LAWRENCE, Kan. — Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach said Monday night he has no intention of changing his sometimes brash style if he wins the GOP nomination for governor.
Speaking at a Kansas Chamber of Commerce event featuring nearly every major candidate for governor, Kobach said he would say what he plans to do and then push hard to accomplish his plans.
“And if people want a governor who just kind of makes everybody happy and says what you want to hear, then don’t vote for me,” Kobach said. “Because that won’t be me.”
The event in Lawrence allowed each Republican and Democratic candidate, as well as independent Greg Orman, to answer questions from Kansas Chamber President and CEO Alan Cobb in separate 10-minute appearances, The Wichita Eagle reported.
A proposal during the last legislative session that would give lawmakers final authority over spending for public schools drew starkly different responses from candidates.
Democrat Josh Svaty said he opposes the proposed amendment because he doesn’t believe supporters’ contention that it might stop lawsuits over school funding.
“I don’t think it stops the litigation. I think that continues whether we change the constitution or not,” he said.
Insurance Commissioner and Republican Ken Selzer supports the amendment and said the state needs leadership to get it through the Legislature and on the ballot for statewide voters.
“If the people vote on it, they will pass it,” Selzer predicted.
The state has endured years of litigation over school funding, with courts consistently saying Kansas is not meeting its constitutional obligation to provide a suitable education for each child. In April, a group of business and agriculture interests called the Kansas Coalition for Fair Funding proposed a constitutional amendment that they said would remove the state courts’ from deciding suitable education funding and leave the decision to Kansas residents.
State lawmakers considered the amendment this spring, but ultimately didn’t vote on it. They instead passed and Gov. Jeff Colyer signed an annual funding increase of $548 million that will be phased in over five years. The Kansas Supreme Court is reviewing that law to determine if it increased public school funding enough in the short-term to comply with the state constitution.
“The investments that we are making in K-12 education mean more teachers, better pay for teachers. It means better instructional opportunities,” Colyer said Monday. The governor has not publicly endorsed any specific constitutional proposal involving school funding. Kobach said in April that he supported the proposed amendment.
On the issue of immigration, Orman said he endorsed a “tough, practical and fair” immigration policy.
“We’re not going to find and deport 11 million people, nor would that be humane or advisable. Western Kansas would go away if we did that,” Orman said.
Democratic Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, agreed Kansas needs immigrant labor and said states should pressure the federal government to create a cohesive immigration policy.
“We don’t want folks here illegally, but we have to provide a path for folks to come to this state to provide the labor” that businesses need, Kelly said.
Kobach, who has built a national reputation for promoting tough immigration and voter identification laws, repeated his beliefs that immigrants in the country illegally are keeping American citizens from jobs and driving down wages and said the state should stop offering in-state tuition for those immigrants.