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Kansas Democrats hire executive director to replace official accused of forging toxic workplace

By: - June 6, 2023 1:50 pm
Jeanna Repass, of Overland Park, is seeking the Democratic Party's nomination for secretary of state. She asserted Secretary of State Scott Schwab and former Secretary of State Kris Kobach politicized the office. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from Repass campaign photograph)

Kansas Democratic Party chair Jeanna Repass says the organization's new executive director would be Andy Bilyk, who was hired away from Deliver Strategies, a consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Bilyk replaced Ben Meers, who resigned in January. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from Repass campaign image)

TOPEKA — The Kansas Democratic Party hired a new executive director to fill the void left by resignation in January of an administrative leader of the state party mired in controversy based on allegations he fomented a toxic workplace.

Democratic Party chair Jeanna Repass said Tuesday a national search resulted in selection of Andy Bilyk, who worked for the direct mail and communications consulting firm Deliver Strategies in Washington, D.C. The company collaborated with left-of-center candidates, political action committees and labor organizations.

“When I was elected chair, I knew that finding the right executive director was going to be critical to growing the Democratic Party across Kansas,” Repass said.

Repass, selected chair by party members in February after losing the November election for secretary of state, said the goal was hiring the individual best suited to support election of more Democratic candidates.

Kansas Democrats want to erode Republican supermajorities in the Kansas Senate and Kansas House during the 2024 election cycle. Two-thirds GOP majorities in both chambers has made it easier to override vetoes of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly.

Republicans in Kansas control nine of 12 state executive and federal legislative offices. Exceptions are the 3rd District congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids and the offices of governor and lieutenant governor.

Repass’ statement said Bilyk had election experience in states “where Republicans have used their legislative power to undercut working families, defund schools and attack individual freedoms.”

“I look forward to working with the chair in helping to build the party infrastructure that will help reelect Congresswoman Sharice Davids and elect more Democrats to work with Governor Laura Kelly to stop Republicans in the statehouse from standing in the way of her work on behalf of everyday Kansans,” Bilyk said.

Bilyk replaced Ben Meers, who was accused by former colleagues of crafting a forbidding work environment at Democratic Party headquarters. The Kansas City Star reported in 2022 that former employees said Meers was verbally abusive and engaged in bullying following his hiring in 2019.

Bilyk, who began his duties Monday in Topeka, has taken part in campaigns from the municipal to presidential levels. He worked with Wisconsin Democrats to pick up seats in the Assembly during the 2020 elections. He earned a degree in political science at Xavier University.

Richard Nobles, Democratic Party chair of the 3rd District in the Kansas City area, participated in the hiring process that led to Bilyk. He said a point of emphasis would be next year’s legislative races. All 40 members of the Senate and the 125 members of the House would be up for reelection.

“I look forward to seeing the organization grow and continue in such a positive direction as the KDP recruits and builds the infrastructure for the 2024 elections so that we can break the Republican supermajority in the Kansas state Legislature,” Nobles said.

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Tim Carpenter
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.