Field for attorney general’s race starts to form

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As soon as Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced plans to run for governor, candidates were already positioning to run for the state’s top law enforcement office.

Leading the speculation has been former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who acknowledged that he may run for the position after failed campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate.

Then there’s state Rep. Blaine Finch, the third highest ranking Republican in the House; state Sen. Kellie Warren; Leavenworth County District Attorney Todd Thompson; and possibly Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay.

All except Kagay, who couldn’t be reached for comment, say they are looking at the race to replace Schmidt, who has served as attorney general since 2011.

The potential Democratic field is less defined with no candidates emerging so far, although some believe a Kobach candidacy could change that very quickly.

The only candidate who’s been mentioned — even if just fleetingly — is Kristie Welder, the wife of former congressional candidate Brent Welder.

Kristie Welder, now in private pratice, earned her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and was executive editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

Kobach, 55, has the highest profile, and some believe that his name recognition coupled with a large primary field and the fact that abortion will be on the ballot might give him an edge in a Republican primary.

Kris Kobach

At the same time, Kobach is saddled with losing races for governor and the U.S. Senate and a reputation for an inability to raise large sums of money.

He was also held in contempt of court and ordered to take continuing legal education courses stemming from his unsuccessful defense of the state law requiring proof of citizenship for registering to vote.

“I have been asked by a number of people to consider running for the attorney general spot, in particular in light of the Biden administration exceeding its authority in various ways,” Kobach said. “I am considering it.”

“In the past during the Obama administration, state attorneys general were an effective force to reinforce the rule of law when the administration overstepped its bounds.”

Kobach said his decision would depend on what he’s doing next year.

Most recently, he’s joined a new national nonprofit called Alliance for Free Citizens, a conservative group that’s developing model legislation for different states.

“Basically, it would be whether I could make a bigger difference doing what I’m doing or serving as an attorney general,” he said.

Another frequently mentioned name is Finch, who has been in the House since 2013 and is now in his fifth term representing parts of Franklin and Osage counties.

 Blaine Finch

The Ottawa Republican most recently played a key role in leading passage of two loan programs to help municipal utility companies and wholesale natural gas customers dig out from spiking utility prices from February’s extended cold snap.

Finch said in a recent interview he was looking at making a run for the position.

“There’s been a lot of good work done in terms of challenging federal overreach in Kansas, in terms of trying to fight crime and keep people safe in Kansas and take care of the vulnerable, like the elderly, by the current attorney general,” Finch said.

“I’ve worked very closely with Derek Schmidt over the last several years on a lot of those initiatives,” he said.

“I think there’s value in having consistency in terms of having those priorities for the office,” he said.

Finch, 41, said he was focused on wrapping up work during the legislative session before making any decision about running for attorney general.

“I have not put any deadline on the exploration or consideration of options at this point,” Finch said.

Another widely mentioned name was Warren, who has risen quickly from the state House to the state Senate where she now chairs the Judiciary Committee.

Warren, 52, has a demonstrated record of being able to raise large sums and recently served on the conference committee that crafted a new emergency management plan.

Kellie Warren

Last year, Warren raised more than $200,000 in her succcessful campaign against Democrat Joy Koesten for the Senate District 11 seat.

“People across the state of Kansas have been encouraging me to run for attorney general. I appreciate the support,” Warren said in a statement.

“My focus this session has been ensuring we pass conservative reforms to rein in the governor’s emergency powers and closing the loopholes that allowed sexual predators to prey on innocent children,” she said.

She pointed to passage of the constitutional amendment on abortion and efforts to control the powers of the executive branch as examples of her successes this year.

“This is a track record of results, conservative leadership and proven results that Kansans demand,” she said.

Another name that’s been floated has been Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson, who has been active at the Capitol advocating for legislation.

Thompson, 45, said running for attorney general is a decision he would have to make with his family.

Todd Thompson

“It’s something I want to think about,” he said.

Thompson, currently president of the Kansas County & District Attorneys Association, has been the Leavenworth County attorney said 2009.

Two years ago, Thompson worked with Schmidt to pass a law that  prevented state judges from lowering prison sentences for adult sex offenders because a child victim was considered an  “aggressor” who contributed to the crime.

The law had allowed judges to reduce the length of prison sentences by finding that the victim of certain crimes contributed to the criminal conduct by being an “aggressor.”

The law stemmed from a Leavenworth County judge giving a more lenient isentence to a 67-year-old man convicted of a sex crime against a 13-year-old girl, who was described as the “aggressor” in the case.