Kris Kobach files for Kansas Senate run in blow to GOP groups

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Kris Kobach (Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) launched a run for U.S. Senate in Kansas Monday, according to paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission. 

The Donald Trump confidant and unsuccessful Republican candidate in last year’s Kansas governor’s race has hinted he might run for Senate and was expected to announce his decision Monday afternoon. 

Kobach will likely face opposition from GOP-aligned outside groups in the Republican primary race for the seat held by retiring Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). Kobach underperformed in last year’s Kansas gubernatorial contest in which Democrat Laura Kelly handily defeated him in the deeply conservative state. National GOP groups have noted they don’t want to lose the typically safe seat, a risk that Kobach brings with him if he were to win the Republican nomination.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee wasted no time slamming Kobach, releasing a statement Monday saying his Senate bid is putting “President Trump’s presidency and Senate Majority at risk.”

Kobach served as Kansas Secretary of State from 2011 to 2019, during which he became a controversial figure nationally. In 2012, he requested evidence of former President Barack Obama’s birth, in addition to the president’s longform birth certificate, before he would allow the President to appear on ballots in Kansas. As secretary of state, Kobach personally lobbied the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

During his tenure, Kobach was a vocal proponent of voter ID laws, pushing for a law that required Kansas residents to produce documents proving their citizenship in order to register. A district court struck down the law in 2018. Kobach lead President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission, which ultimately did not find evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Kobach struggled to raise money for his 2018 gubernatorial campaign. More than half of his total haul — $2.2 million — came from Wichita businessman and running mate Wink Hartman. His campaign was also reprimanded on multiple occasions by the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission for campaign finance violations, including failing to state that political phone messages were funded by his campaign and accepting contributions over the legal limit.

Hartman has also expressed interest in running for Roberts’ open seat. Kobach currently has few challengers in his bid for the Republican nomination, with State Treasurer Jake LaTurner  the only other high-profile Republican to announce a run. 

A number of prominent Kansas Republicans, including former Rep. Roger Marshall and former Gov. Jeff Coyler, have reportedly met with the NRSC as they mull potential bids. Senate Republicans are hoping Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will run for the seat, though the former Kansas Representative has been quiet on his plans. 

Former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom announced last week he would seek the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat, joining former Rep. Nancy Boyda as the only high-profile Democrats to jump into the race. 

Kobach’s only federal election was in 2004 when he lost to Democrat Dennis Moore in a race for Kansas’ 3rd district seat.

Amid his political shortcomings, Kobach has stayed busy, working as general counsel for WeBuildtheWall, a nonprofit that has raised tens of millions of dollars with a supposed goal to erect barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Kobach also lobbied the Trump administration for the job of “immigration czar” but reportedly demanded access to a private jet 24 hours a day among other conditions.

Kansas has gone longer than any other state without being represented by a Democrat in the Senate. The last time Kansas had a Democratic senator was 1939, when George McGill held office.

Vaughn Golden contributed to this story.

Edit: Article was edited shortly after publication to include a statement from the NRSC.

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