LENEXA, Kan. (CN) – Amid a gathering of supporters and media, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced his run for governor on Thursday in Johnson County, the wealthiest and one of the most populous counties in the state.
The Republican, best known for his controversial immigration and voting laws, said the state’s capital of Topeka has a “culture of corruption.”
“Our people deserve so much better than what’s happening in Topeka right now,” Kobach said. “We’re going in the wrong direction.”
Kobach, 51, served as an immigration and voting-rights policy adviser to President Donald Trump during the 2016 election. He will serve as vice chairman of Trump’s election-fraud commission. He made references to it during his speech and to the recent budget veto override by state legislators, who rolled back Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax policy of excluding certain businesses from paying income taxes.
“Instead of debating ways of putting Kansas on the leading edge of the economic recovery that is occurring in the United States and that President Trump is leading with new policies in Washington that are pushing and accelerating,” Kobach said. “Instead of getting ourselves on the leading edge of that wave, we have a Legislature that on Tuesday passed the largest tax increase in state history. It’s outrageous.”
A former law professor and U.S. Justice Department official, the Harvard- and Yale-educated Kobach has frequently made guest appearances on cable talk shows to promote his ideas of tougher immigration laws and ID requirements for registering voters. The American Civil Liberties Union is currently suing Kobach over Kansas’ voter ID laws, with a trial expected to begin later in June.
Kobach said he could save the state money by instituting new immigration laws, pointing to a current state law that allows undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Kansas universities if they have resided in the state for at least three years and graduated from a Kansas high school.
“I mean, think about it,” Kobach said. “The price of college is going up and up and up. The Board of Regents and the universities tell us they have to keep on increasing tuition, they have to keep on taking more from the taxpayer in legislative spending. But they give away hundreds of millions of dollars to maintain what is a subsidy to illegal aliens.”
The announcement was condemned by immigration rights groups. Fair Immigration Reform Movement said Kobach uses fear to push his agenda.
“Kobach is an architect of hate and he’s relied on hate and fear to financially profit as he advanced and defended policies aimed at severely restricting immigration in the United States,” the group wrote in a statement.
Kobach is also a staunch anti-abortion advocate, which could play well in the mostly conservative state.
With Brownback facing term limits and a possible position within the Trump administration, Kobach becomes the fifth person in the state to announce his gubernatorial candidacy, and the third Republican to do so.