Kris Kobach sucked the sizzle out of the 2014 Kansas political season this week with a simple statement:
“I’m running for re-election.”
Perhaps the most controversial secretary of state in Kansas history made no grand announcement. He didn’t hold a news conference. He just offered a casual response to a question.
With that, two of this state’s most prominent Republicans who figure to be on the ballot next year are seeing their blood pressures return to normal.
For months in Topeka, the speculation has been rampant that Kobach, who’s made his name on the wings of his tough immigration stance, might challenge Sen. Pat Roberts or even Gov. Sam Brownback in a primary.
Kobach, 46, has developed something of a national following that might have given an insurgent bid some significant juice, even though the immigration issue now appears to be moving away from him.
But Kobach has quashed all the overheated talk.
The question is: Did he make the right choice?
A Kobach run against Roberts would have had some — but not all — of the trappings of last year’s Indiana GOP Senate primary. In that contest, the Tea Party-backed Richard Mourdock defeated Richard Lugar, the Senate’s third longest-serving member.
Roberts will be 78 on Election Day 2014. Lugar, more moderate than Roberts, to be sure, was 80 when he lost.
Some insiders were saying prior to this week that Kobach would have had a shot.
Now Kobach faces a tussle just to win re-election.
Last week came word that Democrat Randy Rolston of Mission Hills is gearing up for a run against Kobach. Now, you might just yawn and think, “So what?” What kind of fear can a Kansas Democrat throw into someone like Kobach, who beat his 2010 opponent by 59-37 percent?
Well, Rolston can throw $200,000 worth of fear at Kobach. That’s how much Rolston has already loaned his campaign. He’s pledging even more and aims to raise $1 million with help from donors.
“I’ll put in as much as what’s needed,” Rolston told me.
He’s the 56-year-old owner of the Lenexa-based online retailerVictorian Trading Co. He said he tenses up every time he sees Kobach on TV talking about voter fraud (which Rolston says is hardly a problem) or the need for more voter identification at the polls (again, an overblown concern, he says).
“He is,” Rolston said of Kobach, “out of control.”
Rolston says he has time, a western Kansas pedigree that will help him connect to all those Republican voters out there, and the laser-like focus he’ll need to knock off a well-known incumbent.
“I’m going to be aggressive.”
I couldn’t reach Kobach on Friday. Maybe he had a headache.
To reach Steve Kraske, call 816-234-4312 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @stevekraske.