Love or hate him, Kris Kobach is a force to be reckoned with. And reckon with him is what voters in Kansas did in Tuesday’s election.
Kobach, whose term as Kansas secretary of state will mercifully expire in the new year, was seeking the governorship and proved too extreme for the voters to retain. He lost to a previously unsung Democratic state senator, Laura Kelly, by a margin of more than four percentage points.
Kobach has been an avatar of Trumpism since even before Trump entered electoral politics, so his loss has given Democrats across the nation a heady shot of Schadenfreude.
However, Kansas’ gain could be the nation’s loss if, as many speculate, Kobach assumes some role in the Trump administration. Kobach just might be the only failed candidate from Tuesday who is more dangerous to democracy out of elected office than in.
Kobach soon will have a lot of free time on his hands, and he is not prone to idleness. He’s dogmatically attached to the fantasy that voter fraud is widespread in America.
It’s important to understand why Kobach lost. Part of it is that he promised to carry on the disastrous tax-cutting strategies of former Gov. Sam Brownback, which created serious fiscal problems for the state while failing to goose economic growth. Another real problem was his record of embarrassing failure at prosecuting voter fraud.
Kobach is the only secretary of state with the power to criminally prosecute people for voting when they don’t have the legal right. He got that leverage from the state legislature.
It hasn’t gone so well.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued Kansas over its strict voting requirements, contending that it conflicted with the National Voter Registration Act. At trial, it was revealed that Kobach had found just 18 cases of non-citizens who had registered to vote during a 20-year span. Only five of them actually voted. Most cases were explained by clerical errors or misunderstandings.
In June, a judge struck down a Kansas voting law that, she ruled, “acted as a deterrent to registration and voting for substantially more eligible Kansans than it has prevented ineligible voters from registering to vote.”
In western Kansas, a lot of people who depend on agriculture for a living weren’t amused by Kobach’s dog-whistling about immigrants as a threat to the nation. Kansans have far too many immigrant neighbors as coworkers in meat processing and on farms for that nonsense.
In short, Kansans said “no thanks” to Kobach because they could see he was bad for Kansas.
Trump joked at one point during the campaign, “I hope he loses because I want him so badly.”
Trump’s got two jobs to do in order to retain power in 2020: First, he has to keep hysteria over immigration and gun control at fever pitch. Second, he needs Republicans in states where they hold power to continue suppressing the vote.
Those are Kobach’s special talents.
At one point, at least 35,000 Kansans were disenfranchised by changes pressed by Kobach. He has been highly influential in similar Republican efforts in other states.
Indeed, it was Kobach’s overreach as cochairman of the commission that sealed its fate. With a typically heavy hand, he demanded that state election officials hand over voter data for the purposes of inquiring into potential voting irregularities. The response from state officials of both parties was firm and negative.
And so it was with Kris Kobach. Kansas voters got a good look at him, and they sent him packing. Let’s hope his next stop isn’t Washington.
Writes for Tribune Content Agency.