Government & Politics

Olathe man charged with election fraud will remain on ballot for Kansas House seat

An Olathe man who has been charged with election fraud will remain on the November ballot, a state elections panel decided Monday.

Adam T. Thomas, who is the Republican candidate for the 26th District House seat, was arrested last Thursday and charged with election perjury.

Monday’s decision by the state objections board is separate from the pending court case.

A Democratic state representative, Vic Miller of Topeka, had called for an investigation into Thomas in June after presenting evidence that he did not live in the district where he was running and did not reside in the house listed on his voter registration form and candidate filing.

“If this man was a legally qualified candidate when he filed, then more power to him,” said Miller, who is the attorney representing Thomas’ Democratic challenger, Deann Mitchell. “But he wasn’t and the Constitution says he has to be.”

After posting bond last week, an attorney for Thomas called the situation “Kansas dirty politics at its worst.”

Both Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the state’s chief election official, and the Kansas GOP have declined to comment on the case.

The state objections board, which includes the offices of lieutenant governor, the attorney general and the secretary of state, could have decided to remove Thomas from the November ballot.

During Monday’s hearing, Miller said that in the August primary, Thomas was both a candidate for the House seat in district 26, but also a candidate for Republican committeeman in an area within a different legislative district.

Michael Kuckelman, the attorney for Thomas, said that filing had occurred at an earlier time before he filed to run for the House. He maintained that Thomas will be acquitted in the court case.

Kuckelman also argued the objection wasn’t valid and questioned the motives of the Democrats challenging his client’s run for public office. Both parties agreed that by early July, after the candidate filing deadline but before the election, Thomas lived in the district.

“It was the right outcome,” Kuckelman said. “...What we have here is the Democrat who’s seeking the same seat trying to kick the Republican off the ballot, so that she’s the only candidate listed on the ballot. Something about that ought to cause people to be concerned.”

Earlier Monday, the same panel threw out a challenge to Kobach’s narrow win in the Republican primary for Kansas governor.

The complaint from Davis Hammet, director of Loud Light, a Kansas-based civic engagement organization, centered on certain votes not being counted. That included advance mail ballots that were rejected over questions about signatures and Republican ballots cast by unaffiliated voters. Votes thrown out in Johnson County played a key role in the argument.

The board hearing Hammet’s complaint was led by Eric Rucker, who works in the Secretary of State’s office. The board rejected the complaint, saying that Hammet did not provide enough evidence to change the outcome of the election.

“It was this wild tap dancing to try to dismiss my legitimate claims and not have to deal with them,” Hammet said.

Hammet’s complaint reignited issues surrounding Kobach’s narrow 343-vote win over Gov. Jeff Colyer in the August GOP primary. Though he later endorsed Kobach, Colyer’s campaign team voiced similar concerns before its candidate conceded the race.

Kobach turned over his election duties to Rucker after the outcry over Kobach’s role in a possible recount as the state’s chief election official.

Rucker has donated to Kobach’s campaign and wore a Kobach campaign shirt at the gubernatorial debate at the state fair last weekend.

An effort by Hammet for Rucker to recuse himself failed.

“Whether it concerns me or not is not the issue,” Rucker said of any appearance of impropriety. “What should concern the people of the state of Kansas is whether or not we’re following the law, and we’re following the law.”

The attorney representing the Kobach campaign in the Monday hearing was Michael Roman, a former Trump administration official.

The Wichita Eagle’s Jonathan Shorman contributed to this report.