Kobach running with ex-rival Wichita businessman in bid for Kansas governor

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kris Kobach picked a former Republican rival Wednesday to be his running mate in his campaign for Kansas governor, turning to a Wichita businessman whose wealth could help Kobach fix a potential weakness in fundraising.

Kobach introduced Wink Hartman as his pick for lieutenant governor as he kicked off a four-city campaign bus tour in Topeka. He said Hartman, the owner of a family of oil industry companies founded by Hartman’s father, would serve as the state’s chief operating officer and audit government agencies once in office.

As Kansas secretary of state, Kobach is nationally known for championing tough immigration and voter identification laws and served as vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s now-disbanded commission on election fraud. He has a solid following on the political right.

Kris Kobach and Wink Hartman

But in seeking the GOP nomination, Kobach raised less in cash contributions last year than two other major rivals, Gov. Jeff Colyer and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer. Before Hartman dropped out of the governor’s race last month, he and three companies tied to him loaned his campaign nearly $1.7 million.

Hartman told reporters after the Topeka announcement that he and Kobach “will do what is necessary” to finance a winning campaign. Hartman said he learned at GOP events that he and Kobach share the same conservative thinking.

“It just was kind of a natural match,” Hartman said. “We have very much in common, and we had a cup of coffee, and it just progressed from there.”

Kobach is running on a platform that includes imposing term limits on legislators, enacting tough state laws against illegal immigration and rolling back a $600 million-a-year tax increase legislators enacted last year to help balance the budget and boost spending on public schools.

Hartman sounded similar, anti-establishment themes in his own campaign, running under the slogan, “Fed Up!” He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in a Wichita-area district in 2010.

Both Kobach and Hartman said they haven’t decided how much Hartman might contribute to their ticket. Hartman endorsed Kobach immediately after dropping out, and his selection as Kobach’s running mate was widely anticipated in GOP circles.

Colyer raised about $630,000 in cash contributions last year, while Selzer raised about $428,000 and loaned his campaign another $286,000. Kobach raised $355,000.

The governor’s race has attracted several dozen prospective candidates ahead of the June 1 filing deadline because former GOP Gov. Sam Brownback was term-limited before he resigned in January for an ambassador’s post. Brownback’s resignation elevated Colyer from governor to lieutenant governor.

Democrats have four major candidates. Greg Orman, a Kansas City-area businessman who drew national attention in 2014 for an independent campaign against Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, is running for governor this year, again as an independent.

After becoming governor, Colyer named Tracey Mann, a Salina real estate broker and farmer, as the new lieutenant governor. Orman picked state Sen. John Doll, of Garden City, previously a moderate Republican.