Kris Kobach (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

Donald Trump endorses Kris Kobach, former head of voter fraud commission, in Kansas governor race

On Tuesday, Kobach could snag the competitive Republican primary nomination from sitting GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer


Shira Tarlo
August 6, 2018 10:14PM (UTC)

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the right-wing activist and politician who has waged a tireless crusade to curtail immigration and voting rights in America, has landed the endorsement of President Donald Trump in the tight contest to be named the state's Republican candidate for governor.

"Kris Kobach, a strong and early supporter of mine, is running for Governor of the Great State of Kansas," the president tweeted Monday. "He is a fantastic guy who loves his State and our Country - he will be a GREAT Governor and has my full & total Endorsement! Strong on Crime, Border & Military. VOTE TUESDAY!"

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On Tuesday, Kobach could snag the competitive GOP primary nomination from sitting Gov. Jeff Colyer. Along with the incumbent, the secretary of state will also face off against former state Sen. Jim Barnett and state Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer. Dueling polls aggregated by RealClearPolitics show Colyer and Kobach each with an edge as it remains to be seen what effect the president's endorsement could have on the final vote.

Trump's backing does not come as a surprise. In July, the Associated Press reported that "last spring, Trump was on the verge of tweeting out an endorsement of Kobach but his staff intervened, warning of the repercussions." The president's intervention has "delighted Democrats who see an opening to make significant gains in a conservative-leaning states," according to the New York Times. For likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee Laura Kelly, a face off in November against the scandal-ridden Kobach over Colyer could prove advantageous.

Kobach, who was recently revealed to have redirected massive amounts of taxpayer dollars into his own pockets in a joint report by ProPublica and the Kansas City Star, is perhaps best known for writing the "show me your papers" law in Arizona that was struck down in federal court. He also headed Trump's now-defunct Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which uncovered no evidence to support the administration's claims of widespread voter fraud. The commision was disbanded after many states refused Kobach's demand to hand over their confidential voter rolls to the federal government.

Kobach, who is a close ally of the president, was also fined for "misleading the court" in cases pertaining to restrictive voter ID laws in his state. Although Kobach has appealed the fine, U.S. District judge Julie Robinson rejected his voter restriction law and called his credibility into question. Robinson also determined that Kobach's conduct during the trial was so uninformed that he needed to take classes to learn about the law itself. Accordingly, she ordered him to complete six hours of legal education.

Kobach is also a paid Breitbart News columnist, where he has articulated his hardline anti-immigration views.

"I think Breitbart.com appeals to anyone who is Republican or conservative in any way," Kobach told the Kansas City Star when asked about the site catering to white nationalists. "It appeals to a broad spectrum of conservative readers." According to the Star, four out of Kobach's seven published articles for Breitbart centered around immigration policy at the time of its interview with the secretary of state. His first column, published in June, was titled: "Refugees and Terrorism: A Massive Vulnerability in Our Immigration System."

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"This madness must end, especially as ISIS-affiliated Islamist terrorists appear to be stepping up their attacks in the West," Kobach wrote in defense of Trump's executive order banning travel of six Muslim-majority nations. "The United States homeland remains a principal target, and many terrorists will attempt to make it to the United States as the noose is tightened by the U.S. and allied military attacking ISIS territory."

In addition, Kobach once accidentally leaked Department of Homeland Security plans when posing for a press photograph with then president-elect Trump. Using photo editing tools, a zoomed-in view of the documents revealed a plan to put Trump's hard-line immigration platform into practice.

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Kobach has been an ardent Trump supporter and has even gone so far as to take credit for Trump's plans to "make Mexico pay for the wall." Salon's Amanda Marcotte previously reported that Kobach conceived a plan to hold hostage the money sent by legal immigrants to family members until Mexico caved in and funded the effort.

He also "served in the Bush administration and was instrumental in the implementation of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, the post 9/11 requirement that all Muslims and Middle Eastern citizens in the country on visas register and file their fingerprints with the government," Salon's Heather Digby Parton previously wrote.

The Fair Immigration Reform Movement, an immigrants' rights advocacy group, has previously condemned Kobach's candidacy, arguing that he "is an Architect of Hate and he’s relied on hate and fear to financially profit as he advanced and defended policies aimed at severely restricting immigration in the United States."

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Kobach also served as an adviser on immigration to Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign and has advocated for "self-deportation," but said he does not want "to do it at gun point" in a 2012 interview with Salon. Undocumented residents, he said, "should go home on their own volition, under their own will, pick their own day, get their things in order and leave. That's a more humane way."

"If we had a true nationwide policy of self-deportation, I believe we would see our illegal alien population cut in half at a minimum very quickly," Kobach said at the time.

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Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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