Kansas Republicans Reject Kobach

An open Senate race is now much more likely to stay Republican.

POLITICO (“Republicans dodge Kansas nightmare as Marshall defeats Kobach“):

Rep. Roger Marshall won the GOP primary for an open Senate seat in Kansas on Tuesday, turning aside the controversial Kris Kobach — to the relief of Republicans concerned that Kobach could put not just the state but the party’s Senate majority at risk this fall.

With nearly all the votes tallied, Marshall had 40 percent of the vote, to only 26 percent for Kobach. The result was a more decisive victory for Marshall than expected by many Republicans, who had predicted with deep concern that the race was a tossup going into Tuesday.

GOP leaders had been outspoken in their opposition to Kobach since he entered the race last summer, but failed in their efforts to steer the race away from him, leaving it up in the air on primary night. Party officials couldn’t convince Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to run, and some eventually consolidated behind Rep. Roger Marshall in the closing weeks of the race.

But President Donald Trump did not endorse or oppose anyone, frustrating some Republicans who thought he could have ended the concern by weighing in.

Republicans got another piece of good news in Kansas on Tuesday, when Rep. Steve Watkins was ousted in his primary by state Treasurer Jake LaTurner, who has seized on Watkins’ litany of ethical and legal transgressions, including felony charges of voter fraud in the closing weeks of the primary. Some Republicans feared Watkins’ renomination could have jeopardized the party’s hold on an otherwise GOP-leaning House seat.

NPR (“Conservative Kris Kobach Loses Kansas GOP Senate Primary“) adds:

Kobach has a controversial political tenure focused on curbing illegal immigration and championing unproven theories about voter fraud. He worked directly with the Trump administration on a 2018 investigation into possible voter fraud in the 2016 election, but it found no evidence.

“You have sustained real-world trials and evidence and data that say that Kris Kobach is an extremely poor general election candidate who absolutely could be the first Republican to lose a Senate race in Kansas in over 80 years,” Republican political operative David Kensinger told KPR’s Jim McLean.


Marshall — who has served in the House of Representatives since 2017 — had endorsements from prominent Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Marshall also out-fundraised Kobach, bringing in $2.7 million compared to Kobach’s $934,000.

The Democratic nominee, Barbara Bollier, is a former Republican with a huge fundraising edge. Still, I’d be surprised if the GOP didn’t retain the seat held by the retiring Pat Roberts.

This is bad news for those hoping for a blue wave three months from now but at least a glimmer of hope for the reemergence of a sane conservative party on the other side.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Gustopher says:

    This is bad news for those hoping for a blue wave three months from now but at least a glimmer of hope for the reemergence of a sane conservative party on the other side.

    Is there any evidence of this? Or is Marshall just a quieter lunatic who is all in on Trump and Trumpism, but hasn’t run a states economy into the ground?

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Gustopher: He’s a fairly garden-variety Kansas Republican, as best I can tell. He’s an obstetrician by profession.

  3. Roger says:

    This is bad news for those hoping for a blue wave three months from now but at least a glimmer of hope for the reemergence of a sane conservative party on the other side.

    This strikes me as another triumph of hope over experience. Marshall’s voting record shows him to be one of the most far-right Republicans currently serving in Congress, and that’s saying something. To the extent he expressed policy differences with Kobach over immigration, there was very little in those differences that wasn’t explained by the fact that he represented an agricultural district where the economy relied on access to cheap foreign labor.

    Living in KC, I got to see plenty of ads in this campaign. Marshall’s campaign hammered away on three points: (1) I am the Trumpiest Trumper you’ve ever seen; (2) I’m the most anti-abortion obstetrician you’ve ever seen; and (3) Kobach is a laughingstock, and giving him the nomination will make Kansas a laughingstock and lead to the godless Democrats taking over the Senate. I’m not sure that’s the recipe for a return to a sane conservative party.

    Marshall is not, as you called him “relatively moderate,” under any meaningful definition of the term moderate, but he will be running against a genuine moderate in November–Barbara Bollier, a former Republican who left the party in 2018 because “morally, the party is not going where my compass resides.” How the campaign unfolds might say something about whether there is movement toward a sane conservative party.

  4. wr says:

    Many years ago I developed a show for an actor who was well known as one of Hollywood’s most toxic assholes*, as well as the start of a show that ran for nearly ten years. We got in to see the presidents of all five broadcast networks — but, as it turned out, only because each one of them had a reason they wanted to say no to this guy’s face.

    I had mixed feelings at the outcome — it had the potential to be worth a lot of money to me, but also endless misery, so failing to sell was a mixed bag. But I distinctly remember being to be pleased to discover that it’s possible to be such an asshole that even Hollywood won’t hire you.

    Now we know the same about Republican politics.

    *No, not Don Johnson, who manages to be compelling enough on the screen that people astonishingly still hire him…

  5. CSK says:

    It fascinates me that no matter how big an asshole you are, you can get away with it if you have something people want. There’s a legendarily famous author–everyone’s heard of her; even people who don’t read–who’s threatened to kill at least one of her editors in such a way that it won’t appear to be a homicide. Her reward? Thirty million dollar contracts.

  6. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Roger: Considering that the only qualification to become a “moderate” Republican/conservative is to go back to dog whistling instead of whistle whistling… Just about anybody who isn’t Trump himself will be welcomed as a moderate, no matter what they say or do as long as they don’t tweet or use coarse language.

    But the tell is in the first adjective in the phrase “sane conservative party.”


    He’s a fairly garden-variety Kansas Republican, as best I can tell.

    So the answer is “no” on the sane conservative party thing then, eh?

  7. Neil Hudelson says:


    Don Johnson’s reputation is really quite amazing. By the time I was born, Miami Vice had been off the air for a few years, and his career was already dead, and yet I’m pretty sure I was born knowing he was a huge assh*le.

    How much of a jerk do you have to be for someone to have heard about it in utero?

  8. MarkedMan says:

    I hope this rejection was at least in part due to Kobach’s role in the Libertarian fiasco that was the Kansas experiment. How much of a fiasco was it? Well, despite the fact that the Kansas experiment was the most explicitly Libertarian effort at governance in the history of the United States today, just years after it’s total failure, you cannot find a single Libertarian that even acknowledges it or even admits they have ever heard of it.

    Well, not quite true. 6 months or so ago there was some Old Time-y Libertarian that showed up here and trotted out the “No True Scottsman” defense. But I’m afraid that just as there are true believers in the Laffer Curve or the Gold Standard, there will always be a market for Libertarian nonsense.

  9. Given that Kobach is quite clearly awful, I am pleased there is no chance he will have a shot at the Senate.

  10. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I thought there would be more gnashing of teeth and rending of garments about this at the pro-Trump websites, but so far I’m only seeing a rather dispirited token objection to Marshall as being a RINO.

  11. de stijl says:

    Kobach will soon be spouting his voter fraud lies at some think tank.

    Undoing the VRA is s generation long project. Generations if necessary.