Next year's GOP primary for Kansas secretary of state suddenly looks like a contest rather than a walk for former Kansas Republican Party chairman Kris Kobach (in photo). Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, has appointed a campaign treasurer for the race to replace four-term Republican Ron Thornburgh. J.R. Claeys of Salina is also seeking the GOP primary nod. Meanwhile, voters curious about what makes Kobach tick — and drives his nationwide crusade to fight illegal immigration — may find enlightenment in a New York Times profile. Kobach, who now teaches at the University of Missouri-Kansas City law school, joined the Bush Justice Department just days before the Sept. 11 attacks and reportedly was stunned to learn that several of the hijackers had been the subject of traffic stops but the police didn't know they were in the country illegally. "That impressed on me in a very salient way that there was a huge missed opportunity there that might have caused the 9/11 plot to unravel," he told the Times, explaining his motivation to find ways to turn local police into the "eyes and ears" of federal immigration authorities.