TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach criticized his Republican primary opponent Tuesday for holding views on social issues that are out of sync with the state GOP's conservative platform, but the challenger said the criticism shows Kobach doesn't care about his official duties.
Kobach said GOP challenger Scott Morgan, a Lawrence attorney and businessman, should tell voters in the Aug. 5 primary that he disagrees with the party's platform on a wide range of social and fiscal issues. Kobach's re-election campaign issued a tongue-in-cheek statement Monday, the deadline for voters to switch parties, suggesting Morgan had "mistakenly" registered as a Republican.
Kobach's campaign cited answers Morgan gave on a questionnaire during an unsuccessful run for the state Senate in 2008. Morgan supported abortion rights and civil unions for gay couples, while opposing a law granting permits to gun owners to carry their weapons concealed. The state GOP's 2014 platform opposes abortion, supports gun rights and calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning gay marriage.
"It is somewhat deceptive to run as a Republican with those views unless he makes an effort to inform voters that his views are not the views of the Republican Party," Kobach, a former state GOP chairman, said during an interview. "It's about truth in advertising."
The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat and former state Sen. Jean Schodorf, of Wichita.
Morgan said Kobach is raising issues that are irrelevant to the secretary of state's race, showing he "doesn't give two dimes" about his duties as the state's top elections official.
Kobach said social issues are relevant in the race. For example, he noted that the secretary of state is chairman of a board that reviews administrative regulations, and in 2011, it signed off on state health department rules specifically for abortion providers. Also, Kobach said, voters are interested in a candidate's general "governing philosophy."
Morgan already has argued that Kobach does not focus enough on his official duties. Kobach, a former law professor, is nationally known as an advocate of state and local policies for cracking down on illegal immigration, helping to write tough laws in Arizona and Alabama. In Kansas, he's also jumped into debates on gun rights and other issues.
Kobach has said such activities in his spare time don't distract from his official duties. But Morgan said Kobach uses the office as a political platform when the secretary of state should avoid "the partisan side of things."
Morgan also noted that when Kobach was state GOP chairman, the party formed a "loyalty committee" that can sanction party leaders for supporting non-Republicans in races with GOP candidates. In 2008, the committee barred 17 Johnson County precinct leaders from having their votes counted in party leadership contests, but the panel hasn't taken any similar actions since, according to the state GOP.
"Everything is ideological with him," Morgan said of Kobach. "We have a very basic difference about how we view this office."
Kris Kobach's re-election campaign: http://www.kansansforkobach.com/
Scott Morgan's campaign: http://www.scottmorganforsos.org/
Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .