Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect figure for contributions raised by candidate Mark Hutton.
A high profile in national conservative media hasn’t translated into big money for Secretary of State Kris Kobach in his bid for the Kansas governor’s mansion.
As the last of the campaign finance reports for 2017 were released Thursday, Kobach was fifth in contributions received at just short of $355,000.
That left him trailing Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, two other Republicans and an independent who has yet to formally announce he’s running.
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State political analysts say Kobach underperformed expectations, given that many are calling him the candidate to beat in the race.
But it may not make a difference in the long run because Kobach has the highest name recognition and gets way more free media exposure than any other candidate in the state.
“The primary thing people use that money for is getting their name out there, and Kobach doesn’t need to get his name out there,” said Russell Fox, professor of political science at Friends University in Wichita. “Kobach could craft a narrative: ‘I don’t need money, I’m already famous.’”
In the absence of polling, the race for the GOP nomination has been largely seen as a battle between the two most familiar candidates, Kobach and Colyer.
Colyer led the field in fund-raising, bringing in $632,000 in contributions for the year.
Bob Beatty, a professor of political science at Washburn University, said he sees Colyer benefitting from the funding network that supported Gov. Sam Brownback, and that helps establish him as the race’s “conservative establishment candidate.”
“I would think a lot of people that donated to Brownback are now donating to Colyer and he’s successfully tapping into that,” Beatty said.
But dark horse candidates also flexed some fund-raising muscle.
In second place was Greg Orman, an independent who ran a fairly close race for Senate in 2014, but hasn’t officially entered the governor race. He raised $453,000, all of it in December.
Third place in fund-raising was a Republican who’s been largely under the radar, Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, who raised $427,000.
Mark Hutton, a Wichita construction executive and former state legislator, rounded up $381,000 in contributions since launching his campaign at the end of August, placing him fourth overall and third among Republicans.
Trailing Hutton and Kobach was Ed O’Malley, a former state legislator who now heads the Kansas Leadership Center. He raised $211,788 in contributions.
There are two candidates who are heavily self-funded.
Wichita oil and restaurant executive Wink Hartman reported the most money on his campaign finance form, but almost all of it was his own.
Hartman reported a $1.8 million war chest; about $1.7 million of that was in personal loans to his own campaign and contributions from his businesses.
Rounding out the top Republicans was former state Sen. Jim Barnett, a physician and the Republican nominee for governor in 2006.
He reported total campaign income of $539,645 during 2017. Like Hartman, he’s largely self-funded, with $505,000 in personal loans to his campaign.
It remains to be seen which of the candidates captures traditional pro-business Republicans, Fox said.
While Kobach hasn’t positioned himself up to run as a populist like President Trump, “clearly his base is not by and large people that are in the Republican Party for a lot of traditional business-oriented reasons,” Fox said.
“They’re in the Republican Party for a lot of socially conservative reasons – reasons tied up with ethnicity (and) a variety of things that impact on immigration and the sort of things Kobach has excelled in stirring the pot in regards to,” he said.
Among Democrats, Josh Svaty, a former state legislator and agriculture secretary, held a lead but with state Sen. Laura Kelly closing fast.
Svaty reported raising $194,545 in contributions, good enough for seventh in total contributions slightly behind O’Malley.
Kelly, of Topeka, reported raising about $155,000 in the last two weeks of December after getting a late start in the race.
House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, reported $90,534 in contributions.
And former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer trailed the Democratic field in fund-raising, collecting $45,000 since announcing his candidacy in February.
Fox said Kelly has the inside track going forward because she’s “right there in the nexus of liberal money,” the Topeka-Lawrence-Kansas City corridor.
Except for Orman, all of the candidates will have to reload their finances if they win their Aug. 7 primaries.
By taking the independent route, Orman can skip campaigning for a party nomination and marshal resources for the general election on Nov. 6.
Jack Bergeson, a Wichita high school student whose campaign has generated national media attention, didn’t do much on the fund-raising front.
His only outside contribution was $300 worth of t-shirts donated by a Wichita restaurateur.