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State board keeps Sawyer on ballot in House District 95 in Wichita

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Thursday, Sep. 13, 2012, at 3:15 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Sep. 14, 2012, at 7:02 p.m.

— The State Board of Objections ruled Thursday that Tom Sawyer, the Democratic candidate for the District 95 House seat in south Wichita, can remain on the November ballot despite a complaint that claimed he doesn’t live in the district.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach said tea party activist Craig Gabel, who filed the complaint, didn’t provide enough evidence to prove that Sawyer doesn’t live at the house at 1041 S. Elizabeth. The board, made up of Kobach, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, voted unanimously to deny Gabel’s objection.

Gabel filed a complaint with the secretary of state’s office using his title of executive director of the tea party group Kansans for Liberty. The complaint said an “independent investigation” found Sawyer is “not the true resident nor does he reside at 1041 S. Elizabeth.”

Sedgwick County records show Sawyer owns the home and is a registered voter at its address.

Sawyer says he has lived at the home for about 20 years, and he called Gabel’s claim “crazy.” Sawyer is a former House member who became the House minority leader and ran for governor in 1998. He resigned from the House in 2009 to take a position with the Kansas Parole Board.

He faces incumbent Republican Rep. Benny Boman, who was elected in 2010, in the Nov. 6 general election. Boman attended the meeting in Topeka, but he did not testify.

Gabel showed photos of a car with expired tags and he presented affidavits from two neighbors who say Sawyer doesn’t live there. Gabel also said the home’s chimney is falling apart and that a city code inspector told him the city would soon deem Sawyer’s house as uninhabitable because of problems with the roof.

City spokeswoman Lauragail Locke said in an e-mail to The Eagle that city staff say the home is habitable and that they believe someone is currently living there.

Sawyer, who testified by phone, said he hasn’t heard anything about the house being condemned, and he said that he lives in the house.

Before voting, Kobach said state law is very broad and requires “clear and convincing evidence” that the home the candidate claims is “not the place of habitation to which he intends to return.”

Kobach said that sets a “high bar” for someone to prove.

Gabel said that’s virtually impossible to prove.

“I’m not sure how anyone in the world can prove whether anyone intends to return,” he said.

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