Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has narrowly won the Republican nomination for governor, ousting incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer in the state’s primary.
Colyer conceded the race Tuesday night, a week after the election took place and after additional absentee and provisional ballots extended Kobach’s razor-thin lead to 345 votes out of more than 313,000 votes cast.
Colyer’s concession ends a week of drama that featured scrutiny over every ballot, frantic back-and-forths over whether Kobach would recuse himself in a potential recount and a wait to see how many absentee and provisional ballots would ultimately be added after election night.
Democrats, who nominated state Sen. Laura Kelly for governor, believe Kobach’s penchant for controversy gives them an opening in a ruby red state that Trump won by 21 percentage points, but where the party believes local issues have shifted in its favor. Teacher-fueled protests over education funding and two competitive congressional races have made Kansas a battleground in November’s midterm elections.
Kobach had the backing of President Donald Trump, who endorsed him just before the primary. Kobach is an advocate for restrictive voting laws and, as the head of Trump’s voting commission, had backed the President’s claims of widespread voter fraud, despite failing to produce evidence to support those claims.
Johnson County, the home of heavily populated Kansas City suburbs, was where Colyer had hoped to narrow the gap with Kobach. But on Tuesday, the county’s board of canvassers tallied provisional ballots and ultimately added 24 votes to Kobach’s lead.
“I just had a conversation with the Secretary of State and I congratulated him on his success and repeated my determination to keep this seat in Republican hands,” Colyer said at a news conference Tuesday night, the Kansas City Star reported. “This election is probably the closest in America, but the numbers just aren’t there unless we go to extraordinary measures.”