It’s no longer too close to call the Kansas Republican governor’s primary.
Last night incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded the primary tilt to Kris Kobach, the secretary of state, who was leading in the count of provisional ballots by 345.
That still seems pretty close. Last Tuesday Kobach lead Colyer by 191 votes. But Colyer, who took over last winter when sitting Gov. Sam Brownback joined the Trump administration, was adamant in a Tuesday evening concession.
“This election is probably the closest in America,” Colyer said. “But the numbers are just not there, unless we were to go to extraordinary measures.” And he vowed no challenge or recount.
Kobach, a harder-line conservative, credited his narrow win to President Trump’s last-day endorsement.
“I think it was absolutely crucial,” he said. “There’s no question that the election day voting went much more strongly for me as compared to the advance voting.”
Trump went against the advice of national Republican leaders and his own staff in endorsing Kobach over Colyer, who was deemed easier to elect this fall in the current hyper-partisan atmosphere, even in such a longtime red state.
Kobach thanked Colyer for his service to Kansas and vowed: to “work hard to advance our shared values. And I look forward to working with Governor Colyer and all Republicans to keep Kansas red in November.” That might be a challenge.
Kobach will face Democrat state Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka. She won her party nomination with 52 percent of the vote in a five-way race. Also in the November contest is independent but liberal businessman Greg Orman, pending certification of his campaign signatures by Kobach’s office. Orman ran an efficient campaign against Sen. Pat Roberts four years ago.
Republicans currently control 33 governor’s offices, an important asset to maintain since governors elected this fall will preside over legislative reapportioning growing from the 2020 census. Same for state legislators.
In retrospect, Trump’s endorsement of Kobach and a recorded robocall should not have been surprising. Kobach endorsed Trump in 2016 even before the Kansas GOP caucus and has been an outspoken supporter of the president’s border wall. The president will no doubt be pleased that his support was not only successful and crucial but guarantees he will remain a central issue through Nov. 6.
A June state poll put a Kobach-Kelly-Orman race as basically a dead heat with both Kobach and Kelly in the mid-thirties, Orman with 12 percent and 17 undecided. But Orman now seems more likely to draw votes from Kelly supporters.