Kansas Equality Coalition challenges Pauls candidacy

? A gay rights group that opposes the re-election of a House member has filed a complaint to remove her from the ballot.

Thomas Witt, executive director of the Kansas Equality Coalition, has lodged a challenge to the candidacy of Jan Pauls, a Democrat from Hutchinson, who has served in the Legislature since 1991

Witt says Pauls is falsely claiming to be living in a church in order to establish residency to run for office in a re-drawn district.

But Pauls called the allegation “a real bogus claim” and said the Kansas Equality Coalition was out to end her legislative career because of her political stances.

Last week, a panel of three federal judges ordered new legislative district boundaries.

Pauls had represented the 102nd District but the new House map placed Pauls’ home in the 104th, a Republican stronghold.

So, Pauls announced she was moving to within the re-drawn boundaries of the 102nd District where she and her husband own a former church. Under state law, a person must live in the district that he or she is running to represent. Pauls said she and her husband, Ron, are remodeling the church to live there.

But Witt said that was unbelievable. He said the building is considered a commercial structure by the city and county governments, no permits have been taken out to make it a residence and several Hutchinson residents have said there is no evidence that anyone is living there.

“Mrs. Pauls may have committed one or more criminal acts by registering to vote and filing to run for office from an address at which she has never resided, and at which she may not legally dwell,” Witt said. Witt filed an objection to Pauls’ candidacy which will be considered by a state board next week.

But Pauls, an attorney, said she and her husband are living at the church and have been moving there over the past few days.

“You know how it is when you are moving, you are going back and forth other there all the time,” Pauls said.

Pauls said also owns a duplex next door to the church. Half of the duplex is empty, she said.

Pauls said she has no qualms about moving to stay in the 102nd. If she hadn’t, she said, she would’ve had to say goodbye to 95 percent of her constituents.

Witt, whose organization advocates for the rights of gays, lesbians and transgender Kansans, and Pauls have been at odds before.

Pauls was a primary backer of the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and supported the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which was approved by the House during the last session, but wasn’t voted on in the Senate. Some have said the act would have allowed discrimination against homosexuals and nullified a Lawrence ordinance that is designed to protect gays.

In the Aug. 7 Democratic primary, Pauls will face Erich Bishop. If she wins, she will then face Dakota Bass, who is unopposed in the Republican Party primary. Both Bass and Bishop have served as members of the Hutchinson chapter of the Kansas Equality Commission.

Pauls said Witt’s residency challenge is because of her political positions. Witt said Pauls is flouting the law.