Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): A Contested Race for JCRP Leadership

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Contested Race for JCRP Leadership

Johnson County Republicans will elect leadership next week. Precinct committeemen and women will select a chair, vice chair, secretary and treasurer. These county party leaders are elected every 2 years. Like everything in 2016, this race will be interesting.

First, it's taking place much earlier than normal. Typically, Johnson County Republicans gather in January -- a few months AFTER a presidential election--to elect leadership. In early September, we learned the county party would host its election in 2016 on Oct. 20. 

The change in schedule was surprising. I never heard for certain why the change was made, however, it may have been to head off competition in the leadership race. There may be some Republicans who lose their elections for state legislature. Some of those candidates could decide to run for party leadership in that event could creating division in the Republican ranks. 

It looks like there's going to be a divide anyway. Two slates of candidates for leadership have announced their intentions to lead the county party. I'll call one slate the southwest slate and the other slate the northeast slate.

Team Southwest:

Mike Jones for JCRP Chair
Robyn Essex for Vice Chair
Diane Macheers for Secretary
Craig Campbell for Treasurer

Team Northeast:

Mike Kuckelman for JCRP Chair
Laura McConwell for Vice Chair
Theresa Segraves for Secretary
Steven Wiebler for Treasurer

There were rumors back in April that several people were quietly crafting a slate of candidates. I heard at the time that members (or surrogates) of both slates were involved in those discussions. Supposedly, there was an understanding of sorts reached in which one group would run to lead JCRP and the other would run to lead the Third District. 

Did negotiations break down? Were the rumors back in April of such a discussion false? I can't say. I can say that there are now two slates who have launched campaigns to lead Johnson County (and there's a rumored third slate brewing).

There's nothing wrong with a little family discussion, but I have a feeling this could get ugly. And here's where a Johnson County Republican Party tradition could be laid to rest, alleviating some of the bloodletting sure to come from this competitive power struggle.

In the leadership election, precinct committee people will first be asked to vote for chair. To be elected, the candidate must receive a majority--not a plurality--of votes. If there are three candidates, and none receive more than 50 percent of the vote, then the field will be narrowed and committee people will vote again. This will continue until one candidate for chair receives more than 50 percent of the votes.

This is where things get wonky. Traditionally, the vice chair candidate on the losing chairs' slates will step aside and the remainder of the chair-elect's slate will be elected by acclimation. 

I don't know why this tradition occurs. I guess it's a nod to unity, but it seems a mixed group of candidates who can work together despite being on opposite slates would be better for unity. I hope every candidate down the line of each slate bucks tradition this time. This hope is in vain and will likely be controversial. Republicans love our traditions. It's our thing.

The race between these two slates will be tight for a number of reasons. Team Southwest started early. They've been working on this effort for several months, if not an entire year. They've been attending every Republican meeting in the county for months now. That said, precinct people, who will be the voters in the leadership election, were elected during the June primary. Despite the efforts of Team Southwest, fewer precinct people filed to run in that election than have in the past half dozen years. That could pose a problem as I think part of Team Southwest's strategy was to stack the precinct positions with supporters. Time will tell if they were successful.

Though Team Northeast got a late start, two members of its slate are currently in JCRP leadership positions. Segraves is the current chair. She was vice chair and replaced Ronnie Metsker when he was appointed JoCo Election Commissioner. Kuckleman is treasurer. In the event of empty precinct positions, of which there are typically several, the chair gets to appoint precinct people. (There's a cut-off for when people can be appointed, and that is past, I believe.) 

This weekend, we got a real lesson in just how important these party leadership positions can be. These surrogates for the Republican Party are often asked to speak publicly on candidates and politics. Equally as important, party leadership is tasked with fundraising, and in JoCo, I hope the goal is to keep the doors open in the party office. That space has served as a home base that allowed Republicans of different stripes and different neighborhoods to work together in comfortable and neutral space. 

Finally, there's another party leadership role to be considered soon. Republicans will elect a chair of the Kansas Third Congressional District at some point in the near future. I don't think a date has yet been set. There's at least one candidate rumored to be interested in becoming district chair. 

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