A Republican candidate for the Legislature withstood a blistering rebuke of his residency claims Monday as a political rival offered incriminating photos, called for a criminal investigation and referred to him interchangeably as Mr. Sleaze, a lowlife and a lying liar.
The panel tasked with preserving ballot integrity determined Michael Capps could stay in the race for a Wichita district because candidates can change their minds on where they intend to live. In other rulings, the State Objections Board gave the boot to performance artist Vermin Supreme and allowed Rep. Ron Estes to list his congressional title on the ballot.
Topeka Rep. Vic Miller, who appeared as an attorney for fellow Democrat Monica Marks, presented evidence that Capps frequently alters his place of residence for the purpose of voter registration and seeking office. Miller accused Capps, who previously filed in another Wichita district with a different home address, of switching races shortly before deadline because he learned he wouldn’t have an opponent.
A photo provided by Miller showed a stone with Capps’ name on it at the previous house. Miller said “he or his comrades slithered over” to move the stone two days after Miller filed an objection.
“I would hope the board will do the right thing today,” Miller said. “Strike this man’s name from the ballot and say to all candidates in the future, ‘You can’t make a sham of the voter registration and candidacy requirements in the state of Kansas.’ “
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, however, challenged Miller to explain why someone can’t decide to move for the purpose of a race. Nothing in law prohibits a candidate from rapidly changing residence, Kobach said. Brant Laue, chief counsel for the governor’s office, joined with Kobach and Athena Andaya, deputy attorney general for legal opinions, in upholding Capps’ candidacy.
“The applicable legal standard is not a high one,” Laue said.
Capps attributed residency changes to the renovation earlier this year of the house where he now lives. He shrugged off Miller’s personal attacks, which included eight references to him being a liar or lying, saying it was time to move forward with the race.
“It’s rhetoric,” Capps said. “There’s nothing more to say to it.”
For Supreme, the panel relied on a recent Shawnee County District Court judge opinion that blocked a New York City resident, Andy Maskin, from entering the governor’s race. Kobach and Laue said the same legal reasoning should apply to other statewide races.
Supreme, who listed a home address in Massachusetts when he filed for the attorney general’s race, appeared by phone with his attorney. Although Supreme provided a rental agreement that shows he paid $1 for a 30-night stay at Topeka’s Liberty House, he staked his argument on the grounds that nothing in Kansas law prohibits an out-of-state candidate from seeking statewide office.
“The real losers today were the people of Kansas and democracy itself,” Supreme said. “I object to the decision. An outrage. A travesty. Not unexpected.”
Supreme said his legal team would explore its options, including the possibility of building a carpetbagger-proof wall around the state of Kansas.
“I will not be drawn into a pissing match with the objection board in the meantime,” Supreme said.
Laura Lombard, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 4th District race, complained Estes was gaining an unfair advantage by adding “Rep.” to his name in his primary race against a challenger with the same name.
State law prohibits the use of titles, prefixes or suffixes but makes an exception when necessary to distinguish between candidates.
“The intent of the law is to protect challengers like myself from unnecessary disadvantage relative to an incumbent on the ballot,” Lombard said.
Kobach said the title would be removed from the ballot for the general election race, correcting Lombard’s interpretation of state law. He said his office applied “great care” in allowing the congressman to use a title. The other Estes is listed with a middle initial.
Lombard asked that both candidates appear with a middle initial. Kobach said he had no idea what the congressman’s middle initial was, despite being an astute observer of Kansas politics. The panel denied Lombard’s objection in the interest of avoiding confusion for voters.
After the hearing, Miller and House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, complained about an objections board stacked with Republican office holders or their proxies making decisions to protect Republican candidates.
“I have faith, however, in the voters,” Miller said. “When the voters find out what a sleaze ball they have to chose from between these two people, I think they’ll do the right thing. The task is getting the truth out.”