LEAVENWORTH, Kan. -- A big name in Kansas politics is officially tossing his hat in the ring for the US Senate race in 2020. Former Secretary of State Kris Kobach wants to fill the spot being opened by long-time Senator Pat Roberts, who is not seeking re-election.
"Today I'm announcing my candidacy for the U.S. Senate," Kobach said in front of supporters on Monday.
The announcement was followed by raucous cheers in Leavenworth as Kobach officially launched himself back into Kansas politics.
Kobach, who is known for his tough stance on illegal immigration, says that issue is a driving force behind his Senate candidacy.
"It became very clear to me that the president needs someone who will lead the charge for him in the United States Senate on this issue," said Kobach.
After leaving office as Kansas Secretary of State, Kobach's been serving as general counsel for a group called "We Build the Wall", which has secured millions of dollars in private funding to construct fencing along the US/Mexico border. One section near El Paso has already been built.
"Walls are essential to fighting terrorism, fighting crime, to protecting American workers and also to protecting American taxpayers," Kobach said.
Kobach also defined protecting the Constitution and limiting government growth as other top priorities.
"American principles are based on freedom but Democrats are trying to change freedom into a principle of free stuff. You don't build great country on free stuff. You build it on freedom and that's what we'll do," said Kobach.
But after a failed run for Kansas governor in 2018, many question if he can win on an even bigger stage. He's already facing at least two Republican and three Democratic rivals.
"Look, I've run in three statewide elections, won in two out of three. False ads run against me had impact on education in the last one. But I've won state races and know how to do that," Kobach said.
Now Kobach and the other candidates will be left to convince Kansas voters who is the best person to send to Washington, D.C.
Kobach also points out there are a lot more people who tend to vote in a presidential election year, so that greatly changes who will cast a ballot in 2020, versus those who voted in the governor's race in 2018.
Two of Kobach's challengers issued responses to the announcement of his candidacy.
Fellow Republican and current Kansas state treasurer Jake LaTurner's campaign issued the following statement:
"Donald Trump needs reinforcements in the United States Senate. Jake LaTurner is the conservative candidate for Senate who can actually win the primary and the general election."
Democratic challenger, and former U.S. Attorney in Kansas Barry Grissom, issued the following statement:
"I welcome the contrast of Kris Kobach's extreme agenda that he wants to take to the US Senate. Kansans are common sense people who want leaders focused on results for rural hospitals, the economy for our farmers, not more partisan gridlock. It's why I trust Kansans to choose progress over a return to the Kobach-Brownback era of dysfunction and gridlock.
Whether you're a Kansas Democrat, Republican or independent, we all want to get things done, and none of us want to send Kris Kobach's extremist agenda to Washington. From my time as the federal prosecutor for Kansas, I've always been willing to work with anyone committed to getting things done, and I look forward to bringing Kansans of all walks of life into this campaign."