Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach described himself Wednesday as “a guardian of state sovereignty” as he formally launched his campaign for re-election.
The conservative Republican filed for a second, four-year term and paid a $1,360 fee to guarantee his spot on the ballot in the Aug. 5 primary.
His opponent for the GOP nomination is Scott Morgan, a Lawrence attorney, businessman and former local school board member, who said he filed last week because Kobach “didn’t seem to want the job.” The Democrat who has filed for the office, former state Sen. Jean Schodorf of Wichita, also has suggested Kobach doesn’t focus enough on the secretary of state’s duties.
Kobach, a former law professor, is best known nationally for his work drafting tough anti-illegal immigration laws in Alabama and Arizona, but he has drawn criticism from some quarters that he isn’t focused enough on the secretary of state’s duties.
Kobach also has advocated publicly for Kansas laws allowing the state to join others in a compact against the federal health care overhaul; declaring that the federal government can’t regulate guns manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas; and challenging the federal government’s listing of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species.
The secretary of state said he handles outside work during his spare time. He also maintained that a secretary of state should be interested in health care, gun rights and the lesser prairie chicken as the “keeper of state sovereignty,” someone whose signature is necessary to make proclamations and appointments official.
“The secretary of state, more than any other official other than the governor, is the guardian of state sovereignty,” Kobach said. “It’s absolutely important for the secretary of state to step forward when state sovereignty is at risk.”
But Morgan also has suggested that Kobach has championed policies that limit voter participation.
Kobach is the architect of a state law that requires new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship to election officials when registering, and almost 17,800 registrations were on hold Wednesday because the prospective voters had yet to comply. Kobach largely wrote another state law mandating that all voters show photo identification at the polls. He’s championed the policies as anti-fraud measures and said Kansas now has model election-security laws.
In addition, Morgan criticized Kobach for hosting a two-hour, Sunday night radio talk show on Kansas City area station KCMO.
“He seemed much more interested in issues and jobs unrelated to what Kansans paid him to do,” Morgan said in a statement.