From left, Shawnee County Commissioners Kevin Cook, Bill Riphan and Aaron Mays meet with Shawnee County election commissioner Andrew Howell on Monday at the election office to certify the Aug. 2 results. (Thad Allton for Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — State Sen. Caryn Tyson conceded the Republican Party’s nomination for state treasurer amid a recount she sought in six counties that barely nudged the needle in an extremely close primary.
Tyson, a GOP senator from Parker in eastern Kansas, sent a message Thursday to supporters of her campaign who provided donations, walked door-to-door, put up yard signs and prayed on her behalf. She lost by less than 500 votes out of 431,000 cast statewide.
“While our campaign is over,” she said, “I will continue to work to protect our freedoms and to make Kansas a shining state in the nation. Over the course of the campaign, I have been blessed to meet and get to know so many amazing Kansans.”
Unofficial returns from the Aug. 2 primary and additional ballots processed by counties during the canvassing showed state Rep. Steven Johnson, of Assaria in central Kansas, with a lead of 475 votes.
Tyson sought a recount in Barton, Cloud, Dickinson, Harvey, McPherson and Ottawa counties. The secretary of state’s office said the recount in four of those counties shaved five votes from Johnson’s lead. The recount in McPherson and Cloud counties remained unofficial, but Johnson’s campaign said results in those two counties wouldn’t flip outcome of the primary.
Johnson has turned his attention to the November contest against Treasurer Lynn Rogers, a Democrat appointed to the position by Gov. Laura Kelly following resignation of Republican Jake LaTurner, who now serves in the U.S. House.
“We didn’t lose any ground while we waited for all the legally cast ballots to be counted,” Johnson said. “Our team hit the ground running knowing this process could take weeks to complete.”
Johnson raised about $100,000 in days following the primary election, and his campaign manager urged Republicans to unify behind GOP nominee.
“I want to thank my opponent for her willingness to run and for her continued service to this great state,” Johnson said. “I also want to thank my many volunteers and supporters who have been critical in winning a close race where every voter contact mattered. With our base of support we are well-positioned to win the general election.”
‘Never stop fighting’
Three of the state’s largest counties are among those still conducting a hand recount of ballots cast for the constitutional amendment on abortion.
Melissa Leavitt, of Colby, requested the recount and posted $119,000 to cover the cost, with support from anti-abortion activist Mark Gietzen, of Wichita. A Christian-themed online fundraiser has generated $52,000 in support of the endeavor.
Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected the constitutional amendment, which would have ended the right to terminate a pregnancy in Kansas. Leavitt said she hoped the recount, which was limited to nine counties, would provide information about election integrity.
As of Friday afternoon, three counties had reported completed recount numbers to the Secretary of State’s Office. Each of those counties — Harvey, Jefferson and Lyon — reported a variation of one to four votes from earlier totals. Johnson, Sedgwick and Shawnee counties were among those still conducting a hand recount, along with Crawford, Douglas and Thomas counties.
“So far, not one single county has matched their original certified counts,” Leavitt said in a TikTok video she posted Friday. “So I mean that’s something we’re going to look at, but the fact is we’re getting some important and very valuable data from what’s coming from this.”
Leavitt said she was still collecting donations and prayers.
“Never stop fighting,” she said.
Dennis Pyle’s petition to get on the ballot in the November election as an independent candidate for governor remains unverified in part because of the recounts, said Whitney Tempel, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office.
Pyle turned in nearly 9,000 signatures, which have to be reviewed by county clerks, to gain a spot on the ballot. Independent candidate are required to turn in at least 5,000 signatures.
Tempel said 48 of the 105 counties have verified signatures. The office hopes to complete the review before the State Board of Canvassers meets on Sept. 1.
Republicans are expected to challenge the viability of Pyle’s petition. Any objection would have to be filed within three days after the State Board of Canvassers meets.
Pyle is running for governor because he views Derek Schmidt, the Republican nominee, as too liberal. Republicans fear Pyle will win conservative votes that otherwise would go to Schmidt and make it easier for Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to win reelection.
In 2018, the Secretary of State’s Office approved the petition turned in by independent candidate Greg Orman within 11 days. Pyle turned in his signatures on Aug. 1.
Pyle described the inconsistency for approving his petition as “big brother exercising bully style tactics.”
“Clearly the Secretary of State is acting in liberal, loyal party fashion to delay, if not prevent, the certification,” Pyle said. “It appears they are running a quasi-organized operation on behalf of those who object to a real, freedom-loving Christian, Dennis Pyle, candidacy. It isn’t that difficult to check the list. This isn’t rocket science.”
Tempel identified multiple differences between this year’s election cycle and the one four years ago. State law now requires post-election audits in every county, and the closeness of the treasurer’s race required an audit of 10% of ballots in every precinct. Additionally, there were 24 counties conducting hand recounts for the treasure’s race, the abortion amendment and a legislative race.
Pyle also previously requested state auditors conduct a seven-month review of the 2020 election.
Schwab said county clerks “are going through a lot.”
“It’s a lot of work,” Schwab said. “My heart goes out to our clerks. They’re doing an incredible amount of work.”
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