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Trump-endorsed Kris Kobach in neck-and-neck GOP governor primary in Kansas

With all precincts reporting, but thousands of provisional ballots left uncounted, Kobach led Gov. Jeff Colyer by just 191 votes as of Wednesday morning.
by Dartunorro Clark and Adam Edelman /  / Updated 
Image: Kansas Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach
Kansas Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach thanks his supporters and sends them home for the night after problems with polls in Johnson County delayed the final results early Wednesday in Topeka, Kansas.Chris Neal / The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP

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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican endorsed by President Donald Trump, narrowly leads incumbent GOP Gov. Jeff Colyer by just 191 votes in Tuesday's gubernatorial primary.

As of Wednesday morning, and with 100 percent of precincts counted, Kobach had 126,257 votes, or 41 percent, and Colyer had 126,066 votes, or 41 percent.

The tight results, however, do not include provisional ballots or mail-in ballots that were postmarked Tuesday.

As of Wednesday morning, there were between 8,000 and 10,000 provisional ballots left to be counted, said Bryan Caskey, Kansas' state director of elections. Caskey said those ballots wouldn't be counted until Monday, at the earliest, when county officials begin meeting to certify election results.

Caskey said it wasn't yet clear how many mail-in ballots there were that were postmarked Tuesday.

There is no automatic recount rule in Kansas. Rather, any candidate can request a recount in any one county, in any number of counties, or statewide, as long as their campaign puts up a bond to cover the cost.

As Kansas Secretary of State, a position that oversees elections in the state, Kobach would be in charge of any recount effort, unless he recused himself.

Kobach, an immigration hardliner and proponent of widespread illegal voting, served as vice chairman of Trump's vote fraud commission until it was disbanded earlier this year after failing to find any evidence of large-scale fraud.

Trump endorsed Kobach in a tweet on Monday, calling him a "fantastic guy who loves his State and our Country" and is "Strong on Crime, Border & Military."

Gotcha: Kobach Edition

Jun.24.201802:36

Republican party officials had reportedly lobbied Trump not to put his finger on the scale in the race because they believe that Kobach's polarizing views could bolster Democratic turnout in the November election.

Colyer, who served as lieutenant governor for seven years, became governor earlier this year after Sam Brownback resigned to become a U.S. ambassador.

In a statement Wednesday, Colyer said there were problems with the vote count in Johnson County and that he remained "committed" to making sure every provisional and "legal" ballot was counted.

"Given the historically close margin of the current tabulation, the presence of thousands of as yet uncounted provisional ballots and the extraordinary problems with the count, particularly in Johnson County, this election remains too close to call," he said.

“We are committed to ensuring that every legal vote is counted accurately throughout the canvassing process,” he added.

The Democrats also had a crowded primary, with five candidates, although Kansas is a red state that Trump won in 2016 with 56 percent of the vote.

Kobach has advised the president on immigration and election issues in the past and was an early supporter of the president's campaign.

Image: Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita, talks on the phone while viewing election results
Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita, talks on the phone while viewing election results during Kobach's primary election watch party on Tuesday.Chris Neal / The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP

As the leader of the vote fraud commission, his efforts ignited fierce backlash from both parties and never presented any evidence to support the president's claim that widespread illegal voting occurred during the 2016 election.

Kobach's views on immigration, voter ID requirements and unsubstantiated claims about illegal voting have repeatedly drawn the ire of civil liberty groups, such as the ACLU, and liberal lawmakers. He previously held a local Kansas city council seat and had failed in previous bids for a state senate seat and congressional.

Kobach, who has called himself "the ACLU's worst nightmare," ramped up anti-fraud efforts when he became secretary of state in 2010, becoming deputized in 2015 to prosecute alleged voter fraud.

But he has had nine convictions — a point critics say is evidence of Kobach overstating the extent of fraud.

He once said that undocumented immigrants would "self-deport" once government benefits "dry up." He also helped craft a policy shortly after 9/11 that required men from 24 Muslim-majority countries and North Korea to report to U.S. government offices to be fingerprinted, photographed and questioned. Subsequently, 83,000 did and the government moved to deport 13,740.

During the race, Colyer attacked Kobach’s record on abortion by pointing to a 2000 local newspaper questionnaire, in which Kobach described his views on abortion as pro-choice when he ran for state Senate, according to The Kansas City Star. Kobach later said he had never been pro-choice, the paper reported.

Colyer also criticized Kobach for his recent court defeat in trying to defend Kansas' proof-of-citizenship voter law. A federal judge found the law unconstitutional, ordered Kobach to pay $26,000 in contempt fines and rebuked him for misleading the court.

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