Trump Endorses Kobach For Kansas Governor Over Republican Incumbent Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach made his name by championing strict voter registration and writing anti-immigration laws. Now he wants to be the state's next Republican governor.
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Trump Endorses Kobach For Kansas Governor Over Republican Incumbent

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Trump Endorses Kobach For Kansas Governor Over Republican Incumbent

Trump Endorses Kobach For Kansas Governor Over Republican Incumbent

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Kansas voters are going to choose their nominees for governor tomorrow. And on the Republican ballot is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Now, he became nationally known for imposing a strict voter registration law that was later tossed out by a court. While Kobach says he wants to protect electoral integrity, critics call him a master of voter suppression. As Celia Llopis-Jepsen of the Kansas News Service reports, he believes he can win it all in November.

CELIA LLOPIS-JEPSEN, BYLINE: In order to do that, Secretary Kobach has to beat the incumbent, Governor Jeff Colyer, in tomorrow's primary. Being provocative may help. Take a recent parade when Kobach rode down the streets of Shawnee in a jeep with a giant replica gun. The city apologized. But here's Kobach at the next debate.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KRIS KOBACH: And the snowflake said, you can't have a machine gun on top of a jeep in a parade. We said, yes, we can. And now we're taking it to every parade we can in the entire state.

(APPLAUSE)

LLOPIS-JEPSEN: Kobach, a former law professor with degrees from Harvard, Yale and Oxford, lost his bid for Congress in 2004 but has built a high profile...

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE KRIS KOBACH SHOW")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: He's the ACLU's worst nightmare.

LLOPIS-JEPSEN: ...With tough talk on immigration, Breitbart columns, Fox News appearances and talk radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO SHOW, "THE KRIS KOBACH SHOW")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: And this is The Kris Kobach Show.

LLOPIS-JEPSEN: His war against voter fraud bonded him with President Trump. Then he was tapped for the president's short-lived commission on just that. Also, Donald Trump Jr. has campaigned for him. If Kobach's style turns off some Republicans, it may not matter, says Bob Beatty, a political scientist at Washburn University. There are four experienced candidates on the GOP ballot, and in Kansas, the nominee just needs the highest percentage of votes to win.

BOB BEATTY: His strategy - and it may be a very good one - is, I don't need to change anybody's mind; I just need to get my people out.

LLOPIS-JEPSEN: Governor Jeff Colyer, a mild-mannered fellow conservative, is fighting back against Kobach by throwing the secretary's legal woes in his face.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEFF COLYER: And there is only one candidate on this stage who has been fined by a federal judge for lying to a federal court.

LLOPIS-JEPSEN: That stems from Kobach's 2011 law requiring would-be voters to show birth certificates, passports, something proving U.S. citizenship. It decimated voter registration efforts like this.

LOIS ORTH-LOPES: You guys are registered to vote, right?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Yes.

ORTH-LOPES: Good.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Thank you.

LLOPIS-JEPSEN: Lois Orth-Lopes is a volunteer for the League of Women Voters. The group registers voters here at the Lawrence Farmers' Market or at libraries, high schools, wherever.

ORTH-LOPES: OK. Just have a seat.

LLOPIS-JEPSEN: Kobach has called them communists. The league and others sued Kobach for blocking tens of thousands of people from registering to vote. In June, the law was declared unconstitutional, and he was held in contempt for violating court orders. At trial, the judge rebuked him day after day for, quote, "flagrant violations of evidence rules." None of this seems to faze Kobach.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KOBACH: Look; every time a noncitizen votes, it effectively cancels out the vote of a U.S. citizen. And that's a problem.

LLOPIS-JEPSEN: He claims thousands of noncitizens are on Kansas voter rolls. But without proof, his claim is made on statistical projections and testimony that experts tore apart in court. But it's unclear if that'll hurt his political aspirations. If Kobach wins the primary, he thinks he can woo enough voters in November, too, including people who don't fully share his point of view.

KOBACH: I think they still will decide, hey, it's worth voting for Kobach because at least I know that he's going to deliver on the two or three issues that I agree with him on.

LLOPIS-JEPSEN: Much like Trump in the 2016 presidential election, Kobach says he won't pivot like other politicians and that that's his selling point. For NPR News, I'm Celia Llopis-Jepsen in Topeka.

GREENE: Celia is with the Kansas News Service, which is a collaboration covering health, politics and education.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREDDIE GIBBS AND MADLIB SONG, "DEEPER")

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