By gosh, I could swear I just saw Harry Reid elbowing his way into the new Ikea store in Merriam.
Impossible, you say. OK, how about Nancy Pelosi? You know one of them has to be lurking around somewhere.
Kansas politics has become highly entertaining. If you’re watching what’s going on, you know there were debates Saturday at the State Fair in Hutchinson.
One featured Pat Roberts and his main challenger for his U.S. Senate seat, independent candidate Greg Orman. Roberts, the three-term GOP incumbent, mentioned Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader, so often and so darkly you’d have though the man himself was on the fairgrounds sabotaging the pigeon judging.
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Gov. Sam Brownback was only slightly less obsessed with Pelosi, the U.S. House minority leader. He labeled his Democratic opponent, Kansas House minority leader Paul Davis, the “Nancy Pelosi of Kansas.”
How about we talk about a national figure who really is looming in the Kansas elections? That would be Kris Kobach, Kansas’ very own secretary of state.
Before he was elected to a statewide office, Kobach, a lawyer, had made a name for himself by helping states and cities pass laws aimed at making life difficult for undocumented immigrants. None of that changed after he became secretary of state.
Not content to hang around the office streamlining the state’s business filing system, Kobach hit the road early and often. He was in Arizona, helping officials defend a harsh anti-immigrant law. He was in Alabama, helping legislators draft one. He was in Texas, helping his rock ’n’ roll buddy Ted Nugent lobby for the right to shoot feral hogs out of helicopters.
And then, on Sept. 3, intrigue came knocking right in Kansas.
A struggling Democratic candidate, Chad Taylor, wanted to withdraw as his party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate seat. That move would clear a path for Orman.
In legal documents, Taylor contended he and his campaign manager took an unsigned withdrawal letter to the secretary of state’s office in Topeka. He said Brad Bryant, Kobach’s director of elections, approved the letter and directed them to a notary in the office. The letter was signed and notarized.
Bryant disputes Taylor’s account that he said the information in the letter was sufficient. However, Taylor’s name temporarily disappeared from the secretary of state website’s official list of candidates.
But wait. The Kansas Republican Party filed a challenge, claiming Taylor had neglected to specify he was “incapable of fulfilling the duties of office, if elected,” as required by state statute. Enter Kobach, live and in person. He took less than 24 hours to declare that Taylor must remain on the ballot.
His decision infuriated Democrats, who want Taylor off the ballot as badly as Republicans want him on. Party officials said Kobach, a member of Roberts’ steering committee, should have recused himself.
But as the state’s chief elections official, it’s Kobach’s job to make the call. His ruling on this is no more partisan than his role in saddling Kansas with one of the nation’s most repressive voter registration laws.
The big question is whether Kobach is right about Taylor’s candidacy; a court will likely decide that.
With the matter undecided, punsters have dubbed Taylor the ultimate Hanging Chad. Meanwhile, the busy Kobach must juggle the Taylor matter with his own re-election bid. At least one poll shows his Democratic opponent, former Kansas Sen. Jean Schodorf, with a slight lead.
Kobach says his race is all about making sure non-citizens don’t vote in Kansas elections, even though he’s been unable to show that any have ever tried.
Which brings us back to phantom campaign issues. I’m pretty sure that was Barack Obama I saw shopping with Nancy Pelosi at the Ikea grand opening.