Thursday, June 14, 2012

Democrats say Kobach’s office lost candidate’s paperwork to run for office; Kobach’s office said documents were never received

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA — Democrats said Thursday that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office lost the paperwork of a Democratic candidate and is denying him from running for office.

Meeker and Davis say Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office lost Meeker's paperwork to be a candidate in the State House District 17 race. Kobach's office says it never received the documents.
"The fact of the matter is, they made a mistake," House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said. "What bothers me is that they have not owned up to that mistake," Davis said.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office has determined the candidacy of Larry Meeker invalid. Kobach's office says Meeker's documents were never received.

Meeker, a former mayor of Lake Quivira, said he filed the necessary paperwork and officials paid the $105 filing fee to run for State House District 17, which is in Johnson County.

But Meeker and Democratic officials say that somehow in the crush of candidates filing on Monday, the Secretary of State's office lost the documents.

A panel of three federal judges late last Thursday dramatically altered the political landscape in Kansas by drawing new political boundaries for congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts after the Legislature failed to accomplish the task.

The most drastic changes came in state House and Senate districts where dozens of legislators found themselves in districts with other incumbents while others were drawn completely out of their districts.

The judges also left in place the noon Monday deadline to file for candidacy, which caused an unprecedented rush of political activity.

"I appreciate the chaos that the Secretary of State's office had to deal with on Monday with such a short time for candidates to file for state office," said Meeker. "Such circumstances certainly create opportunity for error. However, I firmly believe that the discrepancy in filing my paperwork occurred at the Secretary of State's office," he said.

In a letter to Meeker, Ryan Krieghauser, deputy secretary of state, told Meeker, "We have reviewed all fillings received on June 11 multiple times and have determined that your Declaration was not received in our office on that date before noon." And Krieghauser said even if the office did timely receive the document, the office did not receive the filing fee.

Democrats said they will appeal this decision to the State Objections Board, which handles candidacy disputes and is made up of Kobach, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and Attorney General Derek Schmidt, all three of whom are Republicans. The board meets Tuesday.

Meeker and Davis said they did not believe Kobach's decision was partisan, but just that the office made a mistake.

On Monday morning, Meeker, along with nine other Democrats, filed their Declaration of Intention to become candidates in Johnson County.

Then, Johnson County Democratic Party Chairman Kyle Russell and Tyler Longpine drove the documents to the Secretary of State's office in Topeka. Longpine works for Davis and earlier worked for former Secretary of State Chris Biggs, a Democrat whom Kobach defeated in 2010.

Longpine has signed a sworn statement that he handed the paperwork and paid the filing fees to Krieghauser. The Democrats said they later realized late Monday afternoon that Meeker's filing had not been processed when the Secretary of State posted online its updated candidate list. All the other candidates' paperwork and filing fees that Longpine handed in were processed and are on the ballot.

Meeker said he wants to run for the House seat and believes he can win. Two Republicans are facing off in the primary. They are Jason Lieb and Brett Hildabrand. Hildabrand represented a different district and then moved to the 17th after the maps were redrawn.