Kansas’ federal candidates loathe potential unruly transfer of U.S. presidential power

Trump’s frequent allegations on voter fraud fuels bipartisan trepidation

GOP 2nd District Republican Jake LaTurner again fails to substantiate claim Democratic candidate Michelle De La Isla
GOP 2nd District Republican Jake LaTurner again fails to substantiate claim Democratic candidate Michelle De La Isla "defunded" Topeka Police Department while serving on the city council and as mayor. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Michelle De La Isla and Jake LaTurner remain partisan rivals in the 2nd District congressional campaign, but both expect President Donald Trump to respect the Constitution by ushering in a peaceful transition of power if voters reverse course in November.

LaTurner, the Republican state treasurer, and De La Isla, the mayor of Topeka, responded to a request for comment following Trump’s statements about adhering to revered traditions on transfer of federal government authority. It would become a moot issue if Trump prevailed, but a transition would occur if Democrat Joe Biden won.

“Since our nation’s founding, the peaceful transition of power between presidents has been foundational to America,” De La Isla said. “Our presidents, regardless of political party, should respect that precedent.”

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, responded to speculation about transfer of presidential power if Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump by saying a "peaceful transition of power is an essential part of our democracy." (Submitted to Kansas Reflector)
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, responded to speculation about transfer of presidential power if Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump by saying a “peaceful transition of power is an essential part of our democracy.” (Submitted to Kansas Reflector)

LaTurner said a White House spokeswoman expressed a belief the president would “accept the results of a free and fair election and, given our country has a nearly 250-year record of providing just that, I am confident we will continue to have a peaceful transition of power this year and for years to come should the American public vote for that.”

Trump’s responses to inquiries about whether he would follow constitutional mandates if a transition was required didn’t quell speculation of a possible showdown about the national vote in the presidential race.

The Kansas Reflector reached out to the six members of the Kansas congressional delegation and the candidates for four U.S. House seats and the U.S. Senate seat opened by retirement of U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts. Three Republicans and four Democrats responded.

Barbara Bollier, a Democrat campaigning for U.S. Senate against Republican nominee Roger Marshall, said she expected Trump and Biden to appreciate the necessity of a well-executed transfer of power if called for in January. Marshall didn’t respond to the request for a statement.

“The American people know that our democracy is bigger than any one person or one president,” Bollier said.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican, said the “peaceful transition of power is an essential part of our democracy. Nothing but the rule of law under the Constitution determines this process.”

Democrat Laura Lombard, who is campaignin tg for the U.S. House in the 4th District, said talk of not respecting the will of voters in the presidential election was dangerous. She said: "We may not always like the results of presidential elections, but the losing candidate has always conceded." (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
Democrat Laura Lombard, who is campaigning for the U.S. House in the 4th District, said talk of not respecting the will of voters in the presidential election was dangerous. She said: “We may not always like the results of presidential elections, but the losing candidate has always conceded.” (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Amanda Adkins, the Republican nominee in the 3rd District that features Johnson and Wyandotte counties, said the country would come together in such moments as it had in the past. Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids didn’t reply.

“I’m fully confident that the winner of the presidential election will be inaugurated on January 20, as our nation has 58 times before,” Adkins said.

Democrats Kali Barnett, a candidate in the large rural 1st District, and Laura Lombard, the candidate in the 4th District surrounding Wichita, said Trump’s comments indicating he might not concede were problematic because it could ignite a constitutional crisis.

Tracey Mann, Barnett’s GOP opponent, and U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, a Republican seeking re-election against Lombard, declined to share their views.

“The president’s comments are extremely disturbing,” Lombard said. “The United States has maintained its democracy through peaceful transitions of power since its inception. We may not always like the results of presidential elections, but the losing candidate has always conceded.”

Democratic candidate Kali Barnett, who is running for the 1st District U.S. House seat against Republican Tracey Mann, said: "Any suggestion that another choice besides peaceful transferal of power exists should be a cause for alarm for all Americans regardless of party." (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)
Democratic candidate Kali Barnett, who is running for the 1st District U.S. House seat against Republican Tracey Mann, said: “Any suggestion that another choice besides peaceful transferal of power exists should be a cause for alarm for all Americans regardless of party.” (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

Barnett said the tradition of transitioning from president to president helped build trust in American’s institutions.

“Any suggestion that another choice besides peaceful transferal of power exists should be a cause for alarm for all Americans regardless of party,” she said.

While responding to questions from reporters, Trump declined to commit to a peaceful transition if not re-elected to a second term. Trump generated uncertainty Wednesday when he answered questions about a potential transition by saying “we’re going to have to see what happens.” On Thursday, the president said “we want to make sure that the election is honest, and I’m not sure that it can be.”

Prominent Republican lawmakers in Washington said speculation about Trump instigating a disorderly transition were misguided, while Democrats contended Trump could rely on powerful tools of the presidency to challenge the outcome and prolong his time in office.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.