Kobach to run for Senate in Kansas

Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) said Monday he will run for an open U.S. Senate seat, pledging to serve as President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE’s champion in Washington — even as national Republicans prepare to mobilize against him.

Kobach, 53, announced his intentions to run for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Pompeo on Senate run: 'I always leave open the possibility that something will change' CNN's Cuomo spars with Kris Kobach over whether Trump's tweet was racist MORE (R) at an event with supporters in Leavenworth, Kan.

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“There really hasn’t been anyone in the Senate pushing [Trump’s] agenda,” Kobach told his supporters. “If I am elected, God willing, to the United States Senate, I will be leading the charge for President Trump.”

Kobach, who was considered for several prominent positions in Trump’s administration, spent the majority of his campaign announcement pledging to crack down on illegal immigration and to build a wall along the Southern border with Mexico. He said he had recently spoken to Trump about immigration.

“We will build the wall faster and better if I’m elected,” Kobach said.

Kobach will begin the race as a front-runner among Republicans in a deeply conservative state. Treasurer Jake LaTurner (R) and Dave Lindstrom, a former Kansas City Chiefs defensive end, have already announced he will run, and Rep. Roger Marshall (R) is also contemplating a bid.

The state has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1930.

But Kobach’s entry into the race has national Republicans nervous. Kobach, an arch conservative ally of Trump's, lost a race for governor in 2018 by 5 percentage points, despite Trump carrying the state by 21-points in 2016.

“You can see a real scenario where President Trump is reelected and the U.S. Senate falls to the Democrats if [Kris] Kobach puts Kansas in play,” said one top Republican operative working to preserve the GOP’s Senate majority, who asked not to be named.

“Just last year Kris Kobach ran and lost to a Democrat. Now, he wants to do the same and simultaneously put President Trump’s presidency and Senate Majority at risk. We know Kansans won’t let that happen and we look forward to watching the Republican candidate they do choose win next fall," said Joanna Rodriquez, the press secretary for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican-aligned group closely tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that has spent money on GOP primaries in the past, has not ruled out getting involved in Kansas.

“Given the result in last year’s gubernatorial [race], it’s clear we need to put our best foot forward in the race. We believe Kansas Republicans deserve a nominee who can win the seat,” said Jack Pandol, an SLF spokesman. “The field is still so unsettled it’s just way too early to pick favorites, per se. We’re monitoring — there are many that look credible — and will make decisions about our engagement as the primary develops.”

Two Democrats — former Rep. Nancy Boyda and former U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom — have entered the race for the Senate.

“Whether you’re a Kansas Democrat, Republican or independent, we all want to get things done, and none of us want to send Kris Kobach’s extremist agenda to Washington,” Grissom said in a statement.

Several Republicans said they continue holding out hope that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will leave Foggy Bottom to return home to run for Roberts’s seat. Pompeo has become an increasingly important ally and adviser to Trump.

A State Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about Pompeo’s potential interest in the seat. Pompeo stoked speculation on his own when he returned to Kansas in March for an entrepreneurship event sponsored by the State Department.

“I try to just avoid ruling things out when there’s others who are in control,” Pompeo told McClatchy at the time. “The Lord will get me to the right place.”

Kobach was previously considered for a Trump Cabinet position, then headed a panel investigating voter fraud in the 2016 election, which collapsed due to a lack of evidence. He was a finalist for an administration job overseeing immigration policy, a post that ultimately went to another close Trump ally, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Kobach addressed party activists at the Leavenworth County Republican Party’s Fourth of July picnic over the weekend, his first major political outing after losing the race for governor in 2018.

An initial statement of candidacy filed with the Federal Election Commission early Monday misspelled Kobach’s first name as Chris.

A revised statement of organization lists Republican strategist Elizabeth Curtis as Kobach’s campaign treasurer. Curtis has worked for several conservative candidates in recent years, including 2018 Senate candidates Corey Stewart in Virginia and Kelli Ward in Arizona.

Updated at 2:35 p.m.