Sunday Reader: Schwab responds to court ruling; Write-in candidate in House 25

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Photo credit: Tyler Silvest

Good morning everyone:

We are now nine days away from the primary election, and everything is starting to get more intense — assuming it wasn’t intense already. Mrs. SSJ was out of town last week and is back on the road this week — a likely excuse so she doesn’t have to put up with the very loud conversations from the back office in the house. Anyone who knows me understands I hate text messages, so it’s impossible to have quiet conversations. Call it a generational thing, or maybe I am just too lazy to write texts. Or more importantly, I don’t like to leave things in writing. It’s that old motto about don’t write anything that can’t be said, don’t say anything that can’t be winked and don’t wink anything that can’t be smiled… Now onto the significant stories we published and other news you may have missed but need to know…

  • A state appeals court found that Secretary of State Scott Schwab violated the Kansas open records law when he decided to eliminate the ability of the state’s election database to produce a report showing who cast provisional ballots.
  • Republican state Sen. Kellie Warren’s attorney general campaign is threatening to sue rival Kris Kobach over an ad it says is false.
  • National deep-pocketed groups — liberal and conservative — are lining up on either side of the abortion amendment campaign as they funnel millions of dollars into Kansas.
  • More than 30 groups and individuals filed campaign finance reports last week showing how they are spending money on the abortion amendment campaign. This is well beyond what the two major groups — the Value Them Both Association and Kansans for Constitutional Freedom — that are spending millions. This has been an evolving list all week. This is final.
  • Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came out in support of state Sen. Kellie Warren for attorney general as GOP opposition continues to build against former Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the primary.
  • Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids is criticizing Republican challenger Amanda Adkins’ new ad that prominently features Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden, who has come under criticism for an apparent attempt to intervene in local elections.
  • A new poll out last week shows the Kansas abortion amendment getting a majority of support from Kansans, with one out of 10 voters still undecided, and hints that the campaign could be decided by turnout.
  • Republican state treasurer candidate Steven Johnson pushed out a new ad last week as part of a nearly $300,000 broadcast campaign in the Republican primary for treasurer.
  • What to wear to the polling place this year? Not usually a difficult matter — unless you plan to wear clothing that declares your support or opposition to the abortion amendment on the Aug. 2 ballot. A look at an issue that surfaced in Reno County.
  • Former Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp has raised more than half a million dollars to pass the Kansas constitutional amendment on abortion.
  • Republican state Sen. Kellie Warren is battling back against former Secretary of State Kris Kobach in the GOP primary for attorney general with a new round of ads and an endorsement from U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall.
  • A super political action committee backing state Sen. Kellie Warren rolled out its new ad against Kris Kobach in the intensifying Republican primary race for attorney general.
  • The chief opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment on abortion has hauled in about $7 million during the campaign with the election now less than two weeks away.
  • The primary advocate for a constitutional amendment ensuring there is no right to an abortion in the state constitution raised almost $6 million, topping what proponents for similar measures in other states have raised.

Schwab responds to court ruling

Secretary of State Scott Schwab for the first time on Saturday responded to a court decision that found he violated the open records law when he eliminated the ability of an election database to produce a report showing who cast provisional ballots.

Scott Schwab

Schwab said “liberal activist judges” on the Court of Appeals reversed a district court decision and “will order the secretary of state’s office to grant public access to personal ballot information.”

“As your secretary of state, I have always been committed to defending your constitutional rights — especially your right to cast a private ballot,” Schwab said in the email.

“However, this fight is not over. I am running for a second term to continue pushing back against the liberal activist agenda that wishes to make private and personal ballot information public,” he wrote.

The court ruling came about a week before the Republican primary election in which Schwab is trying to fend off a challenge from former Johnson County Commissioner Mike Brown, who is running a campaign that casts doubt about elections in Kansas.

Brown jumped on the court decision on Facebook.

“Scott Schwab broke the law according to the Kansas Court of Appeals. He is the Chief Kansas Elections Official and he knowingly and willingly suppressed voter information from the public, breaking the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) law,” he posted.

Mike Brown

He is threatening to sue Schwab on Monday if he doesn’t get all the information he requested in an open records request that he said he filed with the secretary of state’s office July 6. As of Saturday, Brown said he had not received all the information he requested.

He said he requested information on Catherine Gunsalus, the former deputy Kansas Secretary of State. He didn’t go into details on his post.

“This cat-and-mouse game of hiding, delaying and dragging the release of information requested by the public must stop. Transparency is paramount to trusting our government and Schwab is anything but transparent,” he posted.

Schwab campaign spokesperson Lydia Meiss said Brown filed “one of the largest Kansas Open Records Act requests ever submitted to the office at a time when all resources are focused on working with the counties to carry out the primary election.”

She said his request was divided into eight separate subrequests that encompassed tens of thousands of records, most without any specific time frame, including every record, including emails, involving in any way the records he sought.

“Each record must be individually screened to ensure it is not exempted from production for reasons such as attorney-client privileged communications, personnel matters, cybersecurity, and personal privacy,” Meiss said.

Meiss said the office told Brown that there were at least 15 other open records requests in the pipeline before his and gave him an estimated time frame in which the office could produce the records.

To date, Brown has not limited his requests to specific time periods or prioritized his requests, she said.

“Despite the enormity of the task, the office has responded completely to three of his eight requests, has responded to one request with records from the past three years, and anticipates a fifth request response this week,” she said.

“The remaining three requests are so enormous that it is currently impossible to estimate when production could be made.”

Write-in House candidate

A Johnson County businessman is taking the unusual step of trying to get enough people to write in his name on the Aug. 2 primary ballot so he can be on the ballot this fall to run against Democratic state Rep. Rui Xu in House District 25.

Greg Schoofs, of Mission Hills, is actively campaigning for the seat, although it’s a tall order to get enough voters to write him in so he can be placed on the ballot for the general election. Signs have already been cropping up promoting his candidacy.

He needs signatures from 5% of the 20,575 registered voters — or 1,029 — in the northeast Johnson County district to get on the ballot.

Greg Schoofs

Schoofs, who ran for Congress in the 3rd District in 1996, said he always thought about running but the idea took hold when he saw that no Republican had filed to run for the seat.

He believed Republican voters needed a choice.

“It has been a Republican seat forever until 2018,” Schoofs said. “When I saw that there was a mechanism for a write-in, that was really my only choice.”

Schoofs has support from former Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder, who now lives in the district. In an email, Yoder said he would be writing in Schoofs’ name on the primary ballot.

Schoofs is a 1987 graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and has a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in economics from George Mason University.

A former aide to the late Congresswoman Jan Meyers, Schoofs ran for her seat in 1996 and finished third in the Republican primary behind winner Vince Snowbarger and former Overland Park Mayor Ed Eilert.

He finished with 6% of the vote.

Xu has represented the district since 2019, and he’s seeking a third term in the House.

Xu declined to comment, but he did send out a fundraising email saying he had received word of a “credible attempt for a Republican to show up on the general election ballot in November.”

“While I was unopposed as of the filing deadline back in June, it seems like the conservatives were not content to sit back and let my record as a state representative speak for itself.”

The district didn’t change much after election boundaries were redrawn this year.

It became about a percentage point (1.24) more Republican, a 0.69 percentage point less Democratic and about a half percentage point less unaffiliated.

About 39% of the district is Democratic, about 37% is Republican and about 22.8% is unaffiliated.

Xu raised $14,830 last year and had $39,619 on hand at the start of the year.

Top Senate staffer leaves

Chase Blasi left his job as chief of operations for Senate President Ty Masterson to take a job in the private sector.

Blasi’s departure had been anticipated for weeks but with lots of speculation about where he was headed after public service.

It turns out that Blasi is going to work for Evergy as the director of public affairs based in Wichita.

Chase Blasi

The move will allow him to spend more time with his family. He and his wife have adopted two boys, ages 5 and 2.

A native of Colwich and now resident of Wichita, Blasi joined the Senate president’s office in June 2017.

He joined then-Senate President Susan Wagle’s office as her legislative director.

He became her chief of staff in October 2019. He continued on when Senate President Ty Masterson succeeded her in January 2021. His last day with the office was Friday.

Before joining the Senate president’s office, he worked for the Department of Revenue as its legislative liaison. He is a graduate of Newman University.

“I am humbled by the trust and confidence placed in me by two Senate presidents, the Kansas Senate, and ultimately the people of Kansas,” Blasi said in an email.

“These roles have been the honor of a lifetime and I wish those whom I have served all the best,” he said.

Carville visits Kansas

Democratic congressional candidate Patrick Schmidt will play host to Democratic political strategist and commentator James Carville on Monday at the Cyrus Hotel in Topeka.

In a Facebook post, Schmidt said that Carville will be spending the day in Kansas to help his campaign as well as the campaign against the constitutional amendment that would ensure there is no right to an abortion in the state constitution.

Schmidt is challenging Republican Congressman Jake LaTurner in the 2nd District but in a newly created district that is less favorable to a Democrat now that Lawrence has been moved into the 1st District.

Carville will be in Kansas City, Kansas in the morning for an event on the abortion amendment at Pleasant Green Baptist Church.

Later that night, he will be at a fundraiser for Schmidt at the Cyrus Hotel where contributions run anywhere from $250 for a “supporter” to $2,900 for a host.

A.G. opines on abortion & ectopic pregnancies

Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued an opinion last week finding that passage of the proposed constitutional amendment on abortion would not affect medical treatment of ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages.

In a five-page opinion issued late Friday afternoon, Schmidt said the language in the amendment does not ban or restrict abortion or medical treatment, but gives the Legislature the latitude to make those decisions.

The definition of abortion, Schmidt wrote, excludes the removal of “a dead unborn child who died as the result of natural causes in utero, accidental trauma or a criminal assault on the pregnant woman or her unborn child.

Derek Schmidt

“Thus, treatment of a miscarriage or fetal demise does not constitute an abortion under Kansas law and would not be impacted by passage of the Value Them Both Amendment,” Schmidt wrote.

Schmidt’s opinion, requested by state Rep. John Eplee of Atchison, comes a week before Kansas voters decide whether there should be a right to an abortion in the state constitution.

It addresses one of the hot points of contention in the debate over the amendment, which would reverse a 2019 state Supreme Court ruling that found the right to an abortion in the Kansas Constitution.

“Passage of the Value Them Both Amendment would not ban or restrict abortion or any
medical treatment,” Schmidt concluded.

“Nor would it affect a physician’s ability to render care for ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, or fetal demise.”

While the term “ectopic pregnancy” does not appear in Kansas law, Schmidt said the
best conclusion is that it does not constitute an abortion.

“Even if the termination of an ectopic pregnancy were considered an abortion, Kansas
laws governing abortion consistently make exception for abortions that are necessary to
preserve the life of the mother,” Schmidt wrote.

“Because ectopic pregnancies threaten the life of the mother, passage of the Value Them Both Amendment would not affect a physician’s ability to render care for ectopic pregnancies in any event,” he wrote.

Ashley All, spokeswoman for Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, said lawmakers would have the ability to change any law related to abortion if the amendment passes, regardless of the attorney general’s opinion.

“This amendment will mandate government control over private medical decisions and open the door to an extreme ban on abortion that puts women’s lives at risk,” All said in a statement responding to the opinion.

“No amount of PR can change that. Not only that, if this amendment passes they can change any law they want regarding abortion, even this one.”

Tyson going on the air

Republican state Sen. Caryn Tyson has booked about $22,000 in broadcast air time to compete with the many thousands of dollars that state Rep. Steven Johnson has purchased in the Republican primary for state treasurer.

Tyson is purchasing network air time in Wichita, Kansas City and Topeka, according to the national ad tracking service AdImpact.

She’s putting $14,000 into Wichita for television and about $3,400 in Topeka.

She’s also putting $1,500 into radio in Wichita and about the same into radio in the Kansas City market. She’s also putting about $1,500 in nonurban areas for radio.

Johnson, meanwhile, has spent about $300,000 on broadcast, primarily for two television ads that have been running statewide.

Brown going on TV

Former Johnson County Mike Brown has booked an ad buy worth about $15,000 on television as the primary campaign for secretary of state Scott Schwab moves into the last last week.

The national ad tracking firm AdImpact reports that Brown has booked ad time in the Wichita market, considered the most efficient place to spend your campaign dollar.

Schwab, meanwhile, has spent about $175,000 on television, including about $89,000 in Wichita, about $51,000 in Topeka and about $33,000 in Kansas City.

He’s spending about $2,200 in the southeast Kansas market as well. Here’s the latest Schwab ad, which is a variation of the first one that he aired.

Election official case appealed

Four civic groups are asking the state Supreme Court to consider a challenge to a Kansas law that makes it illegal for someone to falsely give the appearance of acting as an election official.

The League of Women Voters of Kansas, Loud Light, the Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice and the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center want the high court to review their legal challenge that was dismissed last month.

A three-member appeals court panel ruled 2-1 that the four civics groups that challenged the law did not have standing to challenge the law in court.

The groups said the statute had a chilling effect on their efforts to educate and register new voters for fear that they could be prosecuted if someone wrongly perceived them as acting as an election official.

However, the court found that the groups didn’t demonstrate there was enough of a controversy in the case to warrant legal action and their fears of being prosecuted were subjective.

 

The panel found that the law required the groups to  “knowingly” give the appearance of misrepresenting an election official to be at risk of prosecution for registering and educating voters across Kansas.

The plaintiffs disagreed with the ruling, pointing to the dissenting opinion that said anyone registering voters would need to be “arrested, charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison” before being able to challenge the law in court.

“Kansas voters rely on the League for important election information every year and currently the League in Kansas has paused all in-person voter registration activities, even ahead of our August primary elections,” said Jacqueline Lightcap, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Kansas.

“In a critical election year, we need the court to strike down the law and make it clear that volunteer organizations can register voters without the threat of criminal or civil penalties,” Lightcap said in a statement.

Ballot drop boxes 

Election officials across the country told The Associated Press that increased use of ballot drop boxes did not cause any widespread problems during the 2020 election. The survey did not find any instances of fraud, vandalism or theft that could have reversed the results of an election.

The AP reported that it surveyed top election officials in each state asking whether there were instances of fraudulent votes or stolen ballots, or whether the boxes and the ballots they contained were damaged. Only five states did not respond.

The boxes have been an issue in Kansas where Republican secretary of state candidate Mike Brown wants to eliminate them, although there are questions about whether he would have that authority. There was an attempt by the Kansas Legislature this year to limit the number of ballot drop boxes, but it ultimately died.

Ralph House campaign

Republican state Rep. Brad Ralph is spending about $4,000 on radio trying to fight off a primary challenge in his Dodge City district from Jason Goetz, former lead pastor at Wilroads Garden Christian Church. Goetz also was the pastor of life mission at the Dodge City Church of the Nazarene. Goetz is running on a platform of “more God, less government.” He also describes himself as “pro life” and “pro family.” In ad his ad, Ralph portrays himself as the “common sense conservative”  who “delivers real results.” Here’s Ralph’s radio ad as he campaigns in House District 119.

State abortion news

  • From The Associated Press: A House committee in South Carolina last week started work on a bill that would ban almost all abortions in that state.
  • From the National Law Review: South Carolina lawmakers proposed tough penalties for anyone interfering with someone blowing the whistle on a violation of a proposed abortion ban. The proposal includes a broad definition of what constitutes interfering with a whistleblower. A violation can be punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
  • From the Washington Post: A bill in South Carolina would make it illegal to provide information over the internet or phone about how to obtain an abortion. It would also make it illegal to host a website or provide information that is “reasonably likely to be used for an abortion” and directed at pregnant people in the state. Here’s a broader look at the legislation from Politico.
  • From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: A federal appeals court last week allowed Georgia’s abortion law to take effect after the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade.
  • From The Associated Press: Republican leaders in the Indiana Senate are proposing to  ban abortion with limited exceptions. They plan to take up the proposal when Indiana lawmakers meet in a special session Monday.
  • From Reuters: A state judge in Kentucky last week agreed to extend a block on two state laws because they might violate the state constitution. The judge’s ruling halted a trigger law, which made it a crime to perform an abortion if Roe v. Wade was struck down. The judge also stopped a second law that banned abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Like Kansas, the judge found that the state constitution in Kentucky has a greater right to privacy than the U.S. Constitution. Here’s more coverage from the Lexington paper.
  • From NPR: A new report out from the Guttmacher Institute found that nearly 10% of all abortions in 2020 were provided to patients who’d crossed state lines. The report (found here) suggests the numbers are likely to increase with state abortion bans that went into effect both before and after the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The study reported 81,120 out of 930,160 abortions overall were obtained by people who crossed state lines.
  • From ABC News: A state judge in Louisiana said abortion clinics there can continue to operate while a lawsuit challenging that state’s nearly complete ban on the procedure works itself in court.

NFIB endorsements

The National Federation of Independent Business’ political action committee last week endorsed a dozen candidates for the Kansas House in the Aug. 12 primary.

FIB Kansas only endorses incumbents who have a primary challenge and a positive NFIB voting record.

Additionally, the group’s PAC board will meet following the primary election to make endorsements for the general election candidates.

Here are the endorsed candidates:

State Rep. Suzi Carlson, Republican in District 64; state Rep. John Barker, Republican in  District 70; state Rep. Eric Smith, Republican in District 76; state Rep. Cheryl Helmer, Republican in District 79; state Rep. Joe Seiwert, Republican in District 101; state Rep. Susan Concannon, Republican in District 107; state Rep. Troy Waymaster, Republican in District 109; state Rep. Brett Fairchild, Republican in District 113; state Rep. Jim Minnix, Republican in District 118; state Rep. Brad Ralph, Republican in District 119; state Rep. Bill Clifford, Republican in District 122; and state Rep. John Wheeler, Republican in District 123.

Sierra Club endorsements

Here are the Sierra Club endorsements for governor and House races ahead of the primary election for 2022.

It is anticipated that there will be more endorsements before the general election.

Gov. Laura Kelly; state Rep. Christina Haswood, Democrat in District 10; state Rep. Linda Featherston, Democrat in District 16; state Rep. Cindy Neighbor, Democrat in District 18; state Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Democrat in District 19; state Rep. Mari-Lynn Poskin,  Democrat in District 20; state Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, Democrat in District 21; state Rep. Lindsay Vaughn, Democrat in District 22; state Rep. Susan Ruiz, Democrat in District 23, state Rep. Jarrod Ousley, Democrat in District 24; state Rep. Rui Xu, Democrat in District 25; state Rep. Louis Ruiz, Democrat in District 31; state Rep. Pam Curtis, Democrat in District 32; and state Rep. Valdenia Win, Democrat in District 34.

Other endorsed candidates were state Rep. Barbara Ballard, Democrat in District 44; state Rep. Mike Amyx, Democrat in District 45; state Rep. Boog Highberger, Democrat in District 46; state Rep. Virgil Weigel, Democrat in District 56; state Rep. John Alcala, Democrat in District 57; state Rep. Sydney Carlin, Democrat in District 66; state Rep. Henry Helgerson, Democrat in District 83; state Rep. KC Ohaebosim, Democrat in District 89; state Rep. John Carmichael, Democrat in District 92; state Rep. Tom Sawyer, Democrat in District 95; state Rep. Jason Probst, Democrat in District 102; and state Rep. Brandon Woodard, Democrat in District 108.

Nominees for 9th District Judge

A screening committee last week sent Gov. Laura Kelly three nominees for a judgeship in the 9th Judicial District.

Kelly has 60 days to choose from the nominees, who are seeking a new district judge position what was created by the Legislature this year.

The nominees are:

  • Michael Llamas, Newton, self-employed with Llamas Law, LLC; city prosecutor in Hesston; and municipal court judge in Burrton, Florence and Walton
  • Matthew Treaster, Newton,  assistant U.S. attorney
  • Diane Sorensen, Newton,  attorney and shareholder at Morris, Laing, Evans, Brock & Kennedy.

The 9th Judicial District is made up of Harvey and McPherson counties.