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Kansas GOP suspends punishment of party members amid loyalty crackdown

By: - November 17, 2022 2:47 pm
A high number of appeals prompted the Kansas Republican Party's loyalty committee to suspend sanctions against GOP officials who signed a petition leading to placement on the November ballot of independent governor candidate Dennis Pyle. The state party alleges Pyle's presence helped reelect Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly by drawing votes from GOP nominee Derek Schmidt. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

A high number of appeals prompted the Kansas Republican Party’s loyalty committee to suspend sanctions against GOP officials who signed a petition leading to placement on the November ballot of independent governor candidate Dennis Pyle. The state party alleges Pyle’s presence helped reelect Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly by drawing votes from GOP nominee Derek Schmidt. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansas Republican Party’s chairman said sanctions against party members were suspended due to appeals filed by people who were to be penalized for signing a petition leading to placement on November ballots of an independent candidate for governor.

Mike Kuckelman, who leads the Kansas GOP, said the party’s loyalty committee met Wednesday to consider challenges to punishments sought by top party officials. Approximately 40 party members holding leadership posts signed Sen. Dennis Pyle’s petition, an act viewed as evidence these officials provided direct support to someone other than GOP gubernatorial nominee Derek Schmidt.

Amid demands by the accused for due process, Kuckelman said the loyalty committee temporarily suspended disciplinary action so cases could be handled individually in the future.

The Kansas GOP leadership had voted Nov. 9 — one day after Schmidt’s loss — to chastise signers of the Pyle petition. The objective of the Republicans’ loyalty committee is to strip offenders of party leadership posts.

“In light of the number of appeals, the loyalty committee cannot properly hear and decide each appeal,” Kuckelman said. “It is not possible to assemble the executive committee to hear each appeal, and render a decision on each appeal in a timely manner, without risk of unfairly disrupting county reorganization meetings.”

Schmidt lost the Nov. 8 race to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who secured 49% of the vote to Schmidt’s 47%. Pyle received 2% and the Libertarian Party nominee got 1%.

Kelly’s margin of victory was 20,886 votes, the Kansas secretary of state said. Pyle, who ran a conservative campaign that denounced Kelly and Schmidt, received 20,057 votes.

In 2007, the state Republican Party moved to form a loyalty committee after losing several prominent elections, including an attempt to block reelection of Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

The concept was inspired by Kris Kobach, who was chairman of the Kansas GOP, and Christian Morgan, who was the state party’s executive director.

“The motive behind this is, ‘Let’s make sure Republicans are supporting Republicans,'” Morgan told the Associated Press 15 years ago. “If you want to hold a party post, you should at least be supporting Republican candidates.”

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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. 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.

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