By Timothy Mclaughlin
(Reuters) - Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who serves as a member of U.S. President Donald Trump's election fraud commission, said on Thursday he was running for governor of the state.
Kobach, a Republican who has become a national leader in pushing for aggressive measures against undocumented immigrants and strengthening voter identification laws, touted his tough on immigration record at an announcement event for next year's race.
"Strong borders and respect for rule of law are essential to our country and to our state," Kobach said.
"Kansas is the sanctuary state of the Midwest. We are the only state in the five state area that has done nothing to discourage illegal immigration."
Measures would include ending sanctuary policies in Kansas counties, cutting public benefits and welfare to undocumented people, ending in-state tuition for undocumented students at state universities and insuring that state and local law enforcement cooperate with federal immigration authorities, he said.
As secretary of state, Kobach was a strong proponent of tightening Kansas' voter identification statutes since he was elected in 2010, making the state a symbol for mostly Republican Party supporters who said the rules were meant to prevent voter fraud.
Opponents, mostly Democrats, said they discriminate against minorities and Kobach's efforts faced numerous legal challenges.
Trump created a commission last month to investigate voter fraud following his unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally for his Democratic rival in the 2016 U.S. election.
Since July 2015, Kobach has secured nine convictions for voter fraud in Kansas, according to a May statement from his office.
Kobach, an Ivy League and Oxford educated former Department of Justice official, said in addition to tackling illegal immigration, he would crackdown on lobbying in state capital Topeka as well as fight tax increases if elected.
He was highly critical of a move by Republican lawmakers on Tuesday to override a veto by Republican Governor Sam Brownback of legislation that would raise taxes, saying there was no need to feed the "government monster."
The measure essentially rolls back income tax rate cuts the state enacted in 2012 that led to budget shortfalls. The higher rates are expected to raise $591 million in fiscal 2018, which begins July 1, and $633 million in fiscal 2019, according to a legislative analysis of the bill.
(Reporting by Timothy Mclaughlin in Chicago; Editing by Andrew Hay)