Brian McClendon


Man who put Kansas at the center of Google Earth running for Kansas Secretary of State

He literally put Kansas on the map.


Ellen Ioanes

Layer 8

Published Jan 23, 2018   Updated May 22, 2021, 3:44 am CDT

It’s tough to follow an act like Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who headed up Trump’s disbanded voter fraud commission. But as Kobach eyes a run for governor, former Google and Uber executive Brian McClendon is going to have a go at it. 

McClendon’s affection for his home state runs deep. Although he’s worked as a Silicon Valley executive for the past three decades, overseeing mapping at both Uber and Google, McClendon has recently taught at the University of Kansas, his alma mater. He even put Lawrence, Kansas, where he grew up and where the university is located, as the center of Google Earth.

On Google Earth, if you open it up and zoom and zoom, eventually you’ll be taken straight to McClendon’s apartment.

Placing Lawrence the center of Google Earth was one way to stay in touch with his roots in Kansas (the zooming trick only works on versions of Google Earth downloaded to PCs; a friend from University of Kansas adopted the software for Macs moved the center 100 miles away to Chanute, Kansas).

McClendon doesn’t have a background in politics, but claims that the position of Secretary of State has evolved to become a much more technical position than it once was. According to McClendon’s campaign website:

“The Kansas Secretary of State has a duty to secure our elections, protect our voting rights, and safeguard voter & business data. Too many states have been hacked by foreign agents. Too many eligible Kansans have been discouraged or blocked from voting by poorly designed systems here at home. Our elections can be both secure AND accessible. These are technical problems with technical solutions.”

The statement subtly points to Kobach’s efforts to prove widespread voter fraud both in Kansas and in the 2016 election. He helped implement controversial laws in the state which require voters to present proof of citizenship, like a birth certificate or passport, in order to vote. Kobach has also convicted nine Kansans for election crimes since 2015.

On a national level, Kobach was the Vice Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was disbanded earlier this month by executive order. In a statement accompanying the action, the White House blamed “many states,” including Kansaswhich “refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry” for the demise of the group.

McClendon hasn’t filed or started fundraising yet, but he joins a number of candidates running to replace Kobach, namely Democratic state Senator Marci Francisco, and Republican state representatives Scott Schwab and Keith Esau.  

And while Kansas went almost completely red in 2016, with Trump picking up 56.2 percent of the vote, recent Democratic victories in comfortably Republican states could give McClendon, who is running as a Democrat, hope.

As Michael J. Coren points out in Quartz, Kansas was once considered one of the more moderate states, and recently, voters have been pushing back against some of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s policies.

Primaries take place on Aug. 7, 2018, and the general election will be held November 6.

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*First Published: Jan 23, 2018, 12:15 pm CST