Former federal prosecutor Tony Mattivi wades into Kansas attorney general race

Andrew Bahl
Topeka Capital-Journal
Tony Mattivi, a former federal prosecutor and coordinator of Kansas' anti-terrorism efforts, formally announced his bid for attorney general Wednesday.

Tony Mattivi, a former federal prosecutor who handled the case of a man allegedly behind the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, on Wednesday formally announced his campaign for Kansas attorney general.

Mattivi, who filed to run last week, is the latest entrant into what is expected to be a hotly contested race in the Republican primary. Controversial former Secretary of State Kris Kobach announced his bid earlier this year and was joined by Sen. Kellie Warren, R-Leawood, earlier this month.

The group is aiming to replace current Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who has launched his own run for governor.

Mattivi served as a federal prosecutor for more than two decades and coordinated anti-terrorism efforts in Kansas before he retired from his position in November. Previously, he worked for the attorney general's office and as an assistant Shawnee County district attorney and is a graduate of Washburn University Law School.

Most notable, Mattivi spent more than five years handling the prosecution of Abd al Rahim Al-Nashiri, the man suspected of planning the attack on the USS Cole, a naval destroyer stationed in Yemen. In that attack, 17 sailors were killed and 39 were wounded.

In an interview, Mattivi argued "no other candidate" could match his level of experience in a courtroom. Stressing his conservative credentials, he said his entrance into the race was a bid to "let voters know there is another option."

"I can be the one who runs the office efficiently," Mattivi said. "And that's something that the other candidates just don't bring to the table." 

He argued "federal government overreach is a significant issue right now" and pointed to President Joe Biden administration's decision to halt construction on the Keystone XL pipeline.

At an event in Wichita, Mattivi was supported by Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett, his campaign treasurer, and the Kansas State Troopers Association. He said more endorsements from the law enforcement and prosecutor communities were expected to follow.

But Kobach and Warren have countered with their own support from law enforcement leaders in recent days. Warren announced the backing of Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden last week and Kobach rolled out Monday  endorsements from a group of sheriffs, including Shawnee County Sheriff Brian Hill.

On the Democrat side, no candidate has formally announced their campaign but 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.