The president’s oldest son is diving into the heated Republican contest to become governor of Kansas.
Donald Trump Jr. will make a fundraising appearance for Kris Kobach’s campaign next month in Johnson County, marking the Trump family’s entrance into a packed 2018 race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.
“I think the Trump family is trying to exert their influence wherever and whenever possible,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor of Inside Elections, a nonpartisan publication that analyzes election races. “I don’t think it matters to them that an election is 10 months away.”
It also allowed Kobach, Kansas’ secretary of state, to announce a splashy event with the Trump brand name while Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer sat in waiting.
Colyer, who’s expected to become governor once Gov. Sam Brownback is confirmed for a post in the Trump administration, is also running for governor in 2018.
Colyer will likely be the sitting governor during the Republican primary if he continues to run. His spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
“For even Trump’s son to come out and get involved here in a situation where you’re probably going to have an incumbent by the election is unusual,” said Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas.
Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, called Trump Jr.’s upcoming appearance for Kobach a “slap in the face” to Colyer.
The president’s family will be coming to Kansas “to campaign not for Jeff Colyer but to campaign for the secretary of state to unseat what presumably will be the incumbent governor running in the next election,” Carmichael said.
Kobach announced the Nov. 28 event in an email Monday. Donald Trump won Kansas with close to 57 percent of the vote last year.
The Kobach event will include a fundraising dinner and VIP reception, according to the email. Prices range from $150 to $2,000.
“It is an incredible honor that President Trump’s son will be joining our campaign for Governor at this important time,” Kobach wrote in the campaign email. “I’m sure each of you is looking forward to extending him a warm, Kansas welcome.”
The president’s son was embroiled in controversy earlier this year after The New York Times reported that Trump Jr. had been promised “damaging information” concerning Democrat Hillary Clinton before meeting with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin during the 2016 election cycle.
Kobach’s campaign spokeswoman, Samantha Poetter, would not say where exactly the event would be held.
“It will be in Johnson County,” she said in an email. “That’s all we are releasing at this time.”
Bob Beatty, a political scientist at Washburn University, said the event shows how closely associated Kobach is with the Trump brand.
“If there was any doubt that Kobach was running hand in hand with Donald Trump for governor, then it’s gone now,” he said.
Other Republicans running for governor include former state lawmaker Mark Hutton, insurance commissioner Ken Selzer and a host of others.
Ed O’Malley, a former state lawmaker and moderate Republican running for governor, said in a statement that “this guy just doesn’t get it.”
“By bringing Trump Jr. to town, Kobach again demonstrates he isn’t really interested in Kansas,” O’Malley said in a statement. “He wanted a job with Trump and didn’t get one. Now he wants to hobnob with Trump Jr. You know what Kansans want? Someone to listen to them, work on their problems and someone focused on Kansas. Kobach continues to do none of the above.”
Kobach was the only statewide elected official who endorsed Donald Trump before the 2016 Kansas Republican caucus.
He also advised Trump during the campaign on immigration policy, worked on the transition team and has frequently spoken about his strong support of the president.
Both Trump and Kobach have claimed widespread voter fraud occurred in the 2016 election, but neither Republican has provided any proof that such fraud actually occurred.
Kobach also serves as the vice chairman of Trump’s election integrity commission.
Beatty said the event announcement is an early, clear assertion that Kobach and Trump are joined at the hip.
“It’s not common for family members to be this involved in their father’s politics in state level races,” he said. “But there’s very little about Donald Trump that is common in terms of American politics.”
The Star’s Bryan Lowry and The Wichita Eagle’s Jonathan Shorman contributed to this report.