A Kansas Democratic official faces a recall effort from party members who allege that she voted on whether the party should give $20,000 to congressional candidate James Thompson despite being connected to a consulting firm paid by the campaign.
A recall petition is circulating among the party’s executive committee targeting party secretary Casey Yingling. In addition to a conflict of interest, the petition alleges Yingling has attacked the party on social media.
“Casey Yingling refused to recuse herself in a conflict of interest vote related to the funding of a candidate after being asked to do so on two separate occasions,” the petition says.
The Eagle obtained a copy of the petition and accompanying documents. Executive committee member Sage TeBeest sent out the petition in an Aug. 15 email. She said Friday she is close to obtaining enough signatures to force a vote on Yingling’s ouster.
Yingling called the petition’s allegations “unfounded and politically motivated” in a statement.
She noted that Democrats were mourning the death of Tom Docking, a former lieutenant governor, and added, “Commenting on this distracting and destructive dialogue today would not honor his legacy. I look forward to an open discussion of these matters in the appropriate venue.”
Under party rules, if the petition is signed by 35 percent of the executive committee, a vote to remove Yingling will take place at the next party meeting – in this case Demofest in late September. Removing Yingling would require a two-thirds vote.
Asked about Yingling, Thompson said in a statement that everyone should be honoring Docking, and that he would not allow “this insider political hack job to overshadow his memory or distract us from the work of electing Democrats up and down the ballot in Kansas.”
“I am disgusted by the establishment political games currently going on within the Kansas Democratic Party. I am disappointed that some anonymous party big wig chose to put this on display to the public today,” Thompson said.
Ethan Corson, director of the Kansas Democratic Party, would not comment except to say it was an “internal party matter.”
TeBeest said some of the feedback to the party after the 2016 election was that it needs to be more transparent.
“They didn’t feel they trusted us and we needed to do things, to make changes to make progress forward. One of those changes is things like this,” TeBeest said.
Yingling was on a conference call of the party’s executive committee in March in the run-up to the special election to fill the U.S. House seat left by Mike Pompeo, who resigned to become CIA director. Thompson’s campaign had requested $20,000 from the party.
Yingling co-organized Ad Astra Group LLC, a political consulting firm providing services to Thompson’s campaign. The campaign has disbursed more than $200,000 to Ad Astra this year, according to Federal Election Commission data. Yingling also received $5,000 from the campaign in May for providing legal services.
The committee voted to reject the request. Yingling was asked twice to abstain from voting but declined, according to TeBeest and Carri New, another member of the committee who was on the call and supports the petition.
The petition also takes aim at Yingling’s social media use, saying she “has engaged in ongoing attacks on social media against the party, including unfounded accusations of exclusion.”
On July 26, the day President Donald Trump announced he would nominate Gov. Sam Brownback to an ambassadorship, Yingling was critical of the party’s response to the news.
“Don’t worry. Just got a fundraising email from @KansasDems – I guess the official response is ‘Sam Brownback is gone, give us your money,’” Yingling tweeted.
The next day, Yingling posted: “The first thing you ask anyone defending the honor of the @KansasDems from me is if they talked to me first – the answer will be no.”
Yingling is not the only Thompson supporter to be critical of the party at times.
Tensions between the campaign and the party spilled into the open in the aftermath of the vote on the $20,000 request. Thompson campaign manager Colin Curtis posted on Twitter at the time that if party executive committee members “spent ½ the time organizing/ raising $ that they do arguing on Facebook, they might have a statewide office.”
Thompson lost to Republican Ron Estes in the April special election, but the margin of victory was smaller than usual, 45.7 percent to 52.5 percent. Former Republican congressman Mike Pompeo won the seat by 31 percentage points in November.
Thompson vowed on election night to run again and has continued to campaign.