Kansas GOP centrists warned against endorsing challengers

August 25, 2018 - 10:42 am

Moderate Republicans in Kansas find themselves in an awkward position of whether to stay silent on Kris Kobach's gubernatorial nomination or endorse one of his competitors and face potential GOP-led repercussions.

The conundrum came to light earlier this week when House Majority Leader Don Hineman wrote to more than two dozen of his fellow centrists to discourage them from taking a public stance on anyone who isn't Kobach, the GOP's lead candidate, the Kansas City Star reported.

"Please do not do it!" Hineman wrote. "Your own vote is of course your own. But do not endorse, do not publicly support, do not join a 'Republicans for...' group, and do not write a check. Any of those actions are very inappropriate for a Republican office-holder. I fear there would be serious repercussions."

Hineman's warning is the latest demonstration of the wide divide in the Kansas GOP, where moderates tend to side with Democrats on issues like Medicaid expansion and rolling back former Gov. Sam Brownback's 2012 tax cuts.

Kobach has promised "full-throttled conservatism" if elected, and has rejected moderating his views for the general election. He faces independent candidate Greg Orman and Democratic nominee Sen. Laura Kelly.

The Kansas secretary of state has a history of negative attitude toward moderates, including earlier this year at the state GOP convention, where he called for recording committee votes in the Legislature to show that some lawmakers who ran as Republicans don't vote in line with the GOP agenda.

Some moderates have noted after Kobach's nomination that they're trying to stay out of the way.

"I'm going to evaluate candidates and vote in the November election," said Republican Rep. Russ Jennings. "And that's about as far as I'm going to go."

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