Kansas GOP Gubernatorial Primary Too Close to Call

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) – Kansas Secretary of State and anti-illegal immigration firebrand Kris Kobach was locked in a dead heat with incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer late Tuesday night, as election officials were still tallying votes for the GOP gubernatorial primary.

In Johnson County, the state’s wealthiest and most educated county, the vote count was delayed as officials said they ran across a glitch in new computer software. The software issues led to a two-hour delay in reporting. As of 1:25 a.m. CST, Kobach slightly led Colyer 40.8 percent to 40.5 percent with 88 percent of precincts reporting, a difference of less than a thousand votes that could possibly trigger a recount.

Johnson County Election Office officials said a computer glitch delayed the vote count, leading to a several-hour delay in discovering the winner of the GOP gubernatorial primary. (Jon Parton/CNS)

Kobach, a longtime Trump ally and proponent of voter ID laws, hopes to unseat Colyer, a plastic surgeon who took over the office after former Gov. Sam Brownback accepted a diplomatic position from the Trump administration.

Colyer has attempted to distinguish himself as the more traditional conservative while trying to untether himself from Brownback, a figure who was unpopular with most Kansas voters after the failure of his economic policy that gave tax breaks to the wealthy and limited liability companies. Kobach has repeatedly said that lawmakers’ repeal of Brownback’s tax policy was a mistake.

Voters braved the rain and gloomy skies to cast their votes in the primary on Tuesday. In a contentious race between the GOP candidates, Johnson County resident Adam Nelson, 43, said he voted for Colyer simply because he didn’t like Kobach.

“I don’t want someone who wants to be on TV all the time,” Nelson said. “He should be in his office getting stuff done.”

On the Democratic side, state Sen. Laura Kelly won her party’s nod for the gubernatorial race. Kelly ran on her support for more education funding, expanding Medicaid and abortion rights. She was endorsed by pro-abortion rights organization EMILY’s List, as well as former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Democrats are hoping to take control of the governor’s office after suffering two defeats from former Gov. Sam Brownback who left the job in early 2018 to take up a diplomatic job for the federal government.

Democrats are also looking to flip two U.S. House seats in November. Alan LaPolice ran unopposed in the 1st District primary. He’ll face off against incumbent Republican Roger Marshall in November.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks with a reporter in his office in Topeka, Kansas. (Orlin Wagner / Associated Press)

In the 2nd District, seven GOP candidates ran to replace Lynn Jenkins who announced last year that she wouldn’t seek reelection. As of 11:45 p.m. CST, Steve Watkins led the pack with 26 percent of the vote.

The winner will face off against Paul Davis, a popular Democrat who nearly won the 2014 gubernatorial race. Davis has already raised more than $1 million dollars and is considered a strong contender to help the Democrats flip the House.

In the 3rd  District, one of the more wealthier areas of the state, Democrat Sharice Davids beat out five others for her party’s nod. Davids will go on to face Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder who easily won his party’s primary Tuesday night. If elected, she will be the first Native American woman to serve in Congress and the first lesbian U.S. Representative from the state.

Republican incumbent Ron Estes also found an easy victory in the 4th  District, winning over his same-named opponent 81.4 to 18.6 percent. He will try to keep his seat in a rematch against Democrat James Thompson, who nearly defeated Estes in a special election in 2017. The seat, formerly held by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has traditionally been won by Republicans.

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