Kansas count confirms early trend: Johnson narrowly defeats Tyson in GOP treasurer’s race

TOPEKA — State Sen. Caryn Tyson conceded the Republican Party’s nomination for state treasurer amid a six-county recount that barely yielded an extremely close primary.

Tyson, a Republican senator from Parker in eastern Kansas, sent a message Thursday to her campaign supporters who made donations, walked door-to-door, put up yard signs and prayed on her behalf. He lost by less than 500 votes out of 431,000 cast statewide.

“As our campaign winds down,” he said, “I will continue to work to protect our freedoms and make Kansas a shining state in the nation. Throughout the campaign, I’ve been fortunate to meet and get to know so many incredible Kansans.”

Unofficial ballot returns from the Aug. 2 primary and additional ballots processed by counties during the count showed state Rep. Steven Johnson, of Assaria in central Kansas, with a 475-vote lead.

In the GOP primary for state treasurer, Assemblyman Steven Johnson of Assaria defeated Sen. Caryn Tyson of Parker. Johnson faces state Treasurer Lynn Rogers, a Democrat, in the November general election. (Photos by Tim Carpenter and Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Tyson sought a count in Barton, Cloud, Dickinson, Harvey, McPherson and Ottawa counties. The secretary of state said the recount in four of those counties shaved five votes off Johnson’s lead. Counts in McPherson and Cloud counties remained unofficial, but Johnson’s campaign said the results in those two counties would not change the outcome of the primary.

Johnson has turned his attention to the November contest against Treasurer Lynn Rogers, a Democrat appointed to the post by Gov. Laura Kelly after the resignation of Republican Jake LaTurner, who now holds the U.S. House seat.

“We have lost no ground while waiting for all legally cast ballots to be counted,” Johnson said “Our team went to work knowing that this process could take weeks to complete.”

Johnson raised about $100,000 in the days after the primary election, and his campaign manager urged Republicans to unify behind the GOP nominee.

“I want to thank my opponent for his willingness to run and his continued service to this great state.” Johnson said “I also want to thank my many volunteers and supporters who have been critical to winning a close race where every voter contact mattered. With our base of support we are well positioned to win the general election.”

‘Never stop fighting’

Three of the state’s largest counties are among those still counting ballots cast for the abortion constitutional amendment by hand.

Melissa Leavitt of Colby filed for the recount and posted $119,000 to cover the cost, with support from anti-abortion activist Mark Gietzen of Wichita. A Christian-themed online fundraiser has raised $52,000 in support of the effort.

Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected the constitutional amendment, which would have ended the right to terminate a pregnancy in Kansas. Leavitt said he hoped the count, which was limited to nine counties, would provide insight into the integrity of the election.

By Friday afternoon, three counties had reported completed count numbers to the Secretary of State. Each of those counties (Harvey, Jefferson and Lyon) reported a one to four vote change from the previous totals. Johnson, Sedgwick and Shawnee counties were among those still counting by hand, along with Crawford, Douglas and Thomas counties.

“So far, no county has matched their original certified counts,” Leavitt said in a TikTok video he posted Friday. “So I mean that’s something we’re going to look at, but the fact of the matter is that we get important and very valuable data from what comes of it.”

Leavitt said he was still collecting donations and prayers.

“Never stop fighting,” he said.

State Elections Director Bryan Caskey examines signature files Monday at the Secretary of State's office in Topeka as Dennis Pyle and Kathleen Garrison look on.  (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
State Elections Director Bryan Caskey examines signature files turned in by Dennis Pyle on Aug. 1 at the Secretary of State’s Office in Topeka. Pyle Clock, right, and Kathleen Garrison. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Pyle’s review

Dennis Pyle’s petition to run in the November election as an independent candidate for governor remains unverified in part because of the recounts, said Whitney Tempel, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office.

Pyle turned in nearly 9,000 signatures, which must be reviewed by county clerks, to earn a spot on the ballot. Independent candidates must deliver at least 5,000 signatures.

Tempel said 48 of the 105 counties have verified signatures. The office hopes to complete the review before the State Board of Collectors meets on Sept. 1.

Republicans are expected to question the feasibility of Pyle’s request. Any objection should be raised within three days of the meeting of the State Board of Collectors.

Pyle is running for governor because he considers Derek Schmidt, the Republican candidate, too liberal. Republicans fear Pyle will win conservative votes that would otherwise go to Schmidt and make it easier for Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to win re-election.

In 2018, the Secretary of State approved the petition filed by independent candidate Greg Orman in 11 days. Pyle delivered his signatures on August 1.

Pyle described the inconsistency in approving his request as “big brother engaging in bully-style tactics.”

“It is clear that the Secretary of State is acting liberally and loyally to delay, if not prevent, certification,” Pyle said. “They appear to be running a quasi-organized operation on behalf of those who oppose a real, freedom-loving Christian candidacy, Dennis Pyle. It’s not that hard to check the list. This is not rocket science.”

Tempel identified multiple differences between this year’s election cycle and four years ago. State law now requires post-election audits in all counties, and the closeness of the treasurer’s race required an audit of 10 percent of the ballots in each precinct. In addition, there were 24 counties that conducted manual recounts for the Treasury race, the abortion amendment and one legislative race.

Pyle also previously asked state auditors to conduct a seven-month review of the 2020 election.

Schwab said county officials are “going through a lot.”

“It’s a lot of work,” Schwab said. “My heart goes out to our employees. They are doing an amazing job.”

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