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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach defeated two Republican challengers Tuesday in the primary for Kansas attorney general, keeping his bid for a political comeback alive.

He won a close race over two lesser-known rivals. Kobach received roughly 42% of the vote over state Sen. Kellie Warren’s approximately 38%. Former federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi garnered about 20% of Kansans’ votes.

About 20,000 votes separated Kobach and Warren. The state senator traded the lead repeatedly with Kobach throughout the night, but conceded defeat just before midnight.

Kobach will now advance to the November general election and face Democratic candidate Chris Mann, an attorney, former police officer and former local prosecutor, who went unopposed in the primary.

Kansas voters have said no to Kobach twice over the past four years. But he’s betting this can be the year he makes a political comeback.

In 2018, he lost the Kansas governor’s race to Laura Kelly, handing the office in this Republican-leaning state to a Democrat. Then in 2020, he lost the U.S. Senate primary to U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, who went on to win the general election.

Beyond political backgrounds and courtroom chops, Kobach’s primary opponents and their supporters also focused on electability, questioning if Kobach would be able to win in November.

But Kobach built a national reputation as an immigration hard-liner and was known for questioning the integrity of elections while Kansas secretary of state.

After his win, he told The Associated Press by phone that the depiction of him as a perpetual loser was overblown.

He believes an anticipated GOP tide in November will help lift him to statewide office again.

“2022 is going to be a very strong year for Republicans,” he told the AP. “Conditions will be different.”

As for Mann, the Lawrence attorney has promised to focus on public safety issues and to remove partisan politics from the attorney general’s office that Derek Schmidt currently holds. Schmidt is the Republican candidate for Kansas governor.

Mann has never held public office. He was a police officer in Lawrence, but after being injured during a 2002 traffic stop, he earned a law degree and became a prosecutor.

He has been active with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, serving on its national board starting in 2014 and eventually as its board chair until 2020. He has also been heavily involved in efforts to strengthen state laws against drunken driving.

He was also a prosecutor in Wyandotte County and a state securities regulator before founding a law firm in 2016 focused on helping low-income clients.

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