TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A push by top Republicans in Kansas to punish party officials who backed an independent candidate for governor is shining a spotlight on an internal rift that could hinder GOP leaders’ efforts to steer the state to the right over Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s objections.
Many Republicans blame independent state Sen. Dennis Pyle’s campaign for Kelly’s narrow reelection victory Nov. 8 over three-term Republican state Attorney General Derek Schmidt. But five hard-right lawmakers said in a Facebook statement this week that GOP “establishment manipulations” were the culprit and denounced the state party’s chair.
While Republicans nationally are unsettled by ex-President Donald Trump’s bid to win back the White House in 2024, the Kansas conflict boiled over because state GOP Chair Mike Kuckelman convened the party’s Loyalty Committee the day after the election. The committee enforces a party ban on its officials supporting non-Republicans.