How did Kris Kobach, Republican candidate for Kansas governor, get this far? Beats me.
His only claim to real fame is his appeal to the dark side, with illegal immigration and alleged voter fraud all but consuming his every waking moment. Kobach has been a negative force for the two decades I have closely followed him, starting with his stint on the Overland Park City Council.
Politicians who seek to lead are expected to espouse a message that points to the future. President Donald Trump pledges to make America great again. Kobach occasionally says he wants to make Kansas great again. But the message rings totally hollow, a mere copycat Trump promise.
What Kobach would bring to Kansas in a positive way, as its governor, is possibly nothing at all. Or perhaps Kobach would label as positive his campaign promise to slash taxes again, back to where they were a few years ago, when Kansas was spiraling into oblivion. But he pledges this time to balance the state budget the “right way” — with draconian spending cuts. With Kobach, there is never anything uplifting or positive about the future.
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The rise of Kobach to this lofty position as the possible governor actually makes me long for former Gov. Sam Brownback. You may think I’m kidding. I would one hundred times prefer a Republican for governor who sincerely wanted to help his state grow and prosper, even if he did get off track.
Brownback was and is a compassionate man. As a U.S. senator before he was governor, Brownback was the loudest voice protesting the genocide in Darfur, a part of Sudan in Africa. This was no clever agenda from which to somehow catapult to political fame.
Brownback has always been ambitious, yes. But his ambition was not all about himself. He was out for the good of his country, his state and those in peril beyond our borders. He is a genuinely good-hearted human being. His economic experiment, unfortunately, was a disaster.
Compare Brownback’s approach to public service with Kobach’s. As secretary of state, one of Kobach’s primary responsibilities was to motivate Kansans to register to vote and then to encourage those newly eligible voters to overcome their apathy and actually cast a ballot. Instead, Kobach did the exact opposite. What time he spent at his job — when he wasn’t traveling around the country helping to craft anti-immigration laws — was devoted to suppressing votes in Kansas and elsewhere.
With his dark side dominating, Kobach’s tight restrictions on would-be voters made him nationally known.
Kobach has adopted for his campaign a platform of yet more negativity. He is now proposing all kinds of lids. He wants lids on how much can be spent on schools outside of the classrooms. He wants lids on increased valuation of homes. He wants lids on property tax increases. And Kobach seeks to eliminate cheaper in-state university tuition offered to college students who are illegal immigrants, but who graduated from a Kansas high school. Current law protects those students from paying far more expensive out-of-state tuition, which would simply make it nearly impossible for them to move forward in their pursuit of higher education.
Those are his anti-ideas. What does Kobach want to do positively for his state he hopes to lead? If Kobach has any thoughts at all, any kind of vision for the future of Kansas, he is keeping them well hidden from the public.
Kobach is in a heated three-way race for governor. One path to victory is with a huge turnout of those who embrace Kobach’s dark side. Or, more likely, he can win by default, as the two other candidates, Democrat Laura Kelly and independent Greg Orman, divide the moderate vote.
Then the dark side prevails, and Kansas is in for a miserable term or two with a man whose warped agendas are twofold. One is for him to actively pursue his regressive list of dangerous goals. The other is to promote Kobach even more widely on a national scale. After all, Kobach’s foremost agenda is Kobach.