I hope you’re doing well. I met Sybil for the first time last week at Starbuck’s; she was there with Cindy Holscher. Meeting her reminded me that I’ve been meaning to reach out to you regarding next year’s gubernatorial election. I hope you will forgive me if I impose on our rather fledgling friendship to offer you a little unsolicited political advice.
I’ve been talking to a lot of folks about this, as you might expect from someone as politics-obsessed as I. I’ll just put it to you right off the bat that for me, the highest priority in Kansas politics right now is making sure Kris Kobach does not become the next governor.
I’m sure I don’t have to enumerate the reasons why. Kobach as governor would be an unmitigated disaster. This year a bipartisan majority began the process of digging out of the Brownback experiment, over the opposition of a misguided but largely checked-out governor. The last word anyone would use to describe Kobach is checked out. His harder-than-hard right policies and his monomanical focus on the “issues” of voter fraud and immigration are exactly what Kansas doesn’t need at this delicate stage - or ever, really. Just when we’re digging out of the hole, a Kobach governorship would kick us back down it, and throw dirt on us besides.
The problem is that, as things stand right now, in my estimation the path is relatively clear to this disastrous result. I do not believe that there is any Republican who can beat Kobach in a primary: he starts off with 30-35% hardcore support amongst Republicans, universal name recognition, and easy access to a large number of Trump supporters. I don’t think it matters how much the field is split: in a split field his name recognition gives him the advantage; in a 2-person race against Ed O’Malley the almost fanatical regard in which he’s held by all too much of the Republican base would give him the victory. Honestly, I think he would eat Ed O’Malley for breakfast.
As for the Democrats, I don’t see the one in the current field who can beat Kobach in a general election. Josh Svaty isn’t going to win a Dem primary, and I doubt Carl Brewer can raise enough money. Jim Ward would make it interesting at least -- I might actually go to the state fair to hear that debate. But Jim is undisciplined and Kobach is very disciplined, and that will make a big difference.
Which leads me to you. Rumors are that you are considering jumping into the race. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this, and my recommendation is that if you do so, you run as a Democrat.
I know, I know; hear me out.
There are just too many Democrats who wouldn’t vote for you as an Independent. They say, “The only question the press should ask Orman is if he’s trying to help Kobach become governor.” Now, that’s not how I see it, because I don’t think the race without you makes any of the Dems more likely to win. What difference does it make if the Dem gets 20% with you in the race or 40% without you? Kobach still wins. If there are, say, 15-20% of Dem voters who won’t vote for an Independent on principle, in my judgment that just makes the hill too steep to climb.
However, these very people, who say they would not vote for you as an Independent, who say that your entry into the race would guarantee a Kobach victory, when you are posited as a Democratic candidate, say, “I could go for that.” I believe you would be the odds-on favorite for the nomination on Day 1, with the name recognition (and platform) that Svaty doesn’t have and the ability to raise money that Brewer doesn't have. And with the nomination, you’d have every Dem and a large number of Mod Rs on your side. Frankly, It just makes the accounting easier.
Now, of course I am well aware that you have invested a great deal in the idea of being independent of the two parties. You wrote the book, after all. I know It’s very easy for me, who doesn’t hold that issue dear, to advise you to throw it all to the side for the sake of an election. But I would make two points:
- For all your belief in the model, there is as yet no proof that it can work. There have been several Independent candidates in Kansas over the past couple of years, and with the exception of your Senate run they haven’t even caused their regular-party opponents to break a sweat.
- It bears repeating: the highest priority in Kansas politics right now is making sure Kris Kobach does not become the next governor. However dearly you hold the principle of independence, it is not as important as making sure Kobach is kept out of power.
It really comes down to this: As a Democrat, the path for you is clear. As an Independent, it isn’t. And the stakes are just too high.
And look, if Bernie Sanders can do it, you can do it. I would even be okay with you making air quotes with your fingers every time you say “I’m a Democrat” in public. But what I couldn’t abide is Kobach becoming governor if there’s a way to stop him - a way I believe that only you can provide.
Thanks for listening.