Whether Kris Kobach is elected governor of Kansas this fall or not, the outspoken foe of illegal immigration has already made history Tuesday by becoming only the third Republican in Sunflower State history to defeat a sitting governor for nomination.
But that history is an intimidating one. After defeating incumbent governors in primaries in 1930 and 1956, Republican nominees considered more conservative than the incumbents they defeated went on to lose to Democrats in the fall.
With Kobach’s initial lead in the Aug. 8 primary mushrooming from 91 votes to 300 out of more than 310,000 cast, an emotional Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded Tuesday night “the votes just aren’t there.”
Colyer moved from lieutenant governor to the top job in January after then-Gov. Sam Brownback resigned to become U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Religious Freedom.
Having defeated Colyer, Secretary of State Kobach now faces a fall contest against liberal Democrat and State Sen. Laura Kelly. Complicating the race is the Independent candidacy of multi-millionaire entrepreneur Greg Orman, who has supported candidates of both major parties over the years.
The three-candidate race for governor almost hauntingly resembles that of 1930. Moderate GOP Gov. Clyde Reed had lost the primary to conservative Frank Haucke, who then squared off against Democrat Harry Woodring and the Independent candidacy of Dr. John R. Brinkley (famed as the “goat gland doctor” for his dubious practice of transplanting goat glands into human patients).
Woodring won by 200 votes. (Defeated for re-election in 1932, Woodring went on to be former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary of war).
After right-to-work legislation passed the Kansas state legislature in 1955, Gov. Fred Hall stunned fellow Republicans by breaking his campaign promise and vetoing the measure.
A year later, with angry right-to-workers fueling the challenge, State Rep. Warren Shaw defeated Hall in the GOP primary. In November, however, the governorship was captured by Democrat George Docking.
Whether Kobach is beaten under similar circumstances as the past two conservative Republican nominees, or wins and becomes an overnight national conservative sensation, will surely be one of the major political stories in 2018.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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