Topeka The president of a tea party group in Wichita on Monday questioned whether a former Democratic legislator who’s running again for the Kansas House lives at the address he lists as his home, a concern the ex-lawmaker dismissed as “crazy.”
Craig Gabel, president of Kansans for Liberty, said interviews with neighbors and other information gathered by the group suggest that no one lives at the address listed by former Rep. Tom Sawyer when he filed for office in June. Gabel is challenging Sawyer’s right to run as the Democratic nominee in the 95th House District, and a state board is expected to consider Gabel’s objection later this week.
Sawyer said the allegations are politically motivated, adding, “I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
Sawyer isn’t the only Kansas House candidate to have his or her residency in a district challenged. Veteran Rep. Jan Pauls, a Hutchinson Democrat, had to address questions about her home before winning a narrow victory in the Aug. 7 primary, and a Republican nominee in a far northeast Kansas district recently withdrew from his race.
But questions about Sawyer are notable because of his past prominence among Democrats. He served 12 years in the House, becoming its minority leader, before running unsuccessfully for governor in 1998. He later served four years as state Democratic Party chairman and returned to the House in 2003, stepping down in 2009 to take a position on the Kansas Parole Board.
Gabel said information gathered by Kansans for Liberty suggests that Sawyer lives in another part of the Wichita area, outside of the 95th District.
“There’s nobody living in this house,” Gabel said. “We’ve been watching it for some time.”
Property tax records from Sedgwick County, available online, named Sawyer as the owner of the home listed as his residence. Those records say the home was built in 1920, has almost 2,000 square feet of space, three bedrooms, two full bathrooms and a partially finished basement.
Legislative directories consistently listed it as Sawyer’s home, starting in 1994, and Sawyer has been registered to vote at the address since 1993, according the Kansas secretary of state’s office.
“I’ve lived here 20 years,” Sawyer said. “That’s crazy.”
The State Objections Board will decide whether Sawyer will remain on the ballot in the November general election to challenge freshman Rep. Benny Boman, a Wichita Republican. The board is the secretary of state, attorney general and lieutenant governor — all Republicans — and it is expected to convene Thursday afternoon.