A new statewide poll of the Republican primary for governor revealed Friday the contest could be a photo finish between Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
The snapshot of opinion among likely GOP voters disclosed Kobach and Colyer were tied at 32 percent. Former Sen. Jim Barnett snagged 13 percent and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer followed at 9 percent. A trio of candidates — Patrick Kucera, Tyler Ruzich and Joseph Tutera — were at 1 percent.
The survey, conducted Thursday, showed 11 percent remained undecided. When the uncommitted were asked where they were leaning, Colyer’s take was 18 percent to Kobach’s 13 percent, Barnett’s 7 percent and Selzer’s 6 percent. The other candidates scored 1 percent each. Half of the undecided, or 53 percent, didn’t offer a clue where they would land Tuesday.
“This poll demonstrates Governor Colyer is in pole position to win this campaign with undecideds breaking his way,” said Kendall Marr, spokesman for Colyer. “The poll also confirms this is a two-man race. Votes for Jim Barnett and Ken Selzer have the same effect as a vote for Kris Kobach.”
Kobach’s campaign released a poll July 30 placing Kobach in the lead at 34 percent and Colyer trailing at 25 percent, a more narrow margin than a Kobach poll 10 days earlier. It was conducted by Louisiana-based JMC Analytics and Polling, looked at 500 likely GOP primary voters and had a 4.4 percent error margin.
Barnett, a Topeka physician viewed as a political moderate, said recent polling overstated support for Kobach and Colyer and understated strength of his own campaign.
“A poll reflects who still has a landline and who will answer an unidentified call,” said Barnett, who was the GOP’s nominee for governor in 2006. “It reflects a more conservative voting block.”
The latest survey involved 859 likely Republican voters and had a margin of error of 3.3 percent. It was produced by Remington Research Group, a Kansas City, Mo., firm operated by Republican-affiliated Axiom Strategies.
“This has been a tight race all along,” said Travis Smith, senior vice president at Axiom Strategies who has consulted for Colyer. “The trend lines are moving in Governor Colyer’s direction.”
Here is how the Remington poll participants self-identified among GOP factions: Christian conservative, 32 percent; Trump Republican, 27 percent; establishment, 26 percent; Libertarian, 6 percent, tea party, 2 percent; other, 7 percent.
The respondents indicated Colyer was viewed favorably by 41 percent and unfavorably by 29 percent. In terms of Kobach, 42 percent were favorable and 42 percent unfavorable. Twice as many were undecided about Colyer on this metric than were undecided on Kobach.
Bob Beatty, political science professor at Washburn University, said Kobach’s favorable number was remarkable given a surge in campaign attacks against him. He said the percentage without an opinion of Colyer this late in the campaign served as a warning sign.
“It’s going to come down to undecided voters who really haven’t been paying attention to Kansas politics,” Beatty said. “It could go either way.”
Meanwhile, 3rd District congressional candidate Tom Niermann said a Republican group, Ending Spending, invested $160,000 to air a commercial promoting Democrat Brent Welder, who was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. The super PAC is funded by billionaire Joe Ricketts, who gave $1 million to the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump.
Niermann and another Democrat in the primary, Sharice Davids, said the ad was fashioned to aid re-election of U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan.
“Yoder decided a long time ago to vote with party leaders instead of his community, counting on billionaires to bail out his campaign,” Niermann and Davids said in a statement. “He has now gone yet another bridge too far — calling in Republican dark money to elevate an opponent of his choosing.”
Also Friday, Kansas congressional candidate Vernon Fields was cited by the Federal Election Commission for failure to file the latest campaign-finance report. He is among seven GOP candidates in the 2nd District.