TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Sec. of State Kris Kobach fired back Friday against allegations from Gov. Jeff Colyer that Kobach called "incorrect" and with potential to "undermine the public's confidence in the election process."
However, Kobach also said he considered Colyer's comments and appointed Assistant Sec. of State Eric Rucker to carry out election responsibilities until the outcome of the primary election is decided.
"Although I would discharge my duties ethically, impartially, and responsibly, I have carefully considered your request and have decided that it is in the best interest of the citizens of Kansas that I permit another to perform the duties of the secretary of state until the conclusion of the 2018 primary election process," Kobach wrote in his response to Colyer.
Colyer wrote a letter to Kobach late Thursday, calling on Kobach to recuse himself from further oversight of the election process. Colyer suggested Kobach ask Attorney General Derek Schmidt to take over, but Kobach stated that was not possible under Kansas law.
"No other state office is permitted to exercise these responsibilities under law," Kobach wrote. "I will not breach the public trust and arbitrarily assign my responsibilities to another office that is not granted such authority by the laws of Kansas."
In response to Kobach's statement, the Colyer campaign asked the Sec. of State to reconsider their request to allow the Attorney General to provide legal advise, "to reassure Kansans that the election between Secretary Kobach and Governor Colyer is free from conflicts of interest."
"While Eric Rucker is a good and decent man, we do not believe assigning Kris Kobach's duties to an at-will employee, whom Sec. Kobach can fire at any time, actually addresses the clear conflict of interest that exists," they argued.
Rucker had been reprimanded in the past for his handling of abortion investigations. He was a top aide to former Attorney General Phill Kline when both men faced criticism over investigations of abortion providers. Rucker received an informal admonition from a disciplinary panel for allowing misleading information to be given to the Kansas Supreme Court.
Kobach's letter also defended advice he and his staff have offered county elections officials, saying it is in accordance with state law. Colyer's campaign accused Kobach of telling counties to disregard mail ballots that came in after Tuesday and to disregard provisional ballots cast by unaffiliated voters.
"As governor of Kansas, your unrestrained rhetoric has the potential to undermine the public's confidence in the election process," Kobach wrote. "May I suggest that you trust the people of Kansas have made the right decision at the polls and that our election officials will properly determine the result as they do in every election."
Kobach concluded by reminding Colyer that the governor and lieutenant governor also play roles in the election process through the state canvassing board and state objection board. Kobach said he would not publicly call on them to recuse themselves from those positions, but added, "should you decide to follow my lead and address any appearance of a conflict of interest by removing yourselves from these boards, please let my office know immediately and let my office know who will serve on these boards in your place."
Discrepancies were found Thursday between vote totals from four counties and those displayed by the Secretary of State's office that narrowed Kobach's lead over Colyer to 100 votes. The office was providing updates Friday reflecting those corrections, as well as mail ballots received since Tuesday.
County boards of canvassers have until Aug. 20 to meet and consider provisional ballots. The State Elections Director said Friday that there were 8,999 provisional ballots cast statewide.