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Trump endorses anti-immigration hard-liner Kris Kobach in Kansas GOP primary

Then-President-elect Donald Trump greets Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach at the clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in Bedminster Township, N.J., on Nov. 20, 2016. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump on Monday endorsed Kansas gubernatorial primary candidate Kris Kobach, throwing his support behind the controversial anti-illegal immigration hard-liner who previously served as the vice chairman of Trump’s now-disbanded voting integrity commission.

In a morning tweet from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., Trump praised Kobach, who is Kansas’s secretary of state, as “a strong and early supporter of mine.”

“He is a fantastic guy who loves his State and our Country — he will be a GREAT Governor and has my full & total Endorsement!” Trump said. “Strong on Crime, Border & Military. VOTE TUESDAY!”

Kobach faces six other Republicans in Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary. Polling shows the race is competitive, with Kobach and the incumbent, Gov. Jeff Colyer, as the front-runners.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, spoke at its first meeting on July 19. (Video: Reuters)

Colyer secured the endorsement last month from the state’s political giant, former Senate majority leader Bob Dole, the party’s presidential nominee in 1996, and Dole reiterated his support Monday with a not-so-subtle message that underscored Kobach’s potential electoral challenge in November. 

“Proud to support Jeff Colyer for Governor—our best choice to win tomorrow AND in the Fall,” Dole tweeted Monday afternoon. “He doesn’t just talk; he delivers.”

Dole was the rare former Republican presidential standard-bearer who endorsed Trump in 2016. 

With his frequent pledges to “Make Kansas Great Again,” Kobach has embraced both Trump’s policies and his style. The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has also visited Kansas twice to campaign for Kobach.

Kobach has risen to national prominence due to his efforts to combat what he alleges is widespread voter fraud and illegal immigration. Yet his efforts, which align with several of Trump’s policy objectives, have recently hit some speed bumps.

Last month, a judge struck down a strict new law sponsored by Kobach that required Kansans to provide proof of citizenship to register to vote. The judge also ordered Kobach to attend six hours of continuing legal-education classes for “repeated and flagrant violations of discovery and disclosure rules.”

A recent report by ProPublica and the Kansas City Star detailed Kobach’s work over the years to craft anti-immigration ordinances for towns across the country — an effort that has resulted in hefty legal bills for the municipalities while Kobach himself profited handsomely.

And last week, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of the members of the voter fraud commission, accused Kobach and the White House of making false statements on the issue. Dunlap said the panel apparently was established not to investigate claims of fraudulent behavior but, rather, to validate them.

Amy B Wang and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.