It’s a well-kept secret. There will be an Aug. 7 primary election in Kansas in which local voters may be about as familiar with the lineup of candidates as they are the starting lineup for the Kansas City Royals. Both are a big blur.
With the exception of the governor’s race, which includes Republican front-runners Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach, any enthusiasm about the elections has been diluted by an abundance of candidates in key races who are mostly unfamiliar names. The three races I will focus on feature a combined 19 candidates. Nevertheless, I have identified three individuals who are the most likely to prevail in the primaries, giving them a ticket to the November general election.
It is painful to begin my predictions with the GOP primary for governor. My predicted winner would be the last person I would like to see at the top of Kansas government. I have closely followed the cunning and egotistical Kobach as he has advanced up the political ladder during the past 20 years, including his attempt to run for Congress.
Before Trump was Trump, there was Kobach. Back in 2004, Kobach ran for Congress as a Republican on the theme of stomping out illegal immigration.
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He was way ahead of his time and lost handily to Democratic incumbent Dennis Moore. Many of us wondered then why illegal immigration was even mentioned, let alone highlighted as the cornerstone of a congressional campaign in this area. It seemed like a non-issue in the 3rd District, made up of mostly Johnson and Wyandotte counties.
Today, Kobach is still harping on the same issue, but this time, illegal immigration has become the No. 1 issue facing Americans, according to recent polls. The nation has caught up to Kobach’s drumbeat, which this time could be the winning message.
Although polls show the race between Colyer and Kobach is close, they don’t necessarily reflect the intensity of Kobach’s supporters, many of whom are voters obsessed with illegal immigration. A larger turnout for Kobach, fueled by the fervor of anti-immigration fanatics, is what could ultimately put him in a position to become the Republican nominee for the state’s top government post.
Whether it’s Kobach, Colyer, or some other Republican running for governor, the GOP winner will face both the Democratic nominee and an independent candidate, Greg Orman, Orman will not have enough support to be the spoiler, despite his notoriety and wealth.
Democrats who backed him once before will not cross over this time because they have a powerhouse Democratic candidate in Laura Kelly. She is a longtime leader in the state Senate who is smart enough to hold her own against Kobach or any other Republican. She is moderate enough to be appealing to Democrats in the primary, and she could also be effective with independents in the general election.
But those qualities alone are not what will win her the Democratic nomination in August. Kelly is the lone female in this race in the year of the woman, and she is staunchly pro-choice at a time when abortion will be a top issue in the Democratic primary due to the inevitable confirmation of an anti-abortion U.S. Supreme Court justice. Abortion and gender are likely to be the advantages that will deliver a primary victory to Kelly.
The remaining question is, who will be the Democratic Party’s sacrificial lamb offered up to face off against Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder as he seeks his fifth term representing the 3rd District? There is no Democrat in this crowded field who truly stands out.
Some think Brent Welder, a trial lawyer from Bonner Springs could prevail even with an address that would be off-putting to Johnson County voters. But Welder is too enamored with former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist too far left for this district.
Instead, the Democratic nominee in this race is more likely to be Tom Niermann, a longtime teacher from Prairie Village. Although he has not created a buzz, Niermann is the most often mentioned candidate among the little organized Democratic leadership in the district.
As I have always reminded readers, my predictions have nothing to do with my preferences. The fact that I predicted Kobach’s victory is a case in point.