Riding in on the same replica gun-mounted Jeep that caused a controversy in Shawnee three weeks ago, Kris Kobach and hard rocker Ted Nugent made a short trip into a Lenexa parking lot to a fundraiser in Old Town.
Inside the Lenexa Community Center, they were warmly greeted by close to 200 people who had paid to hear Nugent play, perhaps get a selfie and hear Kobach talk about his bid to become Kansas governor.
The reception was much cooler across the street, where around 100 people gathered to chant, sing and encourage motorists to honk their opposition to Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State running for governor.
“This country is going in the absolute wrong direction,” said Diana Brinsko of Overland Park, who was among the protesters. Brinsko, 71, said she felt her generation became distracted with work and raising children and lost sight of what was at stake. “I didn’t pay attention well enough,” she said. “The more people we can get out to vote, the better it will be.”
Kobach has become well known for his efforts tighten voting rules by calling for proof of citizenship. His appearance in the Old Shawnee Days Parade on the flag-colored Jeep with the replica gun also ignited objections from people who said it was insensitive in the light of school shootings. The city of Shawnee issued an apology after several families who attended expressed concern with Kobach’s display.
Kobach did not apologize, however, and his appearance with Nugent underlined the gun issue. Besides being a guitarist and singer, Nugent is known for outspoken support of gun rights and Republican candidates.
Protesters seemed to be emphasizing immigration, however. Several carried signs referencing the recent conflicts over a Trump administration “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in more than 2,000 children being separated from their parents in attempted border crossings. Signs said “Free the Children,” and “Immigrants are Welcome Here,” and “No cages, no fear.” One woman wore a green top with “I Really Care Do U,” a reference to a green jacket First Lady Melania Trump wore in a visit to a shelter housing migrant children in Texas. Trump’s jacket read: I really don’t care do U?
The protest was organized by the Kobach is Wrong for Kansas Coalition. The new political action committee bills itself as a non-partisan research-based political action committee running an “anyone-but-Kobach campaign.”
Within the community center, though, attendees were upbeat at the prospect of hearing Nugent and Kobach. Some stopped to take a picture with the Jeep, which also has a statuette of President Donald Trump as its hood ornament. Supporters had paid from $50 to $500 for the event. Those paying top dollar got VIP seating and an autographed photo with Nugent and Kobach.
Dan Henson of Kansas City stopped for a picture with the Jeep on his way in. “I love it,” he said of the decked-out vehicle.
Kobach has Henson’s support because, “He’s been trying to stop all the illegal voting with voter ID,” he said. Then, indicating the protest group across the street: “What don’t those people like about him? Do they want to cheat at elections?”