Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded his extremely close Republican primary to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — who will be the Republican nominee for governor — on Tuesday night. A week after the Kansas election, Colyer said he would not challenge the results of the vote tally in court or request a recount.
Colyer’s concession comes as the two men were still locked in a close race a week after the Kansas primary on August 7. As of Tuesday, Kobach had more than a 300-vote lead on Colyer, according to Wichita Eagle reporter Jonathan Shorman.
The governor sounded congratulatory in his speech, saying he wanted to ensure the next governor of the state was still a Republican. Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly, who won 51 percent of the vote in the August 7 primaries, will face Kobach in the fall, as will independent candidate Greg Orman.
“We will make sure the next governor is fully prepared, and I hope it is a Republican governor,” Colyer said.
Even with Colyer’s conciliatory speech, the last week in Kansas Republican politics hasn’t exactly been cordial as the last remaining votes were counted in an extremely close race. Vote-counting errors made the race between Kobach and Colyer tighter, and there were questions about why Kobach — the state secretary of state — didn’t immediately recuse himself from the recount process.
As Vox’s Tara Golshan wrote last week:
On Thursday, state election officials reported that they discovered an error that shortchanged Colyer 70 votes. According to the Washington Post, a clerical error in the secretary of state’s office entered Thomas County’s votes for Colyer as 422 votes, where it should have been 522. In another county, results that should have given 257 votes for Kobach and 220 votes for Colyer, instead were filed as 110 for Kobach and 103 for Colyer.
Kansas doesn’t require an automatic recount in a close race; as Vox explained it’s up to a candidate, registered voter, or election officials to ask for one. The state would pay for a recount if the margin is less than .5 percent.
The same day as the vote-error discovery, Kobach recused himself from the recount process, a move he described as symbolic.
Kobach is a controversial conservative and staunch Trump ally who served as the vice chair of Trump’s now disbanded voter fraud commission. Trump endorsed him the day before the election. It is an unusual move for a Republican president to endorse the primary opponent of a sitting Republican governor, but Trump lending support for Kobach was a sign of how loyal the Kansas secretary of state is to the president.
Democrats see an opportunity in Kansas, especially after former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s extremely unpopular conservative policies — including extreme tax cuts — left the state’s economy and school system in the lurch.
Some Democrats are likely celebrating Kobach’s win; he is seen as such a hardline conservative that some think he would be easier to beat than Colyer. But Kobach has been in the state a long time, and the big question is whether Democrats — and Kelly in particular — can beat him in November.