U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, a Kansas Republican, endorsed state Sen. Kellie Warren in the GOP primary for attorney general. Others in the Republican field include former Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former U.S. prosecutor Tony Mattivi. The primary is Aug. 2. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, who defeated Kris Kobach in the 2020 Republican Party primary for the Senate, looked past his former rival to endorse a Johnson County state senator in the GOP contest for attorney general.
Marshall urged Kansas primary voters to get behind Sen. Kellie Warren, a Leawood attorney, in a field that includes Kobach, a former two-term secretary of state, and Tony Mattivi, a former federal prosecutor. The election is Aug. 2.
The U.S. senator said he was concerned Kansas voters could elect a Democrat to lead the office of attorney general. Electing a Republican to the job of attorney general is a priority, Marshall said, because the state’s top government attorney should mount vigorous legal challenges against policies of Democratic President Joe Biden.
“It’s imperative that we Republicans elect an attorney general who can win in November and push back on Joe Biden’s radical woke agenda in these next two critical years,” Marshall said. “We cannot afford to nominate someone who loses to Democrats over and over and over.”
Kobach has spoken during the campaign about filing four lawsuits against the Democratic administrations of Biden and President Barack Obama. Kobach said he would establish as attorney general a special litigation unit to sue the Biden administration in defense of Kansans’ constitutional rights.
Danedri Herbert, a Kobach campaign spokesperson, said he had been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and former U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft, a Missouri Republican who also served as U.S. attorney general.
“Both are also experienced and qualified attorneys,” Herbert said. “They trust Kris Kobach as the most qualified and experienced attorney in the race ready to take on the Biden administration in court — and win.”
Mattivi, of Topeka, said he was concerned special interests in Kansas were repeating mistakes of the past by throwing their weight behind Warren.
“I continue to be amazed by the tactics the political establishment and special interests will use to keep pushing voters to elect the most stunningly unqualified AG candidate in recent history,” Mattivi said. “Conservatives and political outsiders like myself see this for what it is — a desperate establishment ploy. It didn’t work out so well for Steve Watkins or Jeff Colyer, and it won’t work this time around.”
Mattivi said establishment interests also sided with U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins, a controversy-plagued GOP Kansas congressman ousted in 2020 by challenger Jake LaTurner, and with Gov. Jeff Colyer, a Republican, defeated by Kobach during the 2018 primary.
Chris Mann, a former Lawrence police officer, is expected to be the Kansas Democratic Party’s nominee for attorney general.
Marshall’s endorsement statement on Twitter raised an electability issue that has dogged Kobach, of rural Lecompton, in the campaign against Warren and Mattivi.
Conservative politicians and organizations endorsing Warren noted Kobach’s loss to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly in 2018 as a relevant test of his capacity to run statewide. In 2020, Kobach finished second in a crowded Republican field for U.S. Senate, with Marshall receiving 40 percent and Kobach 26 percent of the primary vote. Marshall went on to win the general election to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts.
Kobach easily defeated Democrats in his back-to-back statewide victories in 2010 and 2014. He beat Democrat Chris Biggs 59 percent to 37 percent in 2010. He followed with a 2014 reelection win of 59 percent to 40 percent over Democrat Jean Kurtis Schodorf.
In 2004, Kobach lost the general election for a U.S. House seat to Democrat Dennis Moore, a former Johnson County prosecutor, by a margin of 54 percent to 43 percent.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, is seeking the nomination for Kansas governor rather than seek reelection to that position.