TOPEKA — Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson ruled Thursday that state law requires gubernatorial candidates to be Kansas residents.
Watson accepted arguments by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, who sued the Kansas Secretary of State's office in April for giving a green light to out-of-state candidates. In May, New York City resident Andy Maskin became the first — and only — candidate to pay the filing fee and test the interpretation of the law.
"We appreciate the court's impartial assessment clarifying the law," Schmidt said. "Today's judgment confirms that our reading of the law is correct: Current law requires candidates for governor and lieutenant governor of Kansas to reside in Kansas."
Maskin, who already was removed from the ballot by the State Objections Board, said he was disappointed in the judge's ruling but not pursuing any further options. He still hopes to recover the $2,207 he paid when he filed.
Separate statutes imply a residency requirement but none explicitly requires a gubernatorial candidate to live in Kansas. Schmidt argued the legislative intent was to require state residency, and Watson agreed. The lack of a residency requirement, Schmidt said, could lead to unreasonable or absurd results.
For example, it would allow the possibility of one person serving as the governor of two states at the same time.
"This is a highly unlikely hypothetical that may have other underlying flaws," Watson ruled, "but it illustrates a basic point."
She determined the lack of a specific reference suggests candidates must be Kansas residents.
Watson also rejected Maskin's argument that the state's pioneers left the issue open because they knew "good citizens with leadership skills" can come from anywhere.
"While pioneer purpose is one explanation for the lack of an explicit candidate residency requirement in Kansas law, it is not a likely one," Watson said. "No party cites any authority for the proposition that Kansas' early lawmakers deliberately omitted a candidate residency requirement for the office of governor for any reason, including that they wanted to recruit governing talent from outside the fledgling state. Courts must not strain to find meaning through a process of imaginative hypothesizing. Rather, a common sense approach is the better path."
That approach led Watson to determine "it is clear that the Kansas Legislature intended to require candidates" to be Kansas residents.
"This construction avoids unreasonable results and is consistent with a common sense approach to resolving the question at hand," she said.