Kris Kobach

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Kris Kobach
Kris Kobach.jpg
Kansas Secretary of State
In office
January 10, 2011 - Present
Term ends
Years in position 3
PredecessorChris Biggs (D)
Base salary$86,003
Elections and appointments
First electedNovember 2, 2010
Campaign $$376,420
Term limitsN/A
High schoolWashburn Rural High School (1984)
Bachelor'sHarvard College (1988)
Master'sOxford University (1990)
J.D.Yale Law School (1995)
Ph.D.Oxford University (1992)
BirthdayMarch 26, 1966
Place of birthMadison, Wisconsin
Office website
Campaign website
Kris Kobach (born March 26, 1966, in Madison, Wisconsin) is the current Republican Kansas Secretary of State. He has served in this position since January 10, 2011 and is in his first term.

In March 2013, Kobach announced his intention to run for re-election in 2014.[1] The general election takes place November 4, 2014.

Kobach was first elected secretary of state in 2010. With 51% of the vote, he narrowly scored the Republican nomination in the Aug. 3 primary.[2][3] He went on to face Democratic incumbent Chris Biggs, Libertarian Phillip Horatio Lucas and Reform Party candidate Derek Langseth in the general election on November 2, 2010, which Kobach won handily. He took 59% of the vote and unseated Biggs by a margin of nearly 22 percentage points.[4]

Prior to assuming the role of Kansas' chief elections official, Kobach was a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He was also Chairman of the Kansas Republican Party.[5]

Since taking office, Kobach has proved a provocative figure on both statewide and national political stages. His staunch advocacy of immigration reform has on occasion lured Kobach outside the state of Kansas - to assist a number of Republican-led states, like Arizona, draft more stringent immigration legislation, make appearances and often testify in federal court on behalf of the cause. Because he is secretary of state, Kobach's displays activism have drawn considerable praise and ire; he has been called an "American hero," as well as “America’s Deporter-in-Chief,” an “anti-immigration hawk,” and a “nativist” lawyer for his ubiquitous role in the nation-sweeping campaign for immigration reform.[6]

In December 2012, Democratic leaders said they planned to introduce two measures during the 2013 session to limit Kris Kobach's power as Secretary of State. The first bill, which Sen. Anthony Hensley (D) planned to introduce, would have restricted statewide elected officials to spend no more than 10 paid hours a week on non-official duties. This was mainly seen as a response to Kobach's work on immigration, which often took him out of the state.[7] The second bill would have made county commissioners in the four largest counties hire election commissioners, preventing Kobach from appointing the positions. Currently elected county clerks oversee elections in 101 of the 105 counties, with the secretary of state appointing the other four.[7]

Kobach first ran for political office in 2000 as a candidate for Senate representing District 8, but lost in the primary election. He ran again in 2004, challenging Congressman Dennis Moore for his seat representing Kansas' 3rd Congressional District. This time, he won the primary but was defeated in the general election. Nearly two years following his failed congressional campaign, Kobach was chosen by his peers to a two year term as Chairman of the Kansas Republican Party. His tenure in this post was likewise not without controversy, especially after his creation of "the party's 'loyalty committee ... to sanction wayward Republicans," which, in turn, stripped more than a dozen members of "voting rights in party organization races for helping Democrats."[8]

A February 2013 article in Governing named Kobach as one of the top state Republican officials to watch in 2013.[9]


Kobach was born in Madison, Wisconsin, but raised in Topeka, Kansas, where his father was a car-dealer.[10] After graduating from Washburn Rural High School in 1984, Kobach went on to receive a Bachelor's degree in government from Harvard College. He graduated with Master's and Doctorate degrees from Oxford University in political science before returning to the United States to attend Yale Law School. While studying at Yale, Kobach served as editor of the student-run Yale Law Journal and published two books: Political Capital: The Motives, Tactics, and Goals of Politicized Businesses in South Africa in 1990 and The Referendum: Direct Democracy in Switzerland in 1994.

After graduating from Yale Law School, Kobach was admitted to the Kansas Bar in 1995 and took up the position of law clerk for Deanell Reece Tacha, a judge on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals located in Lawrence, Kansas. In 1996, he became a member of the faculty at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law where he currently teaches Constitutional Law I, Constitutional Law II, Immigration Law, American Legal History, and Legislation.

Kobach's first major foray into the political field came when President George W. Bush awarded him with the White House Fellowship, a program established in November 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson in which the recipient "typically spends a year working as full-time, paid special assistants to senior White House Staff, the Vice President, Cabinet Secretaries and other top-ranking government officials."[11] When his fellowship ended, Kobach stayed on as Counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft. Shortly following the September 11th terrorist attacks, Kobach personally led a team of attorneys and researchers in developing and then implementing the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), also known as Special Registration. Established as means of keeping "track of those entering and leaving our country in order to safeguard U.S. citizens and America’s borders," the NSEERS served as the first step by the Department of Justice (later the Department of Homeland Security) to "comply with the development of the Congressionally- mandated requirement for a comprehensive entry-exit program."[12]


  • Graduated from Washburn Rural High School (1984) in Topeka, Kansas
  • Bachelor's degree, Harvard College (1988) in government
  • Master's degree, Oxford University (1990) in political science
  • Doctorate degree, Oxford University (1992) in political science
  • Juris Doctorate degree, Yale Law School (1995)

Political career

Kobach first ran for political office in 2000 as a candidate for Senate representing District 8, but lost in the primary election. He ran again in 2004, winning the Republican nomination over opponents Adam Taff and Kansas state legislator Patricia Lightner and challenging Congressman Dennis Moore for his seat in the United States House of Representatives representing the 3rd Congressional District of Kansas; he went on to lose the campaign 55% to 43%.[13][14] The upside of the experience, however, was that it garnered him national media attention, especially after his speech on the opening day of the 2004 Republican National Convention where he called for the United States military to be sent to the Mexican border to block illegal immigration. He took his anti-illegal immigration message beyond the congressional campaign, even making an appearance on the popular Comedy Central program, The Colbert Report, in August 2009 to take his case to the American public.[15]

Kansas Secretary of State (2010-present)

On May 26, 2009, Kobach announced his candidacy for the statewide office of secretary of state, challenging Democrat Chris Biggs, who was appointed to the position by Governor Mark Parkinson.[16] Kobach won the Republican nomination in the state's August 3, 2010 primary, receiving nearly fifty-one percent of the vote.[17][18]

Election laws

In January 2011, Kobach announced his proposed Kansas Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act at a press conference in Topeka. The House Bill aimed to prevent vote fraud and increase the integrity of Kansas elections, according to Kobach. It introduced a government-issued photo ID requirement for voting in person at the polls.

Mail ballots would require either a copy of a government-issued photo ID, or simply the photo ID number.

New voters would be required to provide proof of citizenship, but existing voters would not face any new citizenship requirements.[19]

The controversial bill took partial effect in January 2012, and despite concerns about the new requirements diminishing voter turnout, a January 10 election in Cimarron occurred almost entirely without incident. A vote on Feb. 28 in Wichita presented an opportunity for Kansas voters to demonstrate their support or disapproval of the SAFE Act on a bigger scale.[20]

Illegal immigration

Kobach has been called an "American hero," as well as “America’s Deporter-in-Chief,” an “anti-immigration hawk,” and a “nativist” lawyer for his ubiquitous role in the nation-sweeping campaign for immigration reform.[6]

Reinforcing his anti-amnesty position on managing the presence of illegal-immigrants in the United States, Kobach testified on February 13, 2012 against a bill that would help undocumented workers in Kansas gain conditional work privileges. House Bill 2712 would direct the Kansas Department of Labor "to identify industries with labor shortages and develop a program to help qualified illegal immigrants, who might otherwise be detained and deported, to obtain work permits and legal status from the federal government."[21] Kobach asserted that such a program would overstep Kansas' jurisdiction over immigration matters, saying "A state cannot deport someone, and similarly a state cannot confer status upon an illegal person." Supporters countered that under federal law, the state can serve as a sponsor to someone in his/her application for legal status.

Responding to claims that the bill could help fill the state's labor shortage, Kobach defended his stance by disagreeing that such a shortage existed and that the bill was a “slap in the face” to the 95,500 Kansans still out of work.[21]

This testimony fit into a series of Kobach-led efforts to either foster proof of citizenship measures, or stifle rights-granting legislation to non-citizens on the city, state and national level. He has helped draft laws dedicated to combating illegal immigration and voter fraud in at least six cities and states. After leading Arizona's pioneering photo voter-ID legislation, he helped protect the state law that punished employers for hiring undocumented immigrants against potential repeal by U.S. Supreme Court. In that vein, he helped the St. Louis suburb of Valley Park successfully defend a law banning employers from hiring illegals.

Kobach facilitated efforts to strike down laws in Kansas and California that offer in-state college tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants, but was not successful in those cases.[6]

Business records transparency

In April 2012, Kobach announced the successful completion of two projects which he had been pursuing since initially taking office as secretary. The projects sought to make the secretary of state's office run more efficiently and transparent in addition to promoting knowledge of democracy in Kansas by making business records accessible to the public. Before, the only related information available on the state's website was the name of the business and whether it was in good standing. Now more than 2 million records are available online for review by the public, attorneys, businesses and the media. Kobach said the secretary of state's office receives an average of 454 required business documents each day; prior to the online resource's creation, those documents could only be obtained by visiting the capital's office in person or by request via mail. "It's hard to overstate what a big deal this is," Kobach said of the resource, whose seeds were originally planted by his predecessor Ron Thornburgh.[22]

Civics education

Kobach first expressed his concern that most Kansans were insufficiently versed in state and U.S. government civics while on the campaign trail in 2010. When he took office, he ordered his staff to develop an online resource for educating Kansas residents on their state's history, the structure and functions of the government, and information about the state's individual counties. The site also features a downloadable quiz that teachers can give to students.[22]

Targeted for recall

In early October 2012, activists Sonny Scroggins and Frank Smith said they would begin circulating recall petitions against Kobach later in the month. Scroggins said Kobach has been targeted for his work on immigration issues, which regularly takes him out of state, as well as his support for the state's voter photo ID law.[23]

In order to force a recall vote, state law holds that organizers must collect valid signatures equivalent to 40 percent of the number of persons that voted in the last preceding election for the office. In this case, some 332,000 signatures would be necessary. Prior to that, however, they would have first collected approximately 83,000 signatures and show just cause why Kobach should be recalled, which in Kansas can only be for a felony conviction, misconduct, incompetence, or failure to perform the duties of the office.[24][25]

Kobach said it was unlikely the effort would succeed, stating, "It appears that he is hoping Kansas voters will reverse a decision that they already made, because the two issues that Mr. Scroggins points to were the very same issues that were at the center of the general election in 2010. My election in 2010 reflected the reality that Kansas voters overwhelmingly favor photo ID requirements at the polls and they support efforts to reduce illegal immigration."[24]

Scroggins, acknowledging the odds against the effort, said, “Kris has got all the money, got the Koch brother behind him, and he’s got Donald Trump, but we’ve got God on our side and we want everybody sitting at the table.”[26]

Dems seek to limit office's power

In December 2012, Democratic leaders said they planned to introduce two measures during the 2013 session to limit Kobach's power as Secretary of State. The first bill, which Sen. Anthony Hensley (D) planned to introduce, would restrict statewide elected officials to spend no more than 10 paid hours a week on non-official duties. This was mainly seen as a response to Kobach's work on immigration, which has often taken him out of the state.[7]

The second bill would make county commissioners in the four largest counties hire election commissioners, preventing Kobach from appointing the positions. Currently elected county clerks oversee elections in 101 of the 105 counties, with the secretary of state appointing the other four.[7]

Presidential preference


See also: Endorsements by state officials of presidential candidates in the 2012 election

Kris Kobach endorsed Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. [27]

Kobach worked for Romney as an unpaid adviser on immigration issues since before his formal endorsement of the candidate in January. Kobach has a history with Romney, having advised him in a similar capacity during his unsuccessful campaign to secure the GOP presidential nomination in 2008.[28]



See also: Kansas secretary of state election, 2014

Kobach is running for re-election in the 2014.[1] The general election takes place November 4, 2014.


See also: Kansas Secretary of State election, 2010

Kobach won election as Kansas Secretary of State in the November 2010 general election. He defeated Democrat Chris Biggs, Libertarian Phillip Horatio Lucas and Reform Party candidate Derek Langseth.

Kansas Secretary of State, General Election, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngKris Kobach 59% 489,640
     Democratic Chris Biggs 37.2% 308,641
     Libertarian Phillip Horatio Lucas 2.1% 17,336
     Reform Party Derek Langseth 1.7% 13,896
Total Votes 829,513
Election Results Via: Kansas Secretary of State

Kansas Secretary of State, Republican Primary, 2010
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngKris Kobach 50.7% 156,462
Elizabeth Ensley 27% 83,275
J.R. Claeys 22.4% 69,039
Total Votes 308,776
Election Results Via:Kansas Secretary of State.


Kobach lost his bid for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2004, losing to Democrat Dennis Moore.[14][13]

U.S. House, Kansas, District 3 General Election, 2004
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngDennis Moore 54.8% 184,050
     Republican Kris Kobach 43.3% 145,542
     Libertarian Joe Bellis 1% 3,191
     Reform Party Richard Wells 0.9% 2,956
Total Votes 335,739

U.S. House, Kansas, District 3 Republican Primary Election, 2004
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngKris Kobach 44% 39,129
Adam Taff 43.8% 38,922
Patricia Lightner 12.2% 10,836
Total Votes 88,887

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Kobach is available dating back to 2000. Based on available campaign finance records, Kobach raised a total of $376,420 during that time period. This information was last updated on July 11, 2013.[29]

Kris Kobach's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 Kansas Secretary of State Not up for election $43,195
2010 Kansas Secretary of State Won $299,983
2000 Kansas State Senate District 8 Defeated $33,242
Grand Total Raised $376,420

2000 and 2010

Ballotpedia collects information on campaign donors for each year in which a candidate or incumbent is running for election. The following table offers a breakdown of Kris Kobach's donors each year.[30] Click [show] for more information.


Arizona SB1070

Several days after Republican Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer (R) signed into law Senate Bill 1070 - The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, more commonly known as Arizona SB 1070, the Lawrence Journal-World & News broke the news that law professor and then-candidate for Kansas Secretary of State Kobach had a hand in helping craft the legislation.[31][32] The Act, which did not take effect until July 28, 2010, makes it a state misdemeanor crime for an alien to be in Arizona without carrying proper citizenship papers required by federal law, authorizes state and local law enforcement of federal immigration laws, and cracks down on those sheltering, hiring and transporting illegal aliens into the United States. Kobach stated that he provided his assistance to Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce (R) for free and did not believe it would impact his campaign for secretary of state, though he was quick to argue that he would be willing to draw up a similar measure in Kansas, but only if asked to do so by a state legislator.

Civil rights groups who protested the immigration law petitioned the University of Missouri at Kansas City (UMKC) to impose sanctions on Kobach, who has taught there since 1996. His harshest critic was J.D. Rios, an assistant Kansas City, Kansas school superintendent, who argued that Kobach "violated the general UMKC policy to promote diversity."[33] Despite threats from liberal alumni members saying they would no longer encourage Hispanic students to enroll at the university, UMKC has staunchly stood in support of Kobach, insisting they believe in academic freedom for all of its faculty members.[34]

"Illegal is Illegal" Rally

On July 14, 2010, Kobach supporters gathered for an “Illegal is Illegal” Rally at the Ritz Charles convention center after permission to hold the controversial event at MidAmerica Nazarene University was withdrawn. Sheriff Joe Arpaio from Maricopa County Arizona appeared in support of Kobach at the standing room only rally.

Several hundred held a mostly silent “Love Conquers Hate” protest along the sidewalk on the perimeter of the convention center. More than 50 from the NAACP Convention in Kansas City joined the protest, racial profiling top among their concerns, chanting “hope, not hate” as they arrived in a small parade. Video of the rally can be seen here.[35]

Birther joke

Speaking at a Leavenworth County Republican Party BBQ held in Tonganoxie shortly after the 4th of July in 2009, Kobach made a joke at the expense of President Barack Obama, stating the one thing the former Illinois senator and God had in common was that neither of them had a birth certificate.[36] The State Democratic Party sharply criticized the Republican candidate for Secretary of State for his remarks, arguing that "his latest attempt at humor has gone too far."[37] Kobach replied that it was just a joke and that Democratic critics should lighten up.


Kobach resides with wife, Heather, and daughters Lilly, Reagan and Molly, in Piper, Kansas. He is a member of Christ Church, Anglican, and an eagle scout.[5]

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Contact Information


Capitol Address:
Kansas Secretary of State
Memorial Hall, 1st Floor
120 SW 10th Avenue
Topeka, KS 66612-1594

Phone: (785) 296-4564

See also

External links

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  1. 1.0 1.1 Kansas City Star Midwest Democracy, "In case there’s any doubt: Kris Kobach running for re-election in 2014," February 1, 2013, accessed July 1, 2013
  2. Politico, "Kobach’s win" 4 Aug. 2010
  3. Michelle Malkin, "Kris Kobach wins GOP Secretary of State nomination in Kansas" 4 Aug. 2010
  4. Kansas Secretary of State, "2010 General Election Results.pdf," accessed October 1, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 Project Vote Smart, "Secretary Kris Kobach's Biography," accessed September 15, 2012
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 The Kansas City Star, "Voter fraud and illegal immigration work brings Kansas Secretary of State Kobach praise, scorn," April 9, 2012
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 The Republic, "Kansas legislative Democrats to introduce measures targeting GOP Sec. of State Kobach," December 4, 2012
  8. Capital-Journal, "Kobach gives up top GOP position" 9 Dec. 2008
  9. Governing, "State Republican Officials to Watch in 2013," February 6, 2013
  10. The Topeka Capital Journal, "GOP primary assured," Mary 29, 2009
  11. White House Fellows - About
  12. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Special Registration
  13. 13.0 13.1 Kansas Secretary of State - 2004 Primary Election Results
  14. 14.0 14.1 Kansas Secretary of State - 2004 General Election Results
  15. Colbert Report, The, "Video of Kris Kobach's Aug. 2008 appearance"
  16. The Topeka Capital-Journal, "GOP primary assured" 26 May, 2009
  17. Politico, "Kobach’s win" 4 Aug. 2010
  18. Michelle Malkin, "Kris Kobach wins GOP Secretary of State nomination in Kansas" 4 Aug. 2010
  19. "Secretary of State Kobach introduces voter ID bill (video)," Kansas Watchdog, By Earl Glynn, January 19, 2011
  20. Wichita Eagle, "Kobach: Voter ID law working," February 2, 2012
  21. 21.0 21.1 The Topeka Capital-Journal, "Kobach blasts immigrant worker bill," February 14, 2012
  22. 22.0 22.1 Associated Press, "Kansas secretary of state puts records access online," April 17, 2012
  23. KWCH, "Activists say they'll seek to recall Kris Kobach," October 4, 2012
  24. 24.0 24.1 Huffington Post, "Kris Kobach, Kansas Secretary Of State, Faces Recall Attempt," October 4, 2012
  25. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named recallS
  26. Salon, “Kansas Secretary of State faces recall effort,” October 5, 2012
  27. NTV, "Kan. sec of state endorses Romney for president," January 11, 2012
  28., "Kobach confirms he's an unpaid adviser to Romney," February 2, 2012
  29. Follow the Money, "Career fundraising for Kris Kobach," accessed July 11, 2013
  30. Follow the
  31. Lawrence Journal-World & News, "Kansan Kris Kobach helped write controversial Arizona immigration law" 27 April, 2010
  32. New York Times, "Why Arizona Drew a Line" 28 April, 2010
  33. KMBC 9 News, "Kobach's Immigration Role Leads To Questions" 3 May, 2010
  34. Red State, "Let’s Burn Kris Kobach at the Stake" 4 May, 2010
  35. "Illegal Immigration Rally: Kris Kobach and Sheriff Joe Arpaio,", July 15, 2010
  36. Everyday Citizen, "Kobach's 'birther' joke is no laughing matter" 16 July, 2009
  37. Lawrence Journal-World & News, "Kobach says statement about Obama ‘just a joke’" 14 July, 2009

Political offices
Preceded by
Chris Biggs (D)
Kansas Secretary of State
Succeeded by