrant and voter suppression extremist Kris Kobach was denied the Governor’s mansion by voters in Kansas on Tuesday, as Kansans chose Democrat Laura Kelly by over 4 percentage points.
Kobach’s loss was cause for national celebration, not least because Kobach had so thoroughly tied himself to President Trump. Both Trump and his son Donald Jr. came to Kansas to campaign with Kobach, while Kobach fervently supported the President on the campaign trail and on cable news programs. Kobach even adopted Trump’s slogan as his own: “Make Kansas Great Again.”
Kobach also ran a campaign that zealously embraced the divide and distract strategy that Trump and Stephen Miller utilized in the 2018 midterms. Kobach ran ads that falsely blamed undocumented students for raising tuition costs, cited debunked data from a hate group, attacked safe city legislation, and made his closing argument a fear-mongering attack on the migrant caravan. He did so even after it was clear that these falsehoods were a motivating factor in the horrific anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Kobach was so thoroughly tied to Trump that a piece at the New Yorker wondered whether the former’s loss held potential lessons for how to deal with the latter. As Burdett Loomis, a political-science professor at the University of Kansas, told the New Yorker, “If there’s a national message [in Kobach’s loss], it’s that there are limits to how crazy you can go doubling down on Trump.”
Moreover, Kobach’s campaign accepted support from numerous white nationalists. Not only did he accept a donation from Ian Smith, who was fired from the Trump Administration for his white nationalist activity, he also reportedly had white nationalists on his campaign staff. Kobach also worked for more than a decade for a hate group before he became Secretary of State and before he ran for governor.
Kobach this year also repeatedly demonstrated how much of a failure he was as a lawyer. In the middle of his campaign, Kobach chose to represent himself in court in an ACLU-brought case against his voter suppression law. Not only was his law found unconstitutional, but a federal judge — appointed by George W. Bush — found Kobach in contempt of court and ordered him to take remedial law classes after his disastrous performance in court.
These failures, Kobach’s extremist reputation, and Kobach’s apparent eagerness to follow the calamitous policies of former Governor Sam Brownback alarmed even local Republican leaders, a number of whom defected and supported Kelly. The treasurer for an independent third-party candidate also resigned and threw his support to Kelly, saying “we cannot risk the future of our state” with a potential Kobach win. And this week, Kansas voters soundly rejected Kris Kobach — as well as his divide and distract strategy and his attempts to vilify immigrants by falsely blaming them for problems facing the state. They rejected the candidate that took support and donations from white nationalists. And they rejected Kobach’s legal and legislative failures and his efforts to suppress the vote.
Unfortunately, this will likely not be the last time we hear from Kobach, especially since Donald Trump is reportedly considering him to be Jeff Sessions’ replacement as Attorney General. But for now, immigrants, voting rights’ advocates, and Kansans can take a moment to sigh with relief.
As Mark Joseph Stern at Slate wrote, “All his voter suppression schemes—his proof-of-citizenship measure, his poll closures—could not pull him over the finish line…Kobach has always been a loser. Now he is a loser out of a job.”