Immigration hardliner Kris Kobach is attempting a political comeback Tuesday in the Republican primary for Kansas attorney general, where he faces a former prosecutor and a state senator who, like Kobach, say they will prioritize the fight against federal government.
Kobach had a national profile for drafting tough state and local immigration rules outside Kansas even before he was elected secretary of state in 2010. But he lost his 2018 bid for conservative state governor to Democrat Laura Kelly and lost the primary in Republicans for the 2020 U.S. Senate in Sen. Roger Marshall, raising questions about his viability in a statewide race.
In the primary, Kobach faces state Sen. Kellie Warren, a Kansas City-area attorney, and former federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi, of Topeka.
All three Republicans have vowed to file lawsuits challenging the policies of Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration. Warren argued that he was more likely than Kobach to pick better targets and win cases. Mattivi said he will challenge the Biden administration’s policies as well, but said the attorney general’s first priority is keeping Kansans physically and financially safe.
Kobach promoted voter fraud as a big issue a decade before former President Donald Trump’s false claims that fraud cost him his 2020 re-election bid. Kobach was the first prominent Kansas elected official to endorse Trump in 2016 and served as vice chairman of Trump’s committee on election fraud. He promises to pursue such cases if elected attorney general.
Warren has been visible in legislative efforts to insert anti-abortion language into the state constitution and limit the power of state and local officials to close businesses and impose other restrictions during the pandemic.
Mattivi submitted his credentials as a prosecutor, having worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Kansas for more than 20 years. He handled high-profile terrorism and national security cases and was coordinating work on such cases when he retired in November 2020.
The winner will face first-time Democratic candidate Chris Mann, an attorney, former police officer and former district attorney from northeast Kansas, in the Nov. 8 general election. Many Republicans expect a surge in conservative voters in November due to anger over inflation, gas prices and COVID-19 restrictions.
Hollingsworth reported from the Kansas Mission.
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