TOPEKA — Wichita businessman Wink Hartman withdrew from the Republican campaign for governor Wednesday to endorse former rival Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Hartman, who positioned himself as a social conservative capable of bringing a business sensibility to state government, gave no indication during the Saturday debate among GOP gubernatorial candidates in Wichita he would suspend his candidacy within a matter of days. The debate featured Kobach, Hartman, Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer and former Rep. Mark Hutton.
“I heard a candidate speaking for me and for the conservative movement. That is why today I am endorsing Kris Kobach for Kansas governor,” Hartman said. “I’ve always said this race isn’t about me or my resume. It’s about taking our conservative platform and making it into policy to improve the lives of all Kansans.”
Kobach said the endorsement by Hartman “comes at an incredibly important time in my race for governor.”
“This is good news for conservatives,” said Kobach, who indicated Gov. Jeff Colyer was failing to provide conservative leadership on tax policy and other issues. “He’s not governing as one.”
Kobach said he wasn’t prepared to disclose his choice of a lieutenant governor running mate, but thought Hartman’s availability “changed the landscape a little bit.” Governor candidates are required to name a running mate by June.
Prominent candidates remaining in the GOP field include Colyer, Kobach, Selzer, Hutton and former state Sen. Jim Barnett. Colyer was too ill to participate in last weekend’s Republican candidate debate. Barnett was excluded from the debate because he wouldn’t sign a Kansas Republican Party pledge.
Hartman said he concluded his affinity for the type of conservatism espoused by Kobach might cloud the 2018 campaign and benefit other Republican candidates.
“I listened to the other candidates, and I quickly came to the conclusion that I could be the spoiler in this race for the conservative values we hold so dear,” Hartman said.
Hartman, who is involved in the oil and banking industries, said Kobach had been maligned by liberals, but the secretary of state would not compromise principled positions. In the endorsement of Kobach, which first was reported by the Kansas City Star, Hartman criticized Colyer, who became governor upon resignation of Gov. Sam Brownback.
“We can’t keep going along the path we are on,” Hartman said. “Higher taxes, bloated government, poor service and an out-of-touch governor who won’t take a stand on the issues most important to Republicans.”