By SHERMAN SMITH
TOPEKA — The Kansas Republican Party instructed voters via text message Thursday to remove their names from the signatures gathered by state Sen. Dennis Pyle in his independent campaign for governor.
Pyle, who thinks Republican nominee Derek Schmidt isn’t conservative enough, denounced the “evil path” taken by “left-wing” Republicans to keep Pyle off the November ballot. Republicans fear Pyle’s entry into the race would siphon enough votes away from Schmidt to hand Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly a win.
The text message, paid for by the Kansas Republican Party, read: “URGENT: Your name is on a petition to help Laura Kelly get elected.” The message told voters they could send an email or “click here” to remove their name from Pyle’s list.
“The elitist Republicans are coming to terms with the fact that they made a huge mistake Tuesday,” Pyle said. “They have just nominated one of the most liberal politicians in the whole state. I served with Laura Kelly and Derek Schmidt and there was no daylight between their voting records. This attack on the petition for Pyle is an attack to stop me from uniting conservatives.”
Democrats helped Pyle gather nearly 9,000 signatures, surpassing the requirement of 5,000 to get on the ballot.
“We are well aware that Laura Kelly’s allies have been pushing this petition to help her desperate campaign and split the vote,” said Shannon Pahls, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party. “We believe Kansans should be aware of that, and aware of their right to remove their name. Support for any third party candidate is support for Laura Kelly.”
Republicans are expected to challenge the names on Pyle’s list, a dispute that would be judged by the State Objections Board. As the attorney general, Schmidt would get a seat on the three-member board — along with Republican Secretary of State Scott Schwab and Kelly’s chief counsel. Board members historically have designated a proxy when there is an apparent conflict of interest.
Pyle said he wants on the ballot so he can be elected governor.
“These name-calling Republican leaders are spreading misinformation,” Pyle said. “Obviously, there is nothing they can do to rectify their mistake. It’s too late. They’re stuck with liberal Derek Schmidt and his left-wing voting record that they misrepresent to Kansas Republicans. The conservative majority will all coalesce around the only conservative — Dennis Pyle. They know I will win and rather than welcome the competition they have chosen to take the evil path to eliminate the conservative competition.”