Just over a week ago, about 40 people, many carrying brightly colored signs, staged a rally in front of the Capitol protesting Kobachs voter ID measures.
Within the past year, Kobach now the states chief elections supervisor has extended his portfolio to include voter oversight and reform.
Photo ID laws are good for our country, he said. Proof of citizenship laws to register are good for our country.
Kobach is well aware that people who dislike his policies are squealing and complaining, but thats OK. Theyre entitled to disagree. But the bottom line is, Im right.
Campaign finance records show that Kobach is getting increased support from other ballot access activists.
Hes received contributions from Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department lawyer in the Bush administration who advocated for voter ID laws and was criticized for pursuing election strategies that had the effect of suppressing the minority vote.
Von Spakovsky, now with the conservative Heritage Foundation, praises Kobachs voter ID efforts in Kansas, including requiring proof of citizenship to vote.
I could see he had great ideas about how to improve our election process, von Spakovsky said. I think hes a very smart guy and I think hes a very principled person.
Some Democrats, however, argue that Kobachs work may be more focused on depressing voter turnout.
There should be no question that the secretary of state is going to administer fair and impartial elections. When youre working for clients that arent interested in the election process to a certain degree it leads to questions about the persons ability to really do the job in a completely impartial manner, said state Rep. Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat and House minority leader.
Smart and political
Being viewed as such a polarizing figure is nothing new for Kobach.
Born in Wisconsin, the future secretary of state moved to Topeka with his family in the mid-1970s. He graduated from Washburn Rural High School in 1984 as co-valedictorian and class president.
As an undergrad at Harvard in the 1980s, he opposed the university divesting from companies that did business in racially-segregated South Africa. He said divestiture was a bad idea because many businesses were actually taking steps in South Africa to undermine apartheid.
And while serving on the Overland Park City Council, he butted heads with the long-time mayor. During his 2004 congressional campaign, he fended off charges of racism after joining the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform to challenge a Kansas law giving children of undocumented immigrants in-state tuition.
Republicans think Kobach will be able to overcome many of those criticisms if he seeks higher office. But they worry his work outside the office may create a bigger political target for an opponent.
Kobach, who is married with four daughters ranging in age from 5 months to 8 years, said the amount of time he spends on immigration work ebbs and flows, depending on when legal briefs are due. Sometimes hell work until after 2:00 a.m.
It may cut down on my total amount of sleep. But I bring a lot of energy to this job, he said.
Its all part of a very organized life that Kobach leads, partly because hes afflicted with Type I diabetes, which requires him to carry an insulin pump. He has to carefully chart when he eats, how many carbohydrates he consumes, and how much exercise he gets.