Ten Republican members of the state Legislature stood in solidarity with 4th District congressional candidate Mike Pompeo at a news conference Friday, but the campaign stumbled on a news release claim of unanimous support from the district's GOP lawmakers.
The 10 who appeared with Pompeo at the event at Mid-Continent Instruments were part of a group of 28 Republican state senators and representatives backing Pompeo, a Republican national committeeman.
Absent from the gathering and Pompeo's endorsement list was Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, a moderate who ran second to Pompeo in a bruising GOP primary campaign.
Pompeo is running for the vacant 4th District seat against state Rep. Raj Goyle, D-Wichita.
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The nine 4th District legislators at the news conference were Reps. Brenda Landwehr, Aaron Jack, Dan Kerschen, Steve Huebert, Steve Brunk and Jo Ann Pottorff; and Sens. Carolyn McGinn, Mike Petersen and Ty Masterson. They were joined by Sen. Jeff Colyer of Overland Park, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.
The lawmakers scoffed at Goyle's assertion that he is a fiscal conservative.
"Raj Goyle is being disingenuous," said Landwehr. "He's never been considered a conservative, let alone a fiscal conservative, in Topeka."
Huebert, R-Valley Center, said Goyle evoked "audible gasps and laughs" in the House when he voted with conservatives while positioning to run for Congress.
"Let's just say he found religion and changed how he voted," Huebert said.
In recent weeks, Pompeo has criticized Goyle for voting with Democrats 93 percent of the time; Goyle has responded that he voted with Republicans 80 percent of the time and voted to cut taxes more than 50 times.
On Friday, Goyle said in a statement "it's comical that Mike Pompeo would attempt to diminish my work in the Legislature. ... Mike Pompeo is looking for ways to attack me and mislead voters because he can't attack my record."
In a campaign news release handed out at the news conference, Pompeo was quoted as saying, "I am humbled by the unanimous support of our Republican state House and Senate delegation."
But his support among Republican lawmakers in the district is actually less than unanimous.
In addition to Schodorf, Sen. Ruth Teichman, R-Stafford, who represents Harper and Kingman counties in the 4th District, has not endorsed Pompeo.
The bitter Republican primary campaign featured outside interests that supported Pompeo running attack ads against Schodorf, including one featuring a man seeking a "hunting license" to "bag a RINO," conservative shorthand for "Republican in Name Only."
Asked about Schodorf's absence from the list, Pompeo responded:
"We have received enormous support. This is the first time that in a contested race in an awfully long time in the 4th District of Kansas any Republican nominee has gotten anywhere near the support of as many folks as I have. And if you take a look at the citizens of the 4th District of Kansas and the folks that they have elected to represent them in Topeka, in the Kansas House and the Kansas Senate, I have many, many more ... representatives standing up here today than my opponent, Rep. Raj Goyle. ... We've got enormous support from Republicans of all stripes and unaffiliated voters and many, many Democrats as well, who understand that big federal government is not the answer for the 4th District of Kansas."
Asked specifically about the word "unanimous" to describe his support among the district's GOP lawmakers, Pompeo did not get a chance to answer.
Brunk, R-Bel Aire, who had worked with the campaign to arrange the event and prepare the materials, stepped in and apologized and said he would "take credit for a word that is maybe an improper choice of words."
Asked after the event whether he had written the quote attributed to Pompeo, Brunk said he didn't and referred questions to Pompeo campaign spokesman Josh Wells.
Wells said the campaign counted Schodorf as a supporter because she had signed a state Republican Party pledge to support Republican candidates.
"We're talking about support, we're not talking about endorsements," he said.
Schodorf said she is not endorsing Pompeo and plans to sit out the 4th District race. She said she is keeping her pledge to support Republicans by working for Sen. Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, in his campaign for attorney general.
Pompeo said he thought the quote in the news release indicated unanimous support from the legislators on the endorsement list attached to the news release, but directed Wells to correct and resend the release.
Adding to the confusion, the corrected release arrived in journalists' e-mail boxes about a half hour before the original, uncorrected version.