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Kansas GOP chair should pick a job E-mail
Opinion
Thursday, 14 December 2017 09:21


A SECOND OPINION, The Kansas City Star



The Kansas Republican Party faces a bit of a problem involving next year's race for secretary of state.

Scott Schwab, a state representative from Olathe, is a candidate in the GOP's 2018 primary for the job. So are state Rep. Keith Esau, also of Olathe, and Kelly Arnold of Wichita.

Arnold does lots of things — he's a financial planner and is the Sedgwick County clerk. But he also serves as the chairman of the Kansas Republican Party. And he plans to keep the job while he's running in the GOP primary for secretary of state.

Schwab is understandably upset. "The Kansas Republican Party chair running for office, while retaining his post as chairman, not only compromises integrity but is a disservice to the process statewide," he said in a statement.

Arnold is apparently unconvinced. "I will not be resigning the seat I was elected for," he told The Star. "It is not a new occasion for an elected party officer to run for a contested seat."

Schwab has the better of the argument.

This isn't a legal matter — state law doesn't prohibit party chairs from running for office. But it's a question of appearances, at least for Kansas Republicans who will pick a nominee for secretary of state.

Political parties generally maintain neutrality in primaries. Indeed, Kansas GOP bylaws prohibit party committees and paid staff from endorsing or supporting any candidate in a contested primary.

Arnold says he isn't paid as GOP chairman. But it's hard to escape the impression that the party apparatus could put its thumb on the scale for its sitting chairman at the expense of other candidates, including Schwab and Esau.

That impression could linger into the general election if Arnold is the nominee. The Kansas GOP's website now includes a lengthy biography of Arnold, but says little about the other candidates.

The secretary of state in Kansas plays an important role in elections. In fact, incumbent Secretary of State Kris Kobach will help supervise the Kansas governor's race in 2018, and he's a candidate for the job.

That's a sticky situation, too, but one common in most states and perhaps unavoidable.

Arnold, on the other hand, can step away from his chairmanship without serious harm to the party or the state. If he loses the primary, he can seek the chairmanship again.

Again, this is an intra-party squabble. If Kansas Republicans are uncomfortable with Arnold's dual roles, they must tell him to pick one job or the other.

If he chooses not to do so, Republicans can judge him accordingly. We're pretty sure Scott Schwab will bring it up.

 

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