Former White House press secretary Josh Earnest panned Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s campaign for Kansas governor a few hours before headlining a fundraiser for Kansas Democrats.
Earnest, a Kansas City native who served as President Barack Obama’s spokesman from 2014 to 2017, now serves on the advisory board for Let America Vote, a national group dedicated to strengthening voting rights.
Earnest said he was not sure whether Let America Vote would become involved in the race for Kansas governor, but he cast doubt on the notion that Kobach, an outspoken advocate for stricter voting laws, would succeed in his quest for the governor’s mansion.
“He’s had the opportunity to maximize his negative impact on the ability of people to cast a ballot as secretary of state of Kansas and based on his relationship with the Trump White House,” Earnest said during a visit Thursday to The Star. “So he’s sort of had his shot, I think. It’s made him a pretty polarizing figure and I think will be an impediment, not a benefit, to this gubernatorial campaign.”
Kobach rejected Earnest’s criticism in a phone call Thursday afternoon.
“Mr. Earnest should review the facts. After our proof of citizenship law and photo ID law went into effect, Kansas voter participation was better from year to year than participation in surrounding states,” Kobach said.
“This is part of the information we’ve submitted to federal court, too,” Kobach added, noting the pending lawsuit against the state’s proof of citizenship requirement. “There has been no negative effect on turnout. Period.”
President Donald Trump in January disbanded a presidential voting commission, for which Kobach served as vice chairman, in the face of numerous lawsuits and resistance from states.
Earnest will headline a Kansas Democratic Party fundraiser at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center in Overland Park.
Let America Vote was founded by former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, a Democrat who has been seen as a potential candidate for president in 2020.
“You noticed he was in Iowa yesterday, too?” Earnest joked when asked whether Kander might appear on the ballot in 2020.
“I have no idea,” he said. “I’ve not talked to him about that. You’ll have to ask him. I’m an enthusiastic supporter of Jason Kander.”