One big loser from Tuesday’s primary


August 9, 2018 - 10:31 AM

There is a small bit of deliciousness in the process by which Kansas chose its Republican gubernatorial nominee on Tuesday night. And Wednesday morning. (Are the results final yet? Are we sure?)
The state’s governor and secretary of state, roundly criticized in areas of their job performances, were made to wait overnight for final results because of voting tabulation problems in the state’s most affluent county — one where both men thought they had solid pockets of support.
We will forever remember Tuesday and Wednesday as “The Johnson County Primary,” the time when Republicans tentatively picked Secretary of State Kris Kobach over Gov. Jeff Colyer — a 191-vote margin with thousands of provisional ballots to be counted.
The final, excruciatingly slow tallies came from a county with new voting machines and a new county commissioner — hired by Kobach. That’s all the more embarrassing for Kobach and his office, though we’re not sure he cares at this point.
Provisional ballots will make the margin different, with maybe a new leader. Then there’s a recount when it’s this close. (No telling how long it will take Johnson County to count its votes next time.)
We assumed the primary was always going to be about Kobach. Sure, the Ron Estes vs. Ron Estes story was cute and brought Kansas some attention in a quirky, end-of-a-TV-newscast way.
But the top storyline was first and foremost a referendum on Kobach, his failure to find large numbers of non-citizens voting, his multiple court stumbles while unsuccessfully defending his proof-of-citizenship law, and his association with President Trump and whether it would lead to victory.
These returns say he has passed one referendum. Unless provisional ballots or a recount say differently, the second referendum comes in 91 days.
The primary came two days after Trump tweeted unequivocal support for Kobach, who was vice chair of Trump’s election integrity commission and, Kobach said, offered multiple jobs in the president’s administration.
Trump’s Tweet of Everlasting Faith may tip the scale for Kobach like it did for Georgia GOP nominee Brian Kemp two weeks ago. We may forget that Trump got less than 1 in 4 votes in the 2016 Kansas GOP Caucus, but he received 56 percent of the general election vote and still has pull here, even with farmers and ranchers feeling the effects of a trade war on products such as soybeans, wheat and beef.
Kobach said Wednesday he and Colyer should begin to run a general-election race now and wait for final GOP results later. The winner takes on Democratic nominee Laura Kelly and, presumably once the signatures are verified, independent Greg Orman.
Kelly has as much at stake as either of her GOP opponents. She dominated the Democratic race with more than half the votes but figures to have unique challenges with either Republican.
Polling by Rasmussen Research shows Kelly, a 14-year state senator from Topeka, in a near dead heat with Kobach in the general election, with Orman a distant third. The same polling shows Colyer with a 10-point lead over Kelly.
With confirmation from provisional ballots and a recount, the next three months should be fascinating for Kansas political junkies. The brash, confident Kobach would offer a contrasting style from Kelly’s calm but insistent tone. Colyer offers a more traditional conservative candidate. Each Republican will hold onto a conservative base and try to attract moderates who have three ways to go in November.
The road to the governor’s office began with overnight frustration in Johnson County. Kansas’ GOP primary got a good amount of national notice on Tuesday, and viewers around the country now may think JoCo submits its results by stagecoach.
— Wichita Eagle



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