Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is running for governor - KCTV5 News

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is running for governor

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The Kansas native has served as the secretary of state since his election in January of 2011. (AP) The Kansas native has served as the secretary of state since his election in January of 2011. (AP)

On Thursday, a high-ranking Kansas official made a major announcement regarding his efforts to lead the state in 2018.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach has announced he is running for Governor of Kansas in 2018.

The announcement, which has been anticipated for months, came two days after Kansas legislators enacted a law rolling back past income tax cuts championed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback over Brownback's veto, a move Kobach has criticized.

Kobach made the announcement around noon at Thompson Barn in Lenexa, which was converted into an events center, in the suburbs of Johnson County. Johnson County is the state's most populous county and home to about 22 percent of all Kansas voters. It's crucial, vote-rich territory for any candidate for governor, and Kobach has a strong base there, though he now lives on a farm outside Lawrence.

He had three main talking points on the day of his announcement: his stance on illegal immigration, his fight against what he calls the "culture of corruption in Topeka," and the issues he sees with the state's tax plan. 

Echoing a line heard several times during debates this week at the statehouse, Kobach said the state has a spending problem and the more than $1.2 billion tax hike passed this week by lawmakers will only hurt the state. 

“To do this, on the back of hardworking Kansans when the legislature could have just spent less, was wrong and that is going to change," he said. "That is not leadership. When I’m governor, I will fight against every attempt to raise taxes on the people of Kansas.” 

Kobach pointed to his time as secretary of state as proof that things can be trimmed and still be functional. He said that, in 2011, he told his office to either flatline the budget, keeping it the same, or cut spending. Kobach said his office cut their budget through "natural attrition." The baby boomer generation was retiring, so his office was able to cut its budget by not filling empty slots when staff members retired. 

Kobach did not offer any details about his plan, however.

The room was full of Kobach supporters. Several people told KCTV5 News that they are ready for something different in the state. 

The website for Secretary Kobach does redirect to a website poised for a gubernatorial campaign and he changed his Twitter background. The campaign finance website for the state of Kansas also shows that Kobach has appointed a campaign treasurer with the office sought listed as governor.

The Kansas native has served as the secretary of state since his election in January of 2011. He was admitted to the Kansas Bar in 1995.

Kobach, 51, is a strong abortion opponent and gun-rights advocate, an Ivy League- and Oxford-educated former law professor, ex-U.S. Justice Department official and former Kansas Republican Party chairman. He has advised Trump for months, first on immigration, then on election fraud issues.

Before pursuing voter ID laws, Kobach was best known for helping to draft tough laws against illegal immigration, including Arizona's "show your papers" law in 2010.

Trump named Kobach vice chairman of the election fraud commission, with Vice President Mike Pence as chairman. The voter ID laws in Kansas that Kobach advocated have sparked multiple lawsuits from such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union. He has served as Kansas' elected secretary of state since 2011 and is the only chief state elections officer with the power to prosecute voter fraud — authority he sought from legislators.

"By nominating Kris Kobach for governor, the Republican Party would continue to endorse the failures of Sam Brownback," Kansas Democratic Party Chairman John Gibson said in an email statement after Kobach's announcement. "Whoever our colleagues on the other side of the aisle choose as their standard bearer, we look forward to a vigorous debate about the direction of our state."

Brownback is term-limited, and there has been speculation that he'll resign by the fall to take an ambassador's position in the Trump administration, automatically elevating Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer to governor. Colyer is considered a potential Republican candidate regardless, but Kobach brings a base of ardent conservative supporters into the race.

The contest could become crowded. A Wichita oil company owner, Wink Hartman, has been campaigning for the Republican nomination since February, and former state Rep. Ed O'Malley, CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center in Wichita, is exploring the GOP race. On the Democratic side, former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and former state Agriculture Secretary Joshua Svaty have announced they're running.

Kobach has never been shy about weighing in on issues outside the formal bounds of the secretary of state's office.

He's recently been commenting on the Legislature's debate about raising taxes to fix the state budget and provide extra money for public schools. Many voters soured last year on the tax-cutting Brownback experiment initiated in 2012 and elected more Democrats and GOP moderates to the Legislature — setting the stage for this week's rollback.

In a tweet, Kobach labeled as "obscene" the tax increase approved by lawmakers, $1.2 billion over two years.

"It is time to drain the swamp in Topeka," Kobach tweeted Wednesday morning, after Brownback's veto was overridden, adopting a Trump presidential campaign slogan.

The election is set for November 6 of next year.

Kobach will not be facing the incumbent Governer Sam Brownback. The governorship in Kansas has a limit and one cannot serve more than two terms consecutively. Kobach said he wants term limits for all state offices in Kansas. 

Copyright 2017 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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