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Infighting intensifes with Kansas GOP set to pick new leader



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TOPEKA, Kan. — Republicans are combating over who will lead the Kansas GOP for the subsequent two years, and frustrations over two key election losses final yr within the GOP-leaning state have ramped up the acrimony already roiling the get together nationally.

The Kansas Republican Occasion’s state committee was set Saturday to select the officers who will oversee get together operations by means of the 2024 elections. The competition for chair is between Helen Van Etten, a former Republican Nationwide Committee member, and Mike Brown, who promoted election conspiracy theories throughout an unsuccessful run for Kansas secretary of state final yr.

Some Republicans body the competition as pitting the get together institution in opposition to an anti-establishment wing. The important thing challenge could also be who’s perceived because the loudest and most aggressive fighter.

The vote comes three months after Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly narrowly received reelection, and the one Democrat within the state’s congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, received one other time period handily. With the GOP holding a voter registration benefit, Democrats in Kansas win huge races by attracting votes from average Republicans and unbiased voters, whereas Republicans typically prevail when the get together is unified.

“I simply hope it would not get out of hand,” Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area Republican, stated forward of Saturday’s assembly. “Divided homes fall — that is simply the way in which it’s. There must be unity introduced again to the get together.”

The infighting is particularly intense in Johnson County within the Kansas Metropolis space, the state’s most populous county, house for each Brown and retiring State Chair Mike Kuckelman. The county’s prosperous suburbs as soon as had been GOP strongholds, however since 2018, they’ve develop into conspicuously extra Democratic — and have been essential to Kelly’s and Davids’ victories.

The Johnson County GOP’s new chair, a Brown ally involved concerning the county’s “purple creep,” informed GOP state committee members that Kuckelman had been “completely abhorrent” in his remedy of Brown. Kuckelman fired again with a number of emails, together with one accusing Brown of being tender in opposing abortion and supporting gun rights.

Republicans additionally had been combating forward of RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel’s reelection final month. She confronted opposition from the ultra-Make America Nice Once more wing of the get together regardless of having been picked for the job in 2016 by former President Trump.

In Michigan, two statewide GOP candidates who denied President Joe Biden’s election victory in 2020 had been looking for get together workplaces. In Nebraska final yr, Republicans who help Trump fired the state chair throughout a tumultuous conference following a Trump-backed candidate’s loss within the GOP major for governor.

In Kansas, Van Etten, a retired audiologist, has been a GOP activist for many years and served on the nationwide committee from 2008 to 2020. She is also a former member of the state board that oversees the state’s increased schooling system. She has not held elective workplace.

She’s been described because the institution candidate. Requested about that, Van Etten stated that if she’s thought-about institution due to her years of service to the GOP, then, “All people on the state committee, 70% of them are institution.”

“When you’re saying the institution is who’s been an elected official earlier than, that is not me,” she stated.

Brown, one other longtime GOP activist, is a development contractor who served on the Johnson County Fee earlier than dropping his seat in 2020. He misplaced the GOP major for secretary of state to Republican incumbent Scott Schwab, who has vouched for the integrity of Kansas elections.

Whereas Brown declined to be interviewed till after Saturday’s assembly, he informed Republicans in a single electronic mail, “I clearly scare/rattle the Institution as a result of they proceed to come back at me full tilt however I don’t go away or stop.”

In a single December electronic mail to fellow Republicans, Brown known as on McDaniel to resign as RNC chair.

“There are a goodly variety of Republicans who’re annoyed with the established order,” stated state Sen. Tim Shallenburger, a former state GOP chair and state treasurer. “I’m assuming when you’re for Mike Brown, you’re wanting change, you’re wanting a extra daring, loud management.”

Whereas Kuckelman has not formally endorsed anybody within the chair’s race, he praised Van Etten forward of the assembly as a “unifier.”

“Folks know her nationally within the Republican Occasion,” Kuckelman added.


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