Democrat Laura Kelley will be the next Governor of Kansas, defeating Republican Kris Kobach — the former vice-chair of Trump’s farcical election fraud commission — by a margin of 49.5 percent to 41.8 percent, according to the New York Times.
Kobach’s campaign emulated and celebrated the abrasive style of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, emphasizing illegal immigration as its chief issue. Trump won Kansas by 21 points in 2016.
“We have to be a nation of laws,” Kobach said during his campaign. “Kansas and this country have been rewarding illegal immigration for a long time. Here in this state, that’s going to stop the moment I take office.”
Kansas has approximately 2.9 million residents, about 87 percent of them non-Hispanic whites. Fewer than 1 percent of Kansans lived there illegally during the most recent poll period.
Kobach served as Kansas’ secretary of state and infamously pushed restrictive voter ID laws through state government, requiring voters to show ID and also to prove their citizenship when registering to vote. Federal judges threw the law out earlier this year, calling it a blatantly sloppy attempt at voter suppression.
Kansas hasn’t voted a Democrat into the Senate since 1932, or for president since 1964. It’s only elected four Democratic governors in the past 50 years.
Kelly’s campaign aggressively tied Kobach to his immensely unpopular employer, former Governor Sam Brownback, who resigned earlier this year to take a job in the Trump administration. Brownback’s tax cuts gutted the state’s budget so thoroughly that even state Republicans voted to repeal them. Kobach campaigned on re-implementing Brownback’s cuts.
Laura Kelly promised to spend more on infrastructure, education, and to expand Medicaid to cover an additional 150,000 adults in the state. As governor, Kelly will perhaps most notably have influence in the state’s redistricting process following the 2020 Census.
Nathan Wellman is a Grit Post contributing editor in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @LIGHTNINGWOW. You can also email him at info AT gritpost DOT com.