Former U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp claimed there was no proof of misconduct in the abortion amendment campaign. (Photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
HUTCHINSON — Weeks after he was accused of sending false text messages in an attempt to trick people into voting for an anti-abortion amendment, former U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp claimed there was no proof of misconduct.
“There’s no evidence of that,” said Huelskamp after the Kansas State Fair debate between Gov. Laura Kelly and Attorney General Derek Schmidt. “A statement was made by the New York Times. I’m not going to comment on the statement made by the New York Times.”
The Washington Post traced Huelskamp back to the messages in early August, reporting that the political tech firm Alliance Forge sent the texts on behalf of Huelskamp’s Do Right PAC. Huelskamp represented Kansas in Congress from 2011 to 2017 and is known for his Tea Party affiliation.
The texts, sent to Democratic voters in Kansas, read “voting YES on the amendment will give women a choice.” Voting yes on the constitutional abortion amendment would have actually ended guaranteed abortion rights in Kansas, giving the Legislature the ability to enact a total ban.
State officials said the messages were not illegal, even though voter registration data was used. Lying in election advertisements is permitted in Kansas, and senders aren’t required to reveal their identities when sending unsolicited text messages about ballot questions.
Lawmakers and voting-rights activists say the campaign was worrying and in poor taste.
“It was sent out of desperation to try and confuse people,” said state Sen. Ethan Corson, D-Prairie Village. “Obviously I think they were largely unsuccessful in trying to do that, if you look at the final vote. Tim Huelskamp is a failed former congressman. I think he’s now kind of a failed wanna-be political operative. My hope is that it is sort of his swan song.”
Abortion-rights activist Ashley All, communication director for the Kansans for Constitutional Freedom campaign, said the attempt posed a threat to democracy.
“Unfortunately, the deceptive text messages sent the night before the election were consistent with the misleading statements made throughout the campaign by supporters of the amendment,” All wrote in a statement to Kansas Reflector. “This was yet another example of the desperate and dishonest tactics used for decades to deceive Kansas’s about abortion care in our state.”
Standing in the bleachers after the debate, Huelskamp said the Kansas conversation on abortion is not over. He anticipates blowback to Gov. Laura Kelly’s abortion-rights position, despite the August vote’s outcome.
“What is clear here is Laura Kelly supports absolutely no restrictions on abortion,” Huelskamp said. “She made that abundantly clear, which is a very extreme position, and if she runs on that she’ll definitely be outside the mainstream of Kansans on that issue.”
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