Kansas held their gubernatorial primary last week, but the margin in the race for the Republican nomination was so close that election officials and the media initially declined to declare a clear winner.
But that didn’t matter Tuesday night, when incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer admitted defeat and conceded the election to his challenger, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a strong supporter of President Donald Trump who had received a last-minute endorsement in the close race.
The Washington Post reported that Colyer’s concession came just hours after provisional ballots had been fully counted in the state’s largest county and actually increased Kobach’s slim lead over Colyer in the total vote count.
Seat must remain Republican
“I’ve just had a conversation with [Kobach] and I congratulated him on his success, and I repeated my determination to keep this seat in Republican hands,” Colyer said with his family by his side.
“The numbers are just not there unless we were to go to extraordinary measures,” he continued, in reference to the narrow margin of votes by which he trailed Kobach.
Colyer made it clear that he had no intentions of challenging the election results in a lawsuit or demanding a recount, and again reiterated that the governorship must remain in Republican hands.
“Kansas is too important,” he said.
Kobach’s next opponent
Republican gubernatorial nominee Kris Kobach will now prepare himself for the general election in November in which he is expected to face off against projected Democrat nominee Laura Kelly, a state senator, and independent Greg Orman.
Kelly earned more than 50 percent of the Democratic vote in the primary and immediately came out swinging against Kobach after Colyer’s concession, suggesting that Kobach would ruin the state by returning to “the same disastrous policies” as his predecessors.
That would include not just Colyer, but also former Gov. Sam Brownback, who resigned his position in 2017 to take up a role in the Trump administration. Colyer, formerly Brownback’s lieutenant governor, only took office as governor in January.
Kobach thanked Colyer for his concession and promised to work together to maintain GOP control of the governor’s mansion.
Kobach also congratulated Colyer for being a “worthy opponent.”
This was a close-fought race for the gubernatorial nomination in Kansas, one that saw a split in the Republican Party as the establishment-backed Colyer fought against Kobach, who had the support of his friend, President Donald Trump.
Though it is impossible to say for sure the total effect of Trump’s late endorsement in the race, Kobach viewed it as “absolutely critical” to his success, and given the rather tight margin of votes separating the two candidates, it could very well have placed him over the top, netting both him and the president another solid political victory.