TOPEKA, Kan. – Some would says it’s a three-way race for who becomes the next Kansas governor.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach won a hard fought and very close primary to become the Republican nominee for governor.
During our “Conversation with the Candidates” we talked to Kobach at Juli’s Coffee and Bistro in Topeka.
Below is the dialogue from the conversation between Kris Kobach and reporter Steven Dial.
Steven: Thanks for sitting at the table with us today. How have things been since the primary?
Kris Kobach: It has been fast and furious, traveling all over the state. It seems like every day we are in the car for four hours, sometimes we are using an airplane to get out west. It's a big state and we are hitting every part of it.
Steven: This conversation is to be relaxed, we will have breakfast and get to know Kris Kobach. I did some research, do you recognize this guy in the middle?
Kobach: I do, I went to Washington State and I won an Eagle Scout award. Sons of the American Revolution and I had the cool glasses, they never went all clear inside back in the early 80s. It would be safe to say I was a nerd.
Steven: Did you play sports?
Kobach: My big sport was competitive water skiing. In the summer I was on the water all the time, jumping. In high school, I was a debater. I was a debate geek during the school year. I was all-consumed with debate. Kansas has a big high school debate league. It took all my time and did competitive water skiing for years.
Steven: How does you debating, how does that translate to the Kris Kobach of today when you are in a big statewide role?
Kobach: I think that played a part in me being interested in politics while in high school. When you debate issues, you start to think about those issues, where is my point of view. In high school I thought my views were conservative, government should be small. It did affect who I am today.
Steven: We have talked about issues during the campaign. You had a tough primary going against Gov. Colyer and a crowded field. What separates Kris Kobach from Laura Kelly and Greg Orman and the other candidates?
Kobach: In this particular general election for governor of Kansas, the biggest thing are the issues. There is me and there are two liberal candidates. The official Democrat, and the defacto Democrat, Greg Orman. He ran as the essential nominee for US Senate four years ago. Their issues and positions are the same on all the big issues, gun control, life, taxes, you name it and I am on the conservative side. Neither one of them will sign the pledge not to hike taxes, I signed that pledge.
Steven: It is no secret, you are friends with the President and you don’t hide that. Do you think, your relationship with the President will hurt you?
Kobach: I don’t think so. It is what it is, I don’t try to change my spots and become someone else after the primary. I hope voters appreciate, Kris Kobach is the same person yesterday, today and tomorrow. I have been blessed to have a great relationship with the President and I think that helps. I think a person who agrees with me on two-thirds of the issues and disagrees on one-third, and the fact that I have a relationship with the President means I can pick of the phone and call him and say Kansas farmers really need this. That can help us to have a direct line to the chief executive of the country.
Steven: I will put you on the spot, tell me something that you don’t like about the president.
Kobach: The obvious answer would be I don’t like his Tweeting but I think his Tweeting is a new thing in American politics. Prior presidents, even if you are in the administration, you don’t know what the President is thinking, you go to a meeting and two weeks later you hear about the decision. With President Trump, he tweets, he tells us all. That is not what I would say. The thing that is a personal thing, when I meet with him, he is, his mind is going in multiple directions. You go there to talk about one topic and I'll be prepared and my points and he would start asking me about this topic. But that is the way his mind is, he is a businessman.
Steven: Are you concerned, you said this is a three person race. You are having to pick your poison with Kelly and Orman. Will Orman hurt moderate republicans?
Kobach: In the debates, it hurts me because it is me against two people. With the election, the effect might be different. When you have two liberal and one conservative, I think that could hurt the liberal more but that’s not to say that will happen. Orman has spent a lot of money and is a wild card. We will see what happens. I have never been in a three-way like this in a general cycle.
Steven: Back to Kobach the person, my dad is retired Rrmy. I heard you wanted to go to West Point?
Kobach: Yes, I was a Boy Scout, Eagle Scout, and I was consumed with hunting, I thought being an officer in the Army that would be awesome, then I came down with type-one diabetes and that closed the opportunity. I went to a recruiter and said there has to be something I could do and they said no, so I went to Harvard, and got into one of the top universities.
Steven: I didn’t know that you had diabetes, how did that affect your life?
Kobach: Back when I came down with it, it's genetic but I didn’t get it until I was 11 years-old, that was in the 70's when we didn’t have blood glucose testing, you had to take urine tests all day long. It was a hassle, it still is, you just build it into your life. It makes you more disciplined as a kid and carried into adult life.
Steven: How do you separate yourself from former Governor Brownback on several issues? Bringing back the Brownback taxes, you said there is a certain way he should have done it?
Kobach: He didn’t cut spending when we had the 2012 tax cuts. We had a decrease in tax cuts but they kept spending. We had an all-time high in spending and another in 2015. If you do that you will have deficits. That is why people blame the tax cut for the deficits. The failure was to cut spending.
I am going to cut spending in January. Even though the legislature has given the money, I can direct them to not spend it. That is a big difference between me and Governor Brownback. We will cut spending. I cut spending in my office from $7 million to $4 million. We have too many government employees. We can let those retire and not fill those positions. The immigration issue. It should be reduced. Another issue was on concealed carry rights, Brownback was for gun rights, but he allowed a bill to be law that restricted conceal carry. I don’t think a plastic sign will stop the bad guys. The day that bill became law an incident occurred. We disagree on a number of issues.
Steven: A lot of politicians, and we in news are sort of told, don’t read the comments. I think you know some people say Kris Kobach does not like people from a certain part of North America or when it comes to race, does it weigh on you when people say Kobach is a bad guy. I know you have seen signs on social media.
Kobach: It really bothers me. Because he wants to restrict Illegal immigration, he is against legal immigration and against people that aren’t white. That is false, that is not who I am as a Christian. When I hear that, it does hurt me. It used to hurt me early in politics when people would call me a racist. I am like what are you saying. Now people on the left say it so often, I am like really? Over time my skin has thickened.
That is the sorry state of political affairs just because we disagree. We should be able to disagree and get along. I don’t know how to solve the problem, I tell people this is who I am. But the people in the basement in their pajamas have more time.