TOPEKA, Kan. — A Kansas election panel overruled an objection to remove a Republican House district candidate from the ballot on Friday.
Democrats are challenging the residency of House District 82 GOP nominee, Leah Howell.
Howell, who is also the wife of Sedgwick County commissioner, Jim Howell, was an interim representative for House District 81 in this year’s legislative session. She is now running as the Republican pick for House District 82.
Kansas House Representative Vic Miller, D-Topeka, spoke on behalf of objectors at a State Objections Board meeting on Friday. Miller said that Howell knowingly left the “residential address” section on her candidate application vacant when she filed in May, because she did not reside in House District 82 at the time of filing.
“She filed, became a candidate, and did not qualify at that moment, and did nothing to correct that,” Miller argued.
However, Howell, who was asked to take the stand during the meeting, said the “blank” section was a “sloppy” oversight on her part.
“I don’t even remember anything about why… I have no idea… I think I was just sloppy,” Howell said. “Often times, if you fill out one, a lot of times it will say, ‘if same… you don’t have to do it.’ And, I don’t know if I just didn’t pay attention and just assumed it was the same. But, to be honest, I’ve lived a lot of lives since I filled out that form. I just… I don’t actually recall anything about why that section is blank.”
Other state legislators have been charged with election perjury for submitting falsified documents to election officials.
In his rebuttal, Miller maintained that Howell’s error was not made out of “sloppiness.”
“She did not live in the 82nd district, which is exactly why, not because of sloppiness, is why, she didn’t, under penalty of perjury, put down a residence on that line that asks for her residence,” Miller said.
However, Ryan Kriegshauser, an attorney and representative for Howell, argued that she had signed the lease and was just waiting on the keys for her new residence in District 82 at the time. The election panel found that state law allows for the “intent” of residence when a candidate is filing, deciding to keep Howell on the ballot.
Kriegshauser also slammed democrats, calling their challenge to Howell’s residency a “political and legal stunt.”
Democrats need at least three seats in the Kansas House of Representatives to break the Republican supermajority. House District 82 tends to lean Republican.
Howell, who ran uncontested in the House race, won the GOP nomination with more than 3,000 votes. That’s about 2,000 more votes than her democratic competitor, Misti Hobbs, who was also present at the meeting.
“What this is, is politics of the worst kind, where you have an objector trying to disqualify a candidate based on a political, legal stunt,” Kriegshauser said.
Both Howell and Hobbs will be facing off in the General Election on November 8.