TOPEKA — A former assistant Kansas attorney general who’s running for the Legislature said Wednesday that he’s raised a legal issue that could create problems for dozens of fellow candidates because he doesn’t want the state to “cut corners” after federal judges redrew its political boundaries.
Scott Hesse, a Topeka attorney and real estate agent who is seeking the Republican nomination in the 52nd Kansas House district, is challenging a decision by Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office that pushed another Republican into his coming primary race. If Hesse is successful, one of two GOP opponents in his district would be removed from the ballot.
Hesse questions whether Kobach’s office had the authority to reassign more than 80 candidates to new districts after three judges revised political boundaries last week, within four days of Monday’s candidate filing deadline. The judges imposed new lines for congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts because lawmakers failed this year to adjust them to account for population shifts over the past decade.
The State Objections Board is scheduled to consider Hesse’s challenge and objections to other candidate filings during a meeting Tuesday. The board members are Kobach, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, all Republicans.
Other candidates wouldn’t be removed automatically from the ballot if Hesse prevails, but his success could allow additional challenges after the Aug. 7 primary election.
“The secretary of state does not have the authority, statutory or otherwise, to move a person from one district to another,” Hesse said during an interview. “What we’re really after here is to have good government, that we don’t cut corners.”
Hesse is challenging the candidacy of Dr. Shanti Gandhi, a fellow Republican and Topeka physician, but not the filings of the other two candidates in the 52nd House District, Republican Dick Jones and Democrat Ted Ensley, both from Topeka.
Kobach and other officials in his office declined to discuss Hesse’s objection, noting Kobach will participate in a decision on whether to remove Gandhi from the ballot over it.
Gandhi filed to run in the 54th House District in April. Gandhi said he went to the secretary of state’s office Friday and signed another document, stating his intent to run in the new 52nd District.
“I did what I was told to do,” he said.
According to the secretary of state’s office, the document Gandhi signed was a handwritten statement prepared by Brad Bryant, deputy assistant secretary of state for elections. Bryant also initialed it.
Hesse said he’ll have to examine the document to see whether it qualifies as a new filing. But he said when the federal judges drew new district lines and declared the old boundaries unconstitutional, filings before their ruling became invalid.
Kobach’s office established a policy in February for dealing with such situations, but Hesse said in his formal objection that it’s not valid because it wasn’t filed or published as a formal regulation.
“I’m trying to stop election fraud,” he said, touching on the major theme of Kobach’s successful campaign for secretary of state in 2010.
State law gives someone three days after a candidate’s filing to protest it, and Hesse filed his objection Monday after filing in the 52nd House District himself. Other candidates in the same situation as Gandhi will get a pass if no one objects, but Kansas law also allows for an objection after the winner of a primary race is certified.