August 6, 2018 / 4:43 PM / 10 months ago

Trump backs conservative Kobach for Kansas governor over incumbent

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity co-chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (L) at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 19, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday endorsed controversial conservative Kris Kobach’s bid for governor of Kansas, rejecting the state’s current Governor Jeff Colyer in a competitive state primary for the nomination.

Kobach, a national leader of the push to restrict illegal immigration and pass more restrictive voting laws, advised Trump’s presidential campaign on immigration issues and served as vice chairman of Trump’s short-lived voter fraud commission.

Kobach, the current Kansas secretary of state, and Colyer are running head-to-head in polls in a crowded primary contest on Tuesday for governor of the conservative state.

In a tweet, Trump called Kobach “a strong and early supporter of mine” and said he had the president’s “full and total” endorsement. “Strong on Crime, Border & Military. VOTE TUESDAY!” Trump wrote.

Colyer, the former lieutenant governor, moved into the top job earlier this year when Republican Sam Brownback took a job in the Trump administration as a religious freedom ambassador.

Trump made no mention of the voter fraud commission in his endorsement, but Kobach was the leading proponent of a theory backed by the president that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 presidential election.

A federal court ruled against Kobach’s claims of voter fraud in April and held him in contempt for violating an injunction meant to safeguard voting rights.

Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Andrea Ricci

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