SOUTH HUTCHINSON — Democratic gubernatorial nominee State Sen. Laura Kelly “is going full Bernie Sanders on us,” her Republican opponent, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, said during a campaign stop Friday in Reno County.
Kobach, meanwhile, is taking a Trump track in a race that’s headed down to the wire.
“I am truly thankful to God that Trump won,” Kobach said.
Kobach is leading a “Remain Red” bus tour through Kansas, and he found 120 to 140 people crowded into a meeting area in the Applewood Grill restaurant at the South Hutchinson truck stop late Friday afternoon.
Polls show the Kobach-Kelly race is a toss-up, with Orman a distant third.
Kelly is more pro-choice on abortion then former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was, Kobach said, and Kelly “is not even pretending to be a low-tax Democrat.” He compared her to Sanders, the U.S. Senator from Vermont who ran in the 2016 presidential Democratic primaries.
“This is going to be a hard-fought battle,” Kobach said.
“We can’t lose this election,” Kobach said. “I feel a lot of weight on my shoulders to win this race.”
Kobach is trying to “rack up numbers” among Republicans, and the bus started the morning in Garden City, traveling to Liberal and Dodge City before reaching South Hutchinson. The final stop of the day was Wichita. The entire Kobach family -- including five daughters -- is aboard the bus. Kobach held a small daughter during part of his speech to the audience.
Kobach urged people to text five people who aren’t likely voters and encourage them to vote. He also welcomed campaigners who would go door to door or make phone calls. “The Democrats are doing it. They want this badly,” he said.
What should they tell people about independent gubernatorial candidate Greg Orman? Kobach was asked.
“Tell them they have two Democrats to choose from,” Kobach answered, regarding Orman as a de facto Democrat.
Another supporter asked: If elected will Kobach go to the Kansas Supreme Court on school finance and “tell them to go fly a kite?”
“We’re going to tell them a whole bunch of things,” said Kobach, who thinks the Supreme Court is venturing into an area that belongs to the Legislature.
Kobach favors a constitutional amendment that would thwart school funding lawsuits. He also wants to change the method of selecting judges.
The governor’s hopeful said he would look at setting a retirement age for the third branch of government “because a lot of have shown they’re getting senile.”
Supreme Court Justice Caleb Stegall, an appointee of former Gov. Sam Brownback, “is the only sensible justice on the court,” Kobach said.
One audience member favored making it mandatory that children speak English before entering school.
Kobach called that “a common sense idea.”
“We Americans get this,” he said.
Kobach was asked about a battle over water rights between wildlife refuge interests and irrigators.
Kobach said he had not read the complaint but said water rights are property rights, and the fight sounded like the lesser prairie chicken debate, which pitted agriculture against environmentalists.
He favors those receiving food stamps or government assistance and who are able-bodied, to work at least 30 hours a week.
Voters heard the message to vote a straight-Republican ticket, and when one man said his family had voted early and a straight ticket, people applauded.
Other Republican candidates are joining Kobach at the stops.
Kobach’s running mate, Wink Hartman, and Attorney Gen. Derek Schmidt and Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kelly Arnold also were in South Hutchinson. State Board of Education candidate Ben Jones, R-Sterling, attended, along with some members of the Kansas House, including Reps. Joe Seiwert, Pretty Prairie, and Jack Thimesch, Spivey.
Hutchinson Republican Paul Waggoner, running for a local House seat, called the write-in campaign being waged against him by State Rep. Steve Becker, “politically dumb.”