Prairie Politics

State GOP chairman urges Republicans to support election law changes

The chairman of the Kansas Republican Party is urging GOP lawmakers to support election law changes that he says are “critical to the Kansas Republican Party.”

Kelly Arnold, the state GOP chairman, sent Republican House members an e-mail asking them to support HB 2104.

The bill, which has passed the Senate, did not run on the House floor last week as expected and several Republican lawmakers indicated that it lacked the votes to pass at that time.

Arnold said in a phone call that he sent his message only to Republican lawmakers, joking that he didn’t want to give Democrats a reason to speak out against the bill.

The bill would push local elections to the fall of odd-numbered years and eliminate presidential primaries in the state. Kansas hasn’t held a presidential primary since 1992 and passing the bill would help solidify the caucus system that the GOP has used in recent presidential elections.

In his e-mail, Arnold tells GOP lawmakers that the presidential primary “needs to go, permanently. It is expensive; our state cannot afford the ($) 2,000,000 cost.”

Unlike the primary, the caucus has no cost to the state. However, presidential candidates must pay a $10,000 fee to the party participate.

Shifting local elections to the fall has been a contentious issue in the Legislature for several years. The state party initially called for local elections to be partisan and take place in the fall on even-numbered years when federal and state elections take place.

Keeping local races nonpartisan and on odd-numbered years is a compromise. Supporters of moving election dates say it will double turnout.

“Moving the local elections to the fall, with a mid-year filing deadline, will allow substantially more engagement by the people of Kansas in assessing local issues, recruiting candidates, and engaging in the election process,” Arnold says in the e-mail. “There is no legitimate downside.”

The bill also says candidates cannot be removed from the ballot after winning a primary unless they die, move out of the state or prove medical hardship for themselves or an immediate family member.

The legislation is a direct response to Democrat Chad Taylor’s withdrawal from the U.S. Senate race this past election, which many Republicans saw as an underhanded attempt to boost independent candidate Greg Orman against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts.

Roberts still won the race by a 10-point margin.

“Over time, both parties have occasionally been guilty of gamesmanship in candidate filing, withdrawal, and replacement,” Arnold told lawmakers. “This bill goes a long way to reducing these practices. Filing to run for office is a serious decision not to be entered into lightly.”

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.