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Kobach stands alone on his platform of stolen elections and dead voters. His other primary opponent, Elizabeth Ensley, says, "You have to take it seriously and look into it, but Kansas has good laws." Biggs, the current secretary of state, says Kobach would be fighting a "problem that doesn't exist."
Thornburgh, the former secretary, wouldn't talk with The Pitch, but he told the Kansas Free Press in an interview earlier this year: "We haven't had voter-fraud problems. By setting up an ID system, that will require us to pay for those IDs.... We have to decide on how much voter fraud we have and if it's practical. I live in a rural area, and many people drive up to 40 miles to vote. They get to the polls, don't have their IDs, and they get angry and may never vote again."
Kobach calls Thornburgh "defensive" and claims that fraud grew "under his watch." And while he admits that there are few examples of illegal immigrants voting in elections, he says that could be because we're not looking hard enough. So beyond pushing for voter IDs, Kobach says he would scour the state's databases for illegally registered voters.
Scouring databases would at least fall among those workaday, ministerial duties that Kobach wants to abandon. But in his most notable stint as a boss, Kobach didn't reveal himself to be a particularly adept manager.
In 2007, Kobach was named chairman of the Kansas GOP. During his two-year tenure, a Federal Election Commission audit revealed that he botched his number one job: keeping track of the money. The office's rent went unpaid for months, The Kansas City Star reported, and bank statements piled up untouched. The party's coffers were drained, dipping below $5,000.
Kobach blamed the mismanagement on Christian Morgan, the state GOP executive director. But it wasn't Kobach's only blunder as chairman.
Late in 2007, Blue Tide Rising, a liberal Kansas political blog, obtained a letter in which Kobach seemed to boast about the party's use of a controversial — and in some cases illegal — election tactic. It's called "voter caging," and it involves sending direct mail to registered voters and using undeliverable mail to challenge voters' registrations. It's obviously dubious; voters move. But the letter seemed to boast about the party's use of the ploy.
"The Kansas GOP has identified and caged more voters in the last 11 months than the previous two years!" the letter crowed.
Kobach calls the situation "laughable." He claims that the letter actually was referring to the party's Voter Vault, a nationwide database maintained by the GOP. It's a plausible explanation, considering the letter's context. But just in case, he also blames that on Morgan, who could not be reached for comment.
"He chose an unfortunate term," Kobach says, before being pulled away by his wife. The rally is still a half-hour away, but fans are showing up to take photos with him and the sheriff — at $250 a click.
As Kobach attends to his last-minute shmoozing, Arpaio looks bored. A few minutes before showtime, the sheriff wanders into the heavy July heat. Suited private security guards urge one another to "keep an eye on him."
"America's Toughest Sheriff" is now 78, and he looks less like the gunslinger lawman that Google Images memorializes — big hat, tan uniform, gun in the holster — and more like an aimless grandfather. Tonight, the only obvious tribute to his particular brand of law enforcement is his tiepin: a little gold pistol.