Kansas Republicans push bill to to strip new Democratic governor's powers

The move to strip key powers from the Democratic governor echoes the Republican playbook in Michigan and Wisconsin

By Igor Derysh

Published April 23, 2019 4:04PM (EDT)


Kansas Republicans are trying to strip powers from new Democratic Governor Laura Kelly just months after she was sworn into office.

Republicans have introduced HCR 5013, which would amend the state’s constitution to strip the governor of her power to appoint replacements for the state's attorney general and secretary of state positions if they become vacant. Instead, the bill would allow party delegates to pick their replacements. If a Republican officeholder leaves, the Republican Party would be able to pick their replacement, while Democrats would be able to pick a replacement if a Democratic officeholder leaves.

Of course, Kansas is one of the reddest states in the country, and although Kelly defeated former Secretary of State Kris Kobach by a slim five-point margin, the current state attorney general and secretary of state are both Republicans.

The legislation also appears to have been introduced at the eleventh hour by Republicans. The Kansas City Star reported that the measure was introduced on the last day of the legislative session and was never presented at a meeting. The bill does not even list an individual sponsor, simply listing the sponsor as the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. Multiple members of the committee told the Star they were not even aware of the proposal.

Rep. John Barker, who chairs the committee, said he did not know much about the measure. “I’m on a beach in South Carolina,” he said.

The bill comes after Republicans earlier introduced HB 2410, which would strip Kelly of her power to fill vacancies in the offices of the state treasurer and insurance commissioner.

The bills come as multiple statewide Republican officeholders plan to run for the U.S. Senate next year. Treasurer Jake LaTurner has announced he will run for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Pat Roberts, while Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Secretary of State Scott Schwab have been reported as potential challengers as well, according to The Star.

Republicans claimed the bill would give both parties a “fair shake” but Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Clayton ripped the bill as “morally wrong.”

“How can the people trust us when we are making laws based on political gain as opposed to how to best structure and run our democratic system that we have here in the state of Kansas?” Clayton told The Star.

A spokeswoman for Kelly agreed. “This is exactly the kind of thing people are sick of,” she said, according to the outlet.

The move to strip key powers from the Democratic governor echoes the Republican playbook in both Wisconsin and Michigan.

In Michigan, Republicans voted to strip power from the newly-elected Democratic attorney general before the bill was ultimately vetoed by outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. A similar bill to limit the power of new Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson ultimately failed.

In Wisconsin, outgoing Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill to strip new Democratic Governor Tony Evers of certain key powers, but a judge later invalidated them, ruling the extraordinary lame duck session the legislature held to pass the bills was unconstitutional.

Courts have similarly struck down a number of lame-duck measures signed by former Republican North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory to weaken his Democratic successor, Roy Cooper.

Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's Deputy News and Politics Editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

Tips/Email: iderysh@salon.com Twitter: @IgorDerysh

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