State Sen. Kellie Warren joins growing field of candidates vying for Kansas attorney general

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
Sen. Kellie Warren, R-Leawood, pictured speaking at a rally in January, announced she would join the growing race for Kansas Attorney General Tuesday.

In a move widely expected by political observers, Sen. Kellie Warren, R-Leawood, announced Tuesday she would join the race for Kansas attorney general, a move pitting her against former Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

The announcement has been rumored for months, with fuel only added to the fire after Warren made an initial filing with the secretary of state's office in June laying the groundwork for a run.

Warren is in her first term as a state senator after two years in the Kansas House, defeating moderate incumbents to win both seats. She serves as an attorney at the Overland Park-based Property Law Firm.

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The 52-year-old gained prominence during the 2021 legislative session when she served as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The role gave her major input on a variety of issues, most notably a sweeping rewrite of the state's emergency management law in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Warren also took an active role in the push to ban vaccine passports in Kansas, as well as an effort to compensate businesses closed because of COVID-19. She was also a heavy supporter of a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the state's constitution, which will go before the voters in August, 2022 — the same time as the GOP primary for attorney general.

A video announcing Warren's campaign, however, included a heavy focus on the national political landscape, featuring images of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and references to President Joe Biden.

"It is time for us to stand against the Biden administration and liberals who are dedicated to ‘suing until Kansas is blue,'" Warren said in the video.

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She also made a thinly veiled reference to Kobach, whose repeated runs at higher office have made him a divisive figure among Kansas Republicans, saying "some people are great at creating headlines, but they never win."

Kobach hit back with an announcement of his own Tuesday: the endorsement of former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who Kobach has often referred to as a key mentor during his time working for the U.S. Department of Justice during President George W. Bush's administration.

In a separate statement, Kobach spokesperson Casey Burns took aim at Warren's legal background in criticizing her entrance into the race.

"Kansas doesn't need a homeowner association lawyer in the Attorney General's office, they need a fighter who will go to battle against the illegal and unconstitutional executive orders of the Biden Administration," Burns said.

Jared Suhn, a campaign consultant for Warren, shot back that "she has accomplished more for Kansans in three years in the legislature than Kris Kobach has done as a failed career politician and unsuccessful attorney." 

Kobach and Warren are running to replace current Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who is instead seeking to challenge Gov. Laura Kelly in 2022.

The field for attorney general is likely to grow in the coming weeks. House Speaker Pro Tempore Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa, is widely expected to announce a campaign and other figures, including Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay could elect to run as well.

On the Democrat side, Kansas City, Mo., lawyer Kristie Welder has publicly said she is considering a run. Kobach's presence in the race has encouraged liberals, giving them a potential fundraising boost as they attempt to win an office they haven't held in over a decade.