Republican Kris Kobach and Democrat Chris Mann made their end-of-campaign pitch Tuesday night for voters trying to determine who should be the state’s next attorney general.
The candidates offered diverging views on crime, consumer fraud, abortion laws, federal powers, marijuana, judicial selection and guns in a debate presented by the Washburn University political science department and televised on KTWU.
Moderator Nick Haines billed the matchup as “one of the most-watched attorney general races in the country.” Kobach and Mann appear locked in a virtual tie with advanced voting underway and less than two weeks remaining before the Nov. 8 finish line.
The candidates outlined their vision for how they would lead the state’s top law enforcement agency.
Kobach touted his experience in politics and leadership for eight years as the Kansas secretary of state. He said Kansas needs someone to defend state laws against the American Civil Liberties Union and defend constitutional rights from President Joe Biden’s administration.
“For example, if Joe Biden attempts to stop the drilling for oil in Kansas, based on bogus reasons, like prairie chicken populations, I will sue to stop him,” Kobach said. “My opponent, who contributed to Biden, will do nothing.”
Because Mann doesn’t have a record, Kobach said, Kansans don’t know where he really stands on issues or if he will keep his promises.
“I do have a record,” Kobach said. “And one thing that Republicans and Democrats agree about on me is that I do exactly what I say I’m going to do.”
Mann said Kobach won’t hesitate to follow through on a promise to slowly and quietly strip away constitutional protections for reproductive health care.
A former police officer and prosecutor, Mann emphasized his public service record. Mann said while he was busy arresting criminals or putting them away, Kobach was busy running for office.
“My entire life, I’ve done the hard work of keeping Kansans safe,” Mann said. “This is Kris Kobach’s eighth race for his seventh choice of office. This is my first choice for office after a career in public service.”
Mann attacked Kobach for his involvement with We Build the Wall. The organization solicited funds to build a wall along the Mexico border — and became the subject of a federal fraud investigation for how the money was used.
“I held the hands of victims who lost their life savings to scam artists and then prosecuted those scam artists for crimes like fraud and money laundering,” Mann said. “Kris Kobach? He served as lead attorney and board member for an organization indicted for those very same crimes. While I protected Kansans from fraud, he led an organization that was committing it.”
Kobach said he opposes “red flag laws,” which allow courts to grant police permission to confiscate guns from people they believe are dangerous.
Kobach also said he would oppose a ban on assault weapons, such as AR-style rifles.
“I believe that Americans have a right to protect themselves in the home, and to protect themselves when walking across that dark parking lot at night,” Kobach said. “And one of the ways for home defense that is proven effective and is very common … is the AR platform rifle. It is very effective for someone who is smaller stature or a woman to use in defending herself in that life-threatening situation.”
Mann said he is a gun-owning supporter of the Second Amendment. As a former police officer, Mann said, he understands the need to keep communities safe. Violent offenders should not have access to guns, Mann said.
He also said there is a need for more gun safety — and referenced the theft of Kobach’s guns in 2020 from a hotel parking lot in Wichita.
“My opponent could use some of those courses himself,” Mann said. “He left guns unsecured in his car in Wichita. They were stolen and could be in the hands of violent criminals right now.”
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