Government & Politics

Kobach lags behind Colyer, others in fundraising for governor’s race

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer is outpacing Secretary of State Kris Kobach in campaign donations for the Kansas governor’s race.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer is outpacing Secretary of State Kris Kobach in campaign donations for the Kansas governor’s race.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach is lagging behind Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and several other candidates in donor contributions for the race to become Kansas’ governor.

Colyer posted the strongest donor support, according to campaign financial reports. Other candidates reported larger totals, but they depended on money they lent or gave to their own campaign.

The figures released this week, for 2017, came from the first significant finance reports of the campaign cycle.

“We were very honored that people wanted to step up, people from Kansas, across the state,” Colyer said. “They want to see leadership.”

Colyer had $632,000 in contributions. Kobach, who benefited from a November campaign fundraising event with President Donald Trump’s oldest son, reported $355,000 in the same category.

“It’s humiliating” for Kobach, said Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas. “...In terms of expectations, it’s embarrassing.”

Kobach was largely seen as the GOP frontrunner. But he has faced controversy throughout his tenure, including in the last year for his ties to President Trump, his support of Trump’s unproven claim that millions voted illegally in the 2016 election, and his leadership of a voter fraud commission created, and recently disbanded, by Trump.

Neither Kobach nor his spokeswoman responded to a request for comment Thursday.

A handful of other Republicans also posted sizable numbers, though they appeared to have either given or lent large sums to their own campaigns.

Other contenders were unable to match some of the leaders in the Republican field.

Independent Greg Orman reported better fundraising numbers than any single candidate in the Democratic field, with almost $453,000.

Josh Svaty, a former lawmaker and state secretary of agriculture, led the Democratic field with a reported $192,545 in fundraising. Svaty announced his run in May.

“We have a Democratic primary for the first time in decades,” Svaty said in a statement. “And we have to nominate the Democrat who can compete and win across the entire state.”

State Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, had just over two weeks to raise money in the period after announcing her campaign in late December. Her $155,691 in contributions included $2,000 from former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

“I’m very pleased,” Kelly said. “The response that we got in a total of eight days that we had to actually make phone calls was incredible.”

Other Democratic hopefuls who had announced campaigns far earlier than Kelly, including House Minority Leader Jim Ward, found less success. Ward raised $90,534, according to his report. He has been in the race since August.

Ward told The Star Thursday morning that Kelly’s out-raising him didn’t give him a thought of dropping out.

“I believe what the finance reports show is the race for governor is wide open,” Ward said. “There’s about eight people that are serious candidates for governor. And in both parties, no decision’s been made.”

Republican oil magnate Wink Hartman reported $1.8 million, the highest total in the field, but $1.685 million came from loans.

“Hartman added $1.65 million in personal funds to run in the Republican primary free of the influence and corruption of special interests and dark money groups,” a release from his campaign said.

Former state Rep. Mark Hutton, a Republican, reported contributions of more than $581,000, though his report showed he donated $200,000 to his own campaign.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer noted more than $713,000 in contributions, though more than $285,000 came from loans he made to his own campaign.

And former state Sen. Jim Barnett, a Topeka Republican, reported more than $564,000 in contributions, but that figure included two personal loans totaling $505,000.

There are roughly 20 candidates running to become governor this year. The field ranges from experienced politicians like Colyer, Kobach and Kelly to teenagers who announced campaigns after noticing Kansas has no age requirement to run for the state’s high office.

Kansas Senate seats are not in play during the 2018 election cycle, but every seat in the Kansas House will be on the ballot.

The Star’s Andy Marso contributed to this report

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw