UPDATED: Warren makes attorney general race official

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(Updated to include more comments from Warren and potential Democratic candidate Kristie Welder).

Republican state Sen. Kellie Warren made it official Tuesday morning: She’s running for Kansas attorney general.

In an appearance on a radio talk show Tuesday morning, the first-term state senator officially announced she would run for attorney general.

“The attorney general’s office is our first line of defense to protect those freedoms and liberties and I will fight every day to protect them,” Warren told KCMO’s Pete Mundo.

“People want somone who will stand up for them, someone who will stand up and fight for them and what they believe in and their values,” she said.

“Most importantly they want someone who can win and win. You’ve got to win to be able to protects those values and freedoms,” she said.

The announcement, which was preceded weeks ago by her appointment of a treasurer, sets up a Republican primary with former Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Republican state Rep. Blaine Finch, who is the third highest ranking member in the Kansas House, indicated months ago he was looking at the race, but there has been no more signs about about whether he intends to run.

On the Democratic side, Kansas City lawyer Kristie Welder, the wife of former congressional candidate Brent Welder, also is taking a hard look at a run for attorney general.

A spokesman for Kobach immediately trashed Warren’s background in property law.

“If there is a less relevant legal background for the Attorney General’s office than real estate law, I don’t know what it is,” spokesman Casey Burns said.

“Kansas doesn’t need a homeowner association lawyer in the attorney general’s office, they need a fighter who will go to battle against the illegal and unconstitutional executive orders of the Biden administration,” she said.

“Kris Kobach has the experience and qualifications to defend our Second Amendment rights and secure our elections with voter ID at the polls.”

Jared Suhn, the senator’s consultant, fired right back.

“Sen. Warren has led the charge to pass some of the most consequential conservative reforms in Kansas,” Suhn said.

“She has accomplished more for Kansans in three years in the Legislature than Kris Kobach has done as a failed career politician and unsuccessful attorney.”

Welder joined the fray in a post on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon.

“Kellie Warren, just like Kris Kobach, represents the failed policies of the past,” Welder said in her Facebook post.

Kristie Welder

“Just like Kobach, she’s an extremist and a spineless Trump groveler. And just like Kobach, she has exactly zero qualifications to be the attorney general.

“Our next attorney general needs a brain, a heart, and a spine – clearly, that’s not Kobach or Warren,” she wrote.

Kobach’s campaign, meanwhile, also secured an endorsement from former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Kobach previously worked for Ashcroft when he was a White House Fellow about 20 years ago.

John Ashcroft

“Kris Kobach was one of my most qualified, competent and dedicated attorneys at the Justice Department when I served as U.S. Attorney General,” Ashcroft said in a statement.

“His experience and skill as an attorney are among the best in the nation.”

Warren, chair of the Senate Judiciary committee, 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.

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

Late in the session, she unsuccessfully pushed to reopen the emergency management law, partly in an effort that to guarantee that local school boards would hold hearings from aggrieved parties challenging COVID-19 restrictions.

Warren said there were reports that school boards were  hiring third parties to conduct hearings, something that also would have been prevented under her plan.

The provision in the law allowing school districts to issue health orders along with the grievance procedures for anyone affected by those directives expired when the Legislature decided not to extend the emergency declaration.

Warren was first elected to the Kansas House in 2018 when she defeated Koesten – then a Republican incumbent – with 58% of the vote.

She defeated Democrat Brian Clausen in the general election for District 28 with 56% of the vote.

Last year, she defeated moderate Republican incumbent John Skubal in the primary for Senate District 11 with 64% of the vote.

She won the general election over Koesten – then a Democrat – with 53% of the vote.

Here’s the campaign video Warren released today: