Fall 2022 Header 2
NPR For The Four States
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Kris Kobach squeaks to a political comeback in election as Kansas attorney general

Kris Kobach smiles with a supporter on election night
Blaise Mesa
/
Kansas News Service
Republican Kris Kobach talks with supporters at an election night watch party. He later declared victory, although the outcome may not be clear for days or weeks.

The race featured a Democratic political newcomer against a Republican who lost the general election race for governor in 2018.

This story has been updated to reflect the Associated Press calling the race for Kris Kobach.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Republican Kris Kobach — at times a key Donald Trump counselor on immigration and supposed election fraud — scored a political comeback by beating a newcomer to win election as Kansas attorney general.

That puts the firebrand conservative back in office after losing two high-profile elections in 2018 and 2020. On Tuesday, he defeated Democrat Chris Mann, a private defense attorney and former police officer who has never run for office before.

The vote was close. Kobach received 51% of the vote, and Mann received 49%.

Kobach claimed victory Tuesday night. The victory maintains the office for Republicans and places a well-known, but polarizing, conservative as the state’s lawyer.

He ran vowing to challenge federal overreach by suing Democratic President Joe Biden and his administration with regularity.

Mann argued Kobach was too focused on generating headlines. He said he wanted to be attorney general to help ordinary Kansans rather than use the office for hot-button political fights.

Kobach made a national brand for himself by focusing on illegal immigration and unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud. He ran vowing to challenge federal overreach by suing Democratic President Joe Biden and his administration with regularity.

Mann argued Kobach was too focused on generating headlines. He said he wanted to be attorney general to help ordinary Kansans rather than use the office for hot-button political fights.

But Kobach’s concentration on those issues resonated with enough Kansas voters to put him back in statewide office — where he promised to sue over Biden policies.

“And we will win,” Kobach said during a debate. “I'll wake up every morning having my breakfast thinking about what our next lawsuit against Joe Biden is going to be.”

Kobach also attached Mann’s candidacy to a leftist agenda and other national Democrat policies Kansans generally oppose, like lowering bail bond costs for alleged criminals.

He was also able to shake off controversy. In the lead-up to the election, Kobach resigned as an attorney for We Build the Wall — a private group that wanted to build a wall on the Mexican border — shortly after he said he was helping it close down. His involvement with the group came under heightened criticism after Steve Bannon, a former advisor for Donald Trump, was indicted for fraud.

Kobach was also required to win the race mostly on his own. The Kansas Republican establishment and groups that normally back Republican candidates mostly stayed away from his campaign. Some, including the Kansas Livestock Association, even endorsed his opponent.

When the state’s Republican leadership endorsed his primary opponent, state Sen. Kellie Warren, Kobach brushed that off, too. After that victory, Kobach said he didn’t need the establishment’s backing.

“It shows the ordinary voters of our state,” Kobach said, “will not be told who is going to represent them.”

Dylan Lysen reports on politics for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanLysen or email him at dlysen (at) kcur (dot) org.

Blaise Mesa reports on criminal justice and social services for the Kansas News Service in Topeka. You can follow him on Twitter @Blaise_Mesa or email him at blaise@kcur.org.

Samantha Horton reports on health  for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @SamHorton5.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy. 

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As a Kansas political reporter, I want to inform our audience about statewide government and elected officials so they can make educated decisions at the ballot box. Sometimes that means I follow developments in the Legislature and explain how lawmakers alter laws and services of the state government. Other times, it means questioning those lawmakers and candidates for office about those changes and what they plan for the future of the state. And most importantly, it includes making sure the voices of everyday Kansans are heard.
Samantha Horton is the health reporter for the Kansas News Service. She most recently worked as a fellow with the NPR Midwest Newsroom and the Missouri Independent.
As a criminal justice and social service reporter, it's my job to ensure the systems designed to help people are working as intended. Thousands of Kansans deal with the criminal justice or foster care systems each day. I strive to hold all agencies and departments accountable for the work they are doing. blaise@kcur.org.