Kobach, Praeger, Schmidt win GOP state office primaries

TOPEKA — Kris Kobach, a law professor who helped draft Arizona's new immigration statute, has won the Republican primary for Kansas secretary of state.

Kobach defeated two other GOP candidates Tuesday: Shawnee County Election Commissioner Elizabeth Ensley of Topeka and Salina resident J.R. Claeys, a former chief executive officer of the National Association of Government Contractors.

Kobach had linked illegal immigration to voter fraud. Critics questioned whether he would be a full-time secretary of state because of his immigration work.

In the Republican primary for Kansas attorney general, State Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt of Independence defeated Junction City prosecutor Ralph DeZago.

Schmidt will run in November's general election against Democratic incumbent Steve Six, who had no primary opposition.

Six was appointed Kansas attorney general in January 2008, after his predecessor resigned because of a sex scandal.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger of Lawrence won a third term in office by defeating El Dorado insurance agent and tea party favorite Dave Powell in the GOP balloting.

No other party has a candidate for insurance commissioner, so Praeger will be re-elected in November.

In the secretary of state race, Kansas voters' concerns about illegal immigration pushed Kobach to an early lead that he never lost.

On the Democratic side, Secretary of State Chris Biggs had 63 percent of the vote in his primary against state Sen. Chris Steineger of Kansas City.

All three GOP secretary of state candidates support requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Kobach also would require Kansans to show proof of citizenship when registering to vote for the first time.

But such issues have been overshadowed by Kobach's notoriety as an adviser to city officials and state legislators across the nation who want to crack down on illegal immigration.

He's said that if he's elected, he'll work as secretary of state between 40 and 50 hours a week, then spend an additional 20 hours on immigration issues.

"Some people golf in their spare time," Kobach said last week. "I defend American sovereignty."

Claeys was skeptical enough to demand that his opponents sign a pledge to a full-time secretary of state. Neither did, though Ensley also criticized Kobach over the issue.

Biggs has held the job since March, when Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson named him to replace four-term incumbent Ron Thornburgh, who resigned to take a private sector job.

Biggs had the endorsements of Parkinson and the Legislature's top two Democrats. Also, Steineger was fined $5,000 this spring by the state ethics commission for a campaign finance violation.

The insurance commissioner's race will be settled by the Republican primary, because no other parties have candidates. Incumbent Sandy Praeger, who's seeking a third term, faces Dave Powell, an El Dorado insurance agent who's a tea party favorite. Praeger held the lead in early returns.

In the state treasurer's race, neither Democratic incumbent Dennis McKinney, of Greensburg, nor GOP challenger Ron Estes, of Wichita, the Sedgwick County treasurer, had primary opponents.