WICHITA, Kan. — The fight to become the next face of the Republican Party in Kansas is heating up following the departure of Gov. Sam Brownback.
The Kansas City Star reports that Secretary of State Kris Kobach has long been seen as the GOP front-runner. But the man he wants to replace, Gov. Jeff Colyer, is trying to change that and is making strides on the fundraising front.
Campaign finance reports from 2017 showed that Colyer had far outraised Kobach, even after Donald Trump Jr. held an event for Kobach’s campaign. Others seeking to become the party’s torch-bearer include previous nominee Jim Barnett, former state lawmaker Mark Hutton and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer.
Bob Beatty, a political scientist at Washburn University, citing a recent poll, said there is no face of the party at the moment.
“Those two are battling it out,” he said of Kobach and Colyer.
The battle is being waged at venues such as the Kansas GOP convention in Wichita, where Kobach and Colyer mingled last weekend with the party faithful in separate reception rooms. Colyer’s room was full and stayed the busiest on the floor for most of the night. Kobach was next door, with fewer people, less fanfare.
“We’ve got one candidate out there that’s number one because of his positions, his stance, and I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying that it’s so hard line that it has taken that edge, that softness away from him,” says Chiquita Coggs, a Republican who works as the executive director for the Kansas Board of Cosmetology and was embraced warmly by Colyer during the convention.
“But Gov. Colyer now is different,” she says. “And it does show. That humility. That willingness to listen. That willingness to find out what it is that will actually make something work.”
But to Chuck Brodie, a 70-year-old Republican from Wichita, Kobach’s a leader. If there’s a fire, Brodie says, Kobach will charge to put it out. But Brodie sees Colyer as the kind of guy who’d form a committee to figure out a way to silence the flames.
“I’m a lot less worried about Kobach, whether he needs big crowds or more money,” Brodie says. “Because the others don’t have name recognition. And it doesn’t matter how big their crowds are. And it doesn’t matter how much money they raise. When you go into the voting booth, you’re going to know who Kobach is and what he represents. You already do.”