Kansas ads in governor’s race: Often misleading, disparaging with a partisan dash of truth

Kelly, Schmidt loyalists post dozens of commercials — and Pyle piles on

by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflecor

Topeka — The battle between distortion and nuance rages in the Kansas gubernatorial race as dozens of commercials flood television and the internet in a quest to influence voters’ views of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Republican challenger Derek Schmidt.

In the last few days, independent governor candidate Dennis Pyle added his voice to the electronic dialogue with his first piece of campaign advertising. It predictably attacked both Schmidt and Kelly as “two peas in a pod.”

Schmidt, the state’s attorney general, has joined allies in taking swings at Kelly by asserting the governor cavalierly closed public schools in response to the COVID-19 national emergency. It’s as if Schmidt wanted voters to imagine Kelly personally padlocking chains to school doors.

These ads don’t remind Kansans of life-or-death uncertainty about COVID-19 that existed in March 2020 when Kelly directed local and state officials to transition the education system to online instruction. In that moment, there was no testing, no personal protection equipment and no vaccine to counter a lethal virus easily spread at mass gatherings.

In response to criticism of being the first governor to suspend in-school classes, Kelly said she would “never apologize for protecting the lives of our children.”

Throughout the campaign, Kelly and her allies have worked to tattoo Schmidt as a clone of former Gov. Sam Brownback, an unpopular Republican who derailed the state budget with a fantasy quest to eliminate Kansas’ income tax. Brownback’s strangulation of state government’s revenue stream led to years of budget problems, deep spending cuts and, ironically, tax hikes.

Kansas Values Institute’s PAC, which backs Kelly, has produced no less than eight commercials devoted to affirming a Brownback-Schmidt ideological alliance.

A comparable guilt-by-association approach was used four years ago in Kelly’s successful campaign against Republican nominee Kris Kobach. The messaging was given a boost by Kobach, who promised to surpass Brownback’s zeal for slashing taxes and spending.

Schmidt, of course, hasn’t promised to recharge Brownback’s disproven tax agenda, which was repealed in 2017 by the GOP-led Legislature after a dismal five-year experiment.

Transgender feud

Advertising wordsmiths have dedicated themselves to interpreting positions of Schmidt and Kelly on whether transgender women or girls in elementary, middle school, high school and college should be banned by Kansas law from sports programs.

Schmidt said as governor he would sign legislation requiring participation to be based on a person’s gender at birth, which would disregard rights of Kansans who transitioned.

The Republican Governor’s Association PAC put it a different way, declaring Kelly opposed reasonable “efforts to ban men from competing against girls in high school sports.”

Kelly said Schmidt and his allies were distorting her veto of two “discriminatory” transgender sports bills and her belief athletic associations, including the NCAA, should set policy on student participation in sports.

“You may have seen my opponent’s attacks,” Kelly said in her latest campaign commercial. “So, let me just say it. Of course, men should not play girls sports.”

Schmidt’s campaign howled and the GOP nominee declared “she’s wrong to mislead Kansans about her real position.”

Packing a punch

The Republican Governor’s Association PAC has contributed to the Kansas conversation with seven commercials. The roster featured a piece blaming Kelly for rising crime. The ad was problematic because it relied on alarming footage of a smash-and-grab store robbery in California — not Kansas.

The Kansas Democratic Party posted to Twitter a video of Schmidt declaring: “What good does it do to fully fund schools?” That endless loop snippet didn’t contain the rest of Schmidt’s sentence: “… if you turn around and lock the children out of them?”

C.J. Grover, spokesman for the Schmidt campaign, said the Twitter item should be considered “misinformation” and reflected a “flailing and desperate” campaign.

He said the GOP nominee pledged to fund public education as required by the Kansas Constitution. However, Republicans in the state Legislature have eagerly sought election of a GOP governor who would be more friendly to reform in state financing of public schools, including diversion of tax dollars to private schools.

Emma O’Brien, spokesperson for the state Democratic Party, said there was good reason Schmidt didn’t want a spotlight directed at his record of supporting reductions in state aid to K-12 public school districts.

“It’s no surprise that Derek Schmidt and his team are panicking about Kansans learning the truth about his record,” O’Brien said. “After supporting a bill that underfunded schools in the state Senate and defending Brownback’s tax cuts to public schools as attorney general, he’s already proven that he can’t be trusted when it comes to fully funding public education. He can say whatever he wants during an election year, but the facts don’t lie.”

Put your helmets on

The volume and variety of Kansas gubernatorial commercials — embedded with questionable claims, out-of-context conclusions and misleading statements — could escalate ahead of the Nov. 8 election. The objective would be to influence the cadre of undecided voters across Kansas who might be susceptible to a well-crafted, timely attack ad.

The latest polling indicated Kelly held a small edge over Schmidt, but the gap was within the margin of error. Such a competitive race could convince organizations invested in the governor’s race to continue spending in a bid to move the needle.

More than 40 campaign ads tied to the Kansas governor’s contest have surfaced so far. In addition to the big spenders, contributors included the Democratic Governor’s Association PAC and groups known as Our Way of Life and Get Back to Work. Others that haven’t revealed themselves could break through in the final weeks of the race.

Schmidt and Kelly have released 15 commercials, and Pyle, the independent candidate for governor, last week dropped his first ad.

The conservative state senator from Hiawatha took a swipe at voting records of Schmidt and Kelly, who both served in the Kansas Senate, on a series of bills proponents believed useful in cracking down on illegal immigration.

“Derek Schmidt thinks he has you fooled,” Pyle’s spot says. “He doesn’t want you to know his bad votes on illegal immigration. No surprise, he voted every time with his buddy — Democrat Laura Kelly. Two peas in a pod.”

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/09/26/kansas-ads-in-governors-race-often-misleading-disparaging-with-a-partisan-dash-of-truth/

Legal advocacy group files ethics complaint against Schmidt tied to 2020 election lawsuit

Kansas attorney general’s office expects latest complaint to be dismissed

by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — An organization dedicated to challenging lawyers accused of using the judicial system to aid President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election filed an ethics complaint against the Kansas attorney general and 14 of his peers across the country.

The 65 Project, which portrays itself as a bipartisan group, targeted Attorney General Derek Schmidt and other current or former state attorneys general for taking part in a lawsuit in 2020 viewed as a desperate search for legal loopholes leading to reversal of President Joe Biden’s victory over Trump.

Michael Teter, managing director of The 65 Project, submitted a complaint Wednesday to the Kansas Office of the Disciplinary Administrator alleging Schmidt used his public office to “amplify false assertions and frivolous claims that lacked any basis in law or fact.”

The allegation was linked to Schmidt’s formal support of a lawsuit initiated by the Texas attorney general with the U.S. Supreme Court contesting administration of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. One objective was to prevent electors in those swing states from voting in the Electoral College and to potentially replace the electors with people approved by Trump.

The state of Pennsylvania responded with a brief declaring the Texas-based claim “seditious abuse” of the judicial process. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

John Milburn, spokesman for the Kansas attorney general, said The 65 Project’s action followed “multiple baseless complaints” submitted last year to the Office of the Disciplinary Administrator against Schmidt.

“All were dismissed and we expect this election-year retread will be, too,” Milburn said.

Comparable ethics complaints were filed by The 65 Project against attorneys general in Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Milburn released a March 2021 letter issued by Kansas deputy disciplinary administrator Kate Baird in response to a complaint from Georgia challenging Schmidt’s role in seeking judicial review of voting in the four swing states. It was alleged Schmidt’s signing of the 2020 legal brief was “frivolous and wholly without merit.” The state disciplinary office dismissed the complaint.

Baird said Schmidt explained he joined the effort to urge federal consideration of issues on the separation of powers. It wasn’t the first time Schmidt’s office had been involved in questions regarding the electors clause, she said.

“Our office does not have authority to substitute our judgment for that of an attorney as he or she determines whether to assert or defend a claim,” Baird said. “Our review is limited to an assessment of whether there is a good faith basis, that is not frivolous, for asserting a claim.”

She said facts of the matter didn’t demonstrate Schmidt violated ethics rules applicable to attorneys in Kansas.

In the latest complaint, The 65 Project asserted Schmidt violated four planks of the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct. The complaint alleged Schmidt was dishonest, advanced a frivolous argument and contributed to work of others engaged in professional misconduct.

“Mr. Schmidt chose to offer his professional license and public trust to Mr. Trump’s arsenal during the latter’s assault on our democracy,” said Teter, of The 65 Project. “He cannot be shielded from the consequences of that decision simply because he holds high public office.”

The group’s complaint noted two members of Schmidt’s staff traveled in 2019 to a meeting where senior staffers of conservative state attorneys general participated in “war games” to develop post-election legal strategy in the event Trump lost reelection. The summit was put on by the Rule of Law Defense Fund, a group with ties to the Republican Attorneys General Association.

The Rule of Law Defense Fund also contributed to runup of the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol with robocalls providing details to guide protesters from the White House to the Capitol in an effort to “stop the steal.” In wake of the assault, Schmidt condemned actions of rioters.

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.
See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/09/23/legal-advocacy-group-files-ethics-complaint-against-schmidt-tied-to-2020-election-lawsuit/

Kansas poll: Gov. Laura Kelly holds narrow lead in gubernatorial race against Derek Schmidt

Economy top issue in the campaign followed by abortion rights

by Tim Carpenter, Kansas Reflector

Topeka — A new poll of likely Kansas voters released Wednesday indicated Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly held a narrow lead over Republican nominee Derek Schmidt in a heated contest to be decided in less than two months.

Kelly, who is seeking a second term as governor, was favored by 44.6% of those participating in the survey, while Schmidt was the preference of 43.1%. Independent candidate Dennis Pyle, a lifelong member of the GOP until launching his bid, had 3%. Eight percent of those polled were undecided.

The 1.5 percentage point gap between Schmidt and Kelly in the FOX4 survey by Emerson College Polling was within the margin of error. In earlier polling in Kansas’ gubernatorial contest done by different organizations, Schmidt was ahead in two polls and Kelly in one poll. One of those polls had Pyle at 2%.

Spencer Kimball, executive director for Emerson College Polling, said the latest assessment revealed men in Kansas favored Schmidt over Kelly by a margin of 51% to 38%. At the same time, he said, women were breaking for Kelly over Schmidt 51% to 37%.

Meanwhile, the poll by Emerson College put Republican Kris Kobach ahead of Democratic nominee Chris Mann. It had Kobach at 41% and Mann at 39%.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican, had a lead of 45% to 33% over Democratic candidate Mark Holland, a former mayor of the Unified Government in Kansas City, Kansas.

The Emerson College poll found 48.4% Kansas voters in the survey were most concerned about the economy, but abortion rights was the second-most important issue at 16%.

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2022/09/21/kansas-poll-gov-kelly-holds-narrow-lead-in-gubernatorial-race-against-gops-schmidt/