TOPEKA — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s interest in becoming governor is driven by a long desire to see meaningful change in Topeka leadership.
The Republican also wants to reverse tax policy, confront illegal immigration and make Kansas laws more gun-friendly.
In an interview for The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Capitol Insider podcast, Kobach appraises a wide range of policy topics. He says separating children from immigrant parents at the border is a good incentive, firearms should be allowed in medical facilities, and the American Civil Liberties Union is looking for a scalp in the battle over voter registration laws.
“They might want my scalp, yes, but they want to beat Kansas in court,” Kobach said. “And then they want to say to the rest of the country: ‘Hey, look at Kansas, you states. Don’t you dare try proof of citizenship for your elections.’ And that’s why I’m fighting back so hard. And frankly, the fact that the ACLU is on the other side confirms to me that I’m on the right side.”
He said he expects the case he recently argued with the ACLU to reach the U.S. Supreme Court before the matter is settled.
Unlike the past two elected governors, Kobach said he won’t leave Kansas for Washington, D.C., having already turned down offers from President Donald Trump to be a White House adviser or a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security.
“I declined them because I decided it would be more important, and frankly I would be happier, trying to move the ball forward in Kansas rather than taking those positions,” Kobach said.
Growing up in the capitol city, and caring deeply about issues, he grew frustrated by stagnant leadership.
“Watching Topeka, things just never seem to change,” Kobach said. “Republican governor, Democrat governor, the status quo just keeps going and going and going. And I believe there are some really significant changes that need to be made.”
He said his campaign promise to drain the swamp will be fulfilled by proposing term limits and requiring the Legislature’s committee votes to be recorded.
Kobach also promises he would cut spending the moment he takes office. Although he may not support a complete restoration of the 2012 tax cuts, which doomed the state’s finances, recent hikes on sales and income should be repealed, he said.
Former Gov. Sam Brownback, alongside his lieutenant, Jeff Colyer, hailed the supply-side economic policy when it became law. Kobach now faces Colyer as the incumbent in the GOP primary.
“The Brownback-Colyer administration made a mistake,” Kobach said. “They did not cut spending. They did not lead a legislative charge to cut spending, which is what the governor should have done.”
On illegal immigration, Kobach said he would send Kansas National Guard troops to help defend the border with Mexico. He also wants to end in-state tuition for noncitizens and believes the Legislature would approve the change.
Despite public outcry over the Trump administration tactic of separating immigrant children from families — authorities have lost track of more than 1,400 children in the process — Kobach said it sends the right message to those who want to enter the United States illegally.
“Word gets back very quickly to the home countries: ‘OK, look, they’re no longer allowing everybody to be turned loose as a whole family and then you disappear into the fabric of society,’ ” Kobach said. “Conversely, when we do things like the Obama administration did, which was, ‘If you’re an unaccompanied minor, come on in, we’ll reunite you with any relatives you may have in the country, and the Border Patrol will receive you and facilitate you staying in America,’ that message got back really quickly, too.”
Kobach said he would have signed a controversial child adoption bill passed by the Legislature this year. The law allows faith-based organizations to refuse service to gay parents because of firmly held religious beliefs. Critics said the law amounts to state-sponsored discrimination, but Kobach said it protects the First Amendment rights of groups like Catholic Charities.
“Frankly, it’s consistent with the interest of the child, too,” Kobach said. “I don’t think anybody would disagree. Well, maybe there are some people who would disagree. But if you are going to take an adoptive child and place him in a home, you want to give that child all of the advantages possible. And you are in the best situation if you have both a father and a mother.”