Kansas Democrats keeping close eye on close race between Kobach, - KCTV5 News

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Kansas Democrats keeping close eye on close race between Kobach, Colyer

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Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer (right) and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (left) exchanged the lead several times throughout the night. (KCTV5 File Photo) Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer (right) and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (left) exchanged the lead several times throughout the night. (KCTV5 File Photo)
OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV/AP) -

UPDATE: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's lead over Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary has been cut by more than half after election officials discovered a mistake in the listing for one county's results in the state's tally.

The mistake means Kobach's lead has fallen to only 91 votes from 191 when final results were reported after Tuesday's primary.

Final, unofficial results on the secretary of state's website show Kobach winning Thomas County in northwest Kansas with 466 votes to Colyer's 422.

But the tally posted by the Thomas County clerk shows Colyer with 522 votes. Clerk Shelly Harms confirmed the figure Thursday to The Associated Press.

State elections director Bryan Caskey said the county pointed out the discrepancy Thursday following a routine post-election check of numbers.


The Kansas Secretary of State's Office has announced that Kris Kobach is leading Jeff Colyer by 191 votes with all precincts reporting in the Republican primary for governor.

Kobach and current Governor Jeff Colyer were neck and neck through the night Tuesday and into Wednesday morning.

When the unofficial final votes were released, Kobach held a 191 vote advantage over Colyer.

It could be a few days before all absentee votes are counted. A new state law allows ballots postmarked as of Tuesday to be counted, so long as they arrive three days after Election Day.

Colyer issued the following statement after the unofficial results were posted.

The biggest reason the race stretched into Wednesday was the lack of results from Johnson County, KS. 

State elections director Bryan Caskey said Tuesday night that some polling places in Johnson County remained open until about 8 p.m. to accommodate people who were in line to vote when polls officially closed at 7 p.m. He said that led local officials to delay reporting their first results, from votes cast in advance.

Johnson County has nearly 408,000 registered voters, or almost 23 percent of the state's total of 1.8 million.

Kansas has no automatic recount procedure and if a recount is requested it must be paid for by the candidate requesting it.

Addressing supporters shortly before 1 a.m. on Wednesday, Kobach offered an olive branch to supporters of Colyer. 

"No matter what happens, we're reaching out to the Colyer campaign," Kobach said. "Let's work together to beat the Democrat and Independent."

He called the race a "tough scrimmage."

Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, built a national reputation as a conservative agitator for both tough immigration policies and strict voter identification laws. He was an early supporter of Trump in the presidential race, advised him during the campaign and in the White House, and served as vice chairman of a now-disbanded presidential commission on election fraud.

But Colyer - who only became governor in January, succeeding Sam Brownback - raised more in campaign contributions than Kobach, received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, and had the backing of Kansas political legend, former U.S. Senator Bob Dole.

Some Republicans worried that if Kobach won, his aggressive personality would make it harder to appeal to a broader electorate and give Democrats an opening in a red state that has been willing to elect Democrats as governor in the past. Democrats nominated veteran state Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, to settle their first contested primary for governor since 1998.

Trump intervened in the race less than 24 hours before polls opened, endorsing Kobach in a tweet. Kobach told reporters that the endorsement "came just in time" and that he expected it to help him, as it has helped other candidates in other races. Trump's tweet backing Georgia Republican governor hopeful Brian Kemp vaulted him to an easy primary runoff win two weeks ago. Trump also on Tuesday boasted that his rally over the weekend for the Republican in an Ohio House district had helped, even though that race was too-close-to-call.

Richard Cronister, a 73-year-old retired construction company owner from Topeka, said that Trump's endorsement was important to him as he voted for Kobach. He said he thinks Trump's tax cuts have helped the economy and likes Trump's stance against illegal immigration. As for Kobach, Cronister said, "He is doing his best to stop immigration and the illegal voting. The ACLU and all those organizations are against him."

But Bruce Underwood, a 59-year-old engineer, said he voted for Colyer because he believes Kobach is "detrimental" to Kansas. He said he would likely vote for a Democrat in the general election because Republicans aren't standing up to Trump.

"Trump is supporting Kobach and I just can't stand Trump, he is not good for our country," Underwood said.

Like the president, Kobach promises a no-apologies style, telling voters repeatedly: "I don't back down. I double down." His use of a Jeep with a replica gun mounted on top during campaign stops at local parades this summer prompted backlash. Kobach called his critics "snowflakes" and continued to use the Jeep.

Kobach's penchant for provoking outrage could serve him well in a crowded seven-candidate Republican primary Tuesday. Kansas does not hold runoff elections so the winner in the primary will move on to November.

Kelly, a 14-year veteran of the Legislature, defeated former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, who had sought to be the first-ever black nominee, and ex-Kansas Agriculture Secretary Joshua Svaty, who had stressed his youth and potential rural appeal.

The mild-mannered Colyer is seeking a full four-year term after moving up from lieutenant governor in January when the unpopular Brownback took an ambassador position in Trump's administration. Colyer's defeat would mark the first primary loss by a sitting Kansas governor since 1956 and the first nationally since Hawaii's Neil Abercrombie lost a primary in 2014.

Besides Colyer and Kobach, the other major GOP candidates, Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer and former state Sen. Jim Barnett, were far behind.

While the marquee race in Kansas this year is for governor, voters also were picking candidates to contest two House seats that Democrats are hoping to flip in November.

Race puts Kansas Democrats in interesting position 

It’s no secret many Democrats want to see Kobach as their Republican opponent in the general because they think he’ll be easier for their candidate, Laura Kelly, to beat in November.

“Democrats want Kris Kobach in the general election because they think that he’s a lunatic," said Matt Harris, a University Assistant Professor of Political Science at Park University. "But if he wins, then they will be left with a governor who they think is a lunatic.”

While some have made the race out to be a moderate versus a conservative, Harris disagrees with that label. He said both candidates are strong conservatives. 

“I think Democrats are more concerned about Kobach because of his views on immigration, because of his views on voter ID, and because of his ties to Donald Trump," he said. "But both of the candidates are strong conservatives.”

He says Independent Greg Orman could have an impact on the Dems’ chances as well, but a much bigger factor will be the Kobach/Colyer outcome.

Copyright 2018 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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