Politics & Government

Talk-show host starts petition to revoke Kansas’ statehood

R.J. Dickens, shown here in line at the recent Democratic presidential caucus in Wichita, has filed a petition seeking to have Kansas statehood revoked for failure to provide republican government.
R.J. Dickens, shown here in line at the recent Democratic presidential caucus in Wichita, has filed a petition seeking to have Kansas statehood revoked for failure to provide republican government. The Wichita Eagle

A Wichita talk-show host is petitioning the White House to revoke Kansas’ statehood, citing a provision in the Constitution requiring the federal government to “guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government.”

That’s republican small r, not Republican big R, as in the party that dominates Kansas politics.

The petition was launched Monday night by R.J. Dickens, the news director/anchor/talk-show host on Wichita-based KCTU-TV, Channel 43.

The action line: “We urge the President to certify that Kansas can no longer guarantee a republican form of government under Article 4, Section 4; revoke Kansas’ statehood; and appoint a Territorial Governor until such time as it proves worthy of re-admission to the Union.”

“It’s sort of tongue in cheek, but the more you think about it, the more you can make a case that Kansas is a failed state,” Dickens said. “Look what happened (Tuesday) in the House. (House Speaker Ray) Merrick runs that place like a tinhorn dictatorship.”

On Tuesday, Merrick publicly removed Rep. John Rubin, R-Shawnee, and John Barker, R-Abilene – both retired judges – from their posts as committee chairmen in a clash over a bill to expand gambling in Kansas. Rubin announced that he was resigning his seat, but later walked that back. He also used the word “dictatorship” to describe Merrick’s running of the House.

Merrick’s office had no comment.

Dickens posted the petition on the White House website petitions.whitehouse.gov. The Obama administration has committed to publicly answering – though not necessarily granting – any petition from the site that can gain 100,000 signatures in 30 days.

The petition takes square aim at Gov. Sam Brownback, noting that the 2014 election that put him in office is being challenged by Wichita State University statistician Beth Clarkson, who said she has found anomalies in voting patterns and is seeking access to paper audit trails from voting machines to verify the vote.

Also, the petition says Brownback “pushed tax cuts in favor of saddling the poor with the nation’s highest sales tax on food.”

It also criticizes the state government for transferring money from highway and pension funds to the general budget, and for pending legislation that could hamstring the state Supreme Court by “making judges subject to impeachment if they rule against the legislature.”

“State law leaves no legal remedy via recall,” the petition says.

Brownback’s office chose not to respond.

There is actually no mechanism in the Constitution for the federal government to revoke a state’s statehood, said Jeffrey Jackson, a professor of constitutional law at Washburn University.

As for Article 4, Section 4, “It’s not ever really been used for anything,” he said.

“No one really knows what it means, beyond the fact that it probably means that the federal government can’t allow a state to establish a monarchy or something,” he said.

On the rare occasion that it has been cited in cases, the Supreme Court has punted it to Congress, saying the meaning of “republican form of government” is a political question, not a judicial one.

Dickens’ petition has a long way to go to get a response from Obama. In its first three days, it has garnered 231 signatures.

However, for most of that time, it could only be circulated by word of mouth and social networking.

On Wednesday, it crossed the threshold of 150 signatures required for the petition to be publicly displayed and accessible on the White House website, which gives the general public across the nation access to it.

Dickens said he doesn’t think the petition’s start was slow, “given that (for the first two days) you had to have the secret link to get to it.”

Any American, not just Kansans, can sign the petition.

Dickens concedes the effort is somewhat quixotic and said he doesn’t expect the petition to result in an actual revocation of Kansas’ statehood.

But, he said, “If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to give Kansans a chance to vent about what’s happening with our state.”

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas