National group joins effort to launch Party of the Center in Kansas
photo by: Peter Hancock
Topeka ? Scott Morgan, the Lawrence businessman who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for secretary of state in 2014, is now teaming up with a national organization to get a new political party on the ballot in Kansas.
At a Statehouse news conference Wednesday, Morgan announced that the Serve America Movement, a political action committee, will help gather the roughly 18,000 signatures of registered voters in Kansas needed to put a new Party of the Center on Kansas ballots.
Morgan first announced plans to form a new party in October after formally disassociating himself with the Kansas Republican Party in what he called a “break-up letter.”
“Kansans are tired of crazy,” Morgan said at the news conference. “They are hungry for another option that shares their belief in decency.”
The Serve America Movement, or SAM, is what’s known as a “527” political organization. A 527 is a tax-exempt political group that is generally exempt from state and federal campaign reporting requirements because it does not expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate or party.
But Sarah Lenti, one of the organizers of SAM, said the group does voluntarily disclose its finances. She said it has raised about $1.4 million so far from 109 donors.
Lenti, a former director on the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, said one of the group’s main issues is to reform the nation’s political system by ensuring voters have more choices on the ballot in general elections.
She said SAM was founded in early 2017 by a number of individuals and organizations who were frustrated with the results of the 2016 elections.
“SAM chose Kansas as its pilot state because we understand you are at a crossroads politically,” she said. “Nearly a third of Kansans identify as unaffiliated. We believe that this sizeable group of unaffiliateds — and yes, even some self-identified Republicans and Democrats — are looking for new and different options when it comes to candidates.”
Morgan said a number of people have expressed interest in running as a candidate under the new party’s banner, but no one has officially signed up yet.
“There are a lot of people interested in the ship, but they want to make sure it floats,” he said.
When asked about specific issues the new party might take stands on, Morgan demurred and said the party is more about process than ideology.
“Take guns. That is an issue out there,” he said. “That is an issue that cries out for a conversation to discuss it as the health issue that it is, to look at it as sane adults and figure out what restrictions can we make, what changes can we make. If people want no restrictions, there is a party for them. The Democrats are probably pretty good, but the Kansas Democrats are pretty ineffectual.”
Lenti said that SAM promotes six main principles: ending gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts; repealing “sore loser” laws that prevent people who lose a primary race in one of the major parties from getting on the ballot by affiliating with another party; strengthening campaign finance disclosure laws; giving voters more general election choices; expanding access to voter registration; and removing barriers that prevent minor parties from getting onto ballots.
Currently, Kansas recognizes only the Republican, Democratic and Libertarian parties. For the Party of the Center to gain ballot access for the 2018 elections, organizers have to submit petition signatures from registered voters in a number equal to 2 percent of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, or a little less than 18,000 signatures.
Those petitions must be submitted to the secretary of state’s office by noon on June 1, which is also the deadline for major-party candidates to file for office.
To maintain ballot access in future elections, a party must nominate at least one candidate for statewide office in a general election, and it must field at least one candidate for statewide office who receives at least 1 percent of the vote.
Morgan said the party has already gathered “thousands” of signatures on its petitions, but he was not able to provide an exact number. He said the party’s goal is to gather at least 25,000 signatures to protect against the likelihood that some may be invalidated, either because they are duplicates or are not registered voters in Kansas.
If the party is certified, it would have to nominate candidates at a party convention and submit its slate of candidates to the secretary of state’s office by Monday, Aug. 6, the day before the Republican and Democratic primaries.