How the Kansas Democratic Party Tried to Steal the Nomination from James Thompson

Back in January of 2017, following the resignation of Mike Pompeo from his seat KS-04 seat in Congress, a nomination fight broke out in both the Republican and Democratic Parties.

While the Republican Party leadership and apparatus was content to allow the candidates to fight it out, the leadership of the Kansas Democratic Party saw it as an opportunity to hand-pick a candidate who could raise some much needed cash for their coffers. We thwarted that plan. 

Recently, the full involvement of the Kansas Democratic Party and members of the Executive Committee has become more clear following disclosures made with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). 

Despite being an early Hilary Clinton supporter, I was nonetheless outraged at any involvement by the DNC to stack the deck against Bernie Sanders in last year’s nominating process.

I have witnessed this strategy cycle-after-cycle, year-after-year in Kansas: party leaders hand-picking a candidate based entirely on some amorphous, undefined and incredibly subjective standard known as “viability.” And then using the party apparatus and resources to ensure that the candidate who has been hand-picked by the Establishment Elites win, despite any efforts or recruitment that local Democrats have done to also recruit candidates and build infrastructure.

The Kansas Democratic Party's establishment elites have a specific playbook that doesn't change: to hand-pick a candidate; use our party's resources to overwhelm us financially; and then use character assassination to destroy the person or persons who stand in the way. 

We witnessed this on multiple occasions earlier this year with James Thompson’s Congressional campaign in the KS-04 Special. There are three specific, substantiated examples of the Kansas Democratic Party's involvement in the nominating process for the KS-04 Special.

The State Party Chair Both Endorsed and Introduced Dennis McKinney as a Candidate for the KS-04 Special Election. No Other Candidate Enjoyed This Luxury.

Seventeen days before the nominating convention for the KS-04 Special Election for Congress, on January 25, 2017, then-State Party Chair Lee Kinch (now-Jim Ward for Governor Treasurer) not only endorsed Dennis McKinney, he also introduced Dennis McKinney at his announcement for the KS-04 Congressional seat at the Plumbers' and Pipefitters' Union in Wichita. 

The Kansas Democratic Party Hid the Rules for the Nominating Convention in the KS-04 Special.

Early in the nominating process, the party refused to provide any rules for how the nominating process would be conducted. Specifically, there was no unwritten protocol or written procedure for how many votes would be available in the process, what delegates carried those votes, how those votes would be allocated, and, most importantly, how those votes would be counted (plurality vs. 50% + 1). 

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With 60 days advance notice ahead of the nominating convention, the KDP Establishment were trying to paint a picture that they weren't prepared for the convention - that the rules had no yet been written. This was false. 

On January 21, I first approached Kerry Gooch, Executive Director for the Kansas Democratic Party, for a draft set of rules for that nominating convention for the KS-04 Special Congressional election. We encouraged these rules to be disbursed to all candidates so that it would level the playing field. Mr. Gooch promised those rules were being drafted and would be made available for all candidates for the race as well as their teams and the delegates to the KS-04 convention well in advance of the convention. 

However, by February 4, 2017, a draft of those rules were still not made available. We were holding our 4th District Committee reorganization on that day in Wichita.

At the reorganization committee meeting for KS-04 on February 4, I pressed for the release of those rules.

The State Party Chair, Lee Kinch, promised to each of the attendees on that day, including newly elected KS-04 Delegates, that the rules would be made available ahead of the nominating convention. The Chair declined to provide a specific date or deadline. Only that the rules would be available “before the Nominating Convention.” My concern was that the rules would be made available only minutes before the convention. In my 20 year history, this is the  strategy I’ve witnessed with great frequency within the Kansas Democratic Party. 

On the following Tuesday morning (February 6), I again pressed the State Party Chair by telephone to release the rules for the nominating convention. The Chair asked if I trusted him. I said that it was not a matter of trust — it’s matter of basic fairness and simple optics. He told me to “fuck off” and ended the call, still without releasing the rules and procedure for the nominating convention. 

At 9:25 a.m. on Tuesday, February 6, following the phone call with Lee Kinch and when all other options to have the rules produced in advance of the meeting had been exercised, I posted my concerns on Facebook so that the delegates to the 4th District Committee, many of whom were new to the committee and, indeed, new to the party, could understand my concerns about seemingly deliberate failure to produce the rules.

At 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 6, Kerry Gooch sent an email finally distributing those rules to the Democratic candidates running for the special election nomination. 

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We learned at that time, based on the metadata in the Word file that was sent to the candidates, that now-State Party Chairman John Gibson drafted those rules. When Mr. Gibson was approached about this, he declined to state when he had produced the rules and how long those rules had been available. 

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FEC Reports Demonstrate the Party's Candidate Used the State Party Committee as His Own Committee. Disbursements to KDP Executive Committee Member Substantiated by Reports.

The Federal Election Commission has no record or reports from Dennis McKinney's unsuccessful run for Congress in the KS-04 Special. While there was indeed a committee filed, there were never any reports filed disclosing that McKinney raised or spent any money. See here. Full report available here.

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The timing of these disbursements on the KDP's FEC report are, undoubtedly, suspicious, but the disbursements alone are not dispositive that the KDP sought to support another Democratic nominee.

The case that the KDP leadership sought to influence the outcome of the nominating convention becomes more clear after searching the Kansas Secretary of State's Business Entity Database. Post Rock Partners, Inc., according to the Kansas Secretary of State's office, is owned by a KDP Executive Committee Member, Ryon Carey, who represented Dennis McKinney at all points throughout the KS-04 special election Democratic nominating convention. 

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Every step of the way, KDP establishment Democrats, specifically those upon the Executive Committee of the Kansas Democratic Party, have attempted to systematically game nominations in favor of hand-picked candidates. 

This behavior is not only reckless; it is precisely the reason that Democrats cannot come together following a primary or other nominating procedure: they feel like their voice was stolen by their own political party.