Kansas Chamber snubs Republican Kobach, stays neutral in Kansas AG race with Mann

The Kansas Chamber of Commerce is staying out of the Kansas attorney general contest between Republican Kris Kobach and Democrat Chris Mann after supporting one of Kobach’s GOP primary opponents in August.

The chamber, one of the most powerful lobbying interests in Kansas, announced its full slate of endorsements Friday and opted not to issue endorsements in any statewide race other than governor.

The group which represents the state’s largest businesses endorsed Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt for governor last month, it but made no choice in the contests for state attorney general, Kansas secretary of state, Kansas treasurer or insurance commissioner. The group issued endorsements for Kansas House races while staying out of the statewide contests.

“The chamber PAC decided that its efforts are best focused on the race for governor and then also focused on elected pro-job House members,” spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said Friday after the chamber released its full slate of 2022 endorsements with the attorney general’s race noticeably omitted.

But earlier this cycle the chamber broke its pattern of staying silent in primary contests to endorse state Sen. Kellie Warren in attorney general race. Warren took second in the primary to Kobach, a conservative firebrand who been at odds with the chamber in the past over workers’ compensation among other issues.

The chamber almost exclusively favors Republicans in general elections and endorsed Kobach in his unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2018.

When Kobach announced his campaign for attorney general, the chamber said the state’s business community held “great concerns” over whether he could “adequately and effectively” represent Kansas businesses in court. Kobach was ordered by a federal judge in 2018 to take a remedial law course on civil procedure, following a high profile court defeat when represented the secretary of state’s office against a voting rights lawsuit.

Kobach campaign did not immediately respond to The Star’s request for comment.

Mann spokeswoman Kelli Kee said that the Republican-leaning group’s decision to stay neutral in the race indicates widespread fatigue with Kobach, a two-term secretary of state who mounted unsuccessful campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate in back-to-back elections.

“Regardless of political party, it’s clear Kansans are tired of politicians like Kris Kobach who put their personal agenda before our communities,” she said in a statement.