In almost any other year, it would be hard to get much attention inside Kansas, let alone nationwide, in the race for Kansas secretary of state, by tradition a no-drama job that administers elections, handles business paperwork and publishes directories on government services. Instead, as Supreme Court rulings reignite a national debate over voter ID and fraud, no candidate more defines this moment of politicized voting rules than Secretary of State Kris W. Kobach, who has transformed an obscure office in a place far from the usual political battlegrounds, to become a lightning rod on restrictive voting and illegal immigration. Mr. Kobach has been a major conservative voice on voter issues for years. He has helped states write strict laws requiring proof of citizenship, presided over the “Kansas project” — a national hunt for double registrations — and, most recently, tried to keep a Democratic candidate on the ballot with the potential to help Kansas’ endangered Republican senator, Pat Roberts.
Now he faces an unexpectedly tough re-election fight in deeply Republican Kansas, where many think the party may have gone too far. It is the same wave threatening to swamp Gov. Sam Brownback.
“They moved too far to the right,” said Marc White, a lawyer who came to a candidates’ forum last week in Topeka, the state capital, where Mr. Kobach spoke. “We’re a Republican state, don’t get me wrong. But you’re going to have a backlash to the more extreme policies.”