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Conservative Firebrand Kris Kobach Loses Kansas GOP Primary

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law in Topeka, Kansas, May 12, 2016. (Dave Kaup/Reuters)

Representative Roger Marshall (R., Kansas) claimed victory over the controversial former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the Republican Senate primary Tuesday night.

Though Kansas has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932, some strategists believe November’s general election to replace GOP Senator Pat Roberts, who is retiring, may be a competitive one. The party threw its support behind the more moderate Marshall after determining that Kobach’s candidacy would put a seat in a deep red state in play this fall, with Republicans already fighting to keep their majority in the Senate.

“Kansas Republicans knew what was at stake in this primary, and tonight’s results prove voters will reject any Democrat efforts to buy this seat,” National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.), said in a statement. “I’m more confident than ever Kansas will remain part of the Republican Senate Majority.”

Marshall will take on Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier, a former Republican and retired anesthesiologist who currently leads the fundraising pool with nearly $7.8 million raised

Republican concerns about Kobach, who lost the Kansas governor’s race in 2018, led to at least $15 million in ad spending, most of which was funded by political action committees. A newly formed Democrat-leaning PAC launched an attack ad against Marshall to indirectly help Bollier by giving off the impression of support for Kobach.

Many independent and moderate GOP voters turned away from Kobach, who is nationally known for advocating restrictive immigration policies, following his loss in the 2018 election.

“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.

While Kobach received an endorsement from President Trump in 2018, the president refrained from supporting a candidate in this race. Marshall received endorsements from Roberts, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Farm Bureau, the National Right to Life Committee and the pro-life group Kansans for Life. 

Marshall, who has served in the House of Representatives since 2017, also had endorsements from Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and former Senate majority leader and 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole. Marshall also out-fundraised Kobach, bringing in $2.7 million compared to Kobach’s $934,000.

“Roger Marshall is a principled conservative who has, and will, deliver for Kansas families, and I look forward to him defeating Chuck Schumer’s hand-picked candidate, Barbara Bollier, this November,” Young said.

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