Democrats bolster Dennis Pyle, slug Derek Schmidt in Kansas gubernatorial race
A Democratic group hit the airwaves with radio ads promoting Sen. Dennis Pyle running as an independent in the gubernatorial race, a move designed to siphon off support from Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the Republican nominee.
Pyle’s campaign began running radio ads in October, but its efforts have now been bolstered by American Center, a Washington-based group, which began running 47 ads on several Kansas radio stations this week. , documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission show.
FCC filings show the group shares the same address as multinational law firm Perkins Coie, which regularly represents National Democrats, and shares an address with a host of other left-leaning political and lobbying groups.
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Representatives for the American Center did not immediately respond to a message left with a number listed on the group’s website.
The group also sent text messages and letters supporting Pyle as a “true conservative” and called Schmidt’s record on immigration issues “soft” and “like a liberal, not a Kansas conservative.”
Outside observers had long expected Democrats or allied groups to spend in support of Pyle in an effort to encourage conservative voters to support him over Schmidt, a bid to help Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. Pyle was coy last week when asked if his campaign would do any media buys.
“I’m pretty excited about the things I’m hearing right now,” Pyle said. “There’s a lot going on with us on social media and there and the reports I’m hearing on the pitch are good.”
Dennis Pyle could be a deciding factor in the tight race for Kansas governor
On Monday, Pyle said he raised $54,605 between the end of July and mid-October, giving him more than $90,000 available, though he only spent $26,156, mostly on ads. on the radio. It’s a fraction of the funds raised by Schmidt and Kelly.
Despite declaring Schmidt and Kelly to be too liberal, Pyle’s campaign failed to gain traction – but even if he draws a low percentage of votes from Schmidt, it could still be enough to affect the slim race as a razor.
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Schmidt’s campaign has long sought to paint Pyle as a long-running candidate running to feed his own ego, arguing that a vote for the Hiawatha state senator equals a vote for Kelly.
Shannon Pahls, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, said Democrats “should be ashamed of themselves” and “Kansas will not be fooled.”
“National Democrats are desperately interfering and misleading Kansas voters,” Pahls said in a statement. “They know Laura Kelly is losing ground, so they brought in Hillary Clinton’s law firm to fund a last-minute effort to lie to Kansans.”
But some have speculated that Schmidt has been trying to shore up support for his conservative base, voters who may be won over by Pyle.
His campaign shared a video last week filmed by former President Donald Trump reiterating his support for Schmidt. He also attacked Kelly over allegations that the Kansas Commerce Department was used to fund drag shows for all ages, although the agency and organizers said that was not true.
“The question is whether what the Schmidt campaign is doing is in response to Pyle or is it an intense grassroots strategy that has been firing on all cylinders in recent days,” said science professor Bob Beatty. politics at Washburn University.
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Derek Schmidt says he’s confident he has Tory support
Speaking to reporters last week, Schmidt said he was not concerned about his staunch supporters heading to the polls, saying “we’ve given them a strong conservative option and I’m confident they will take it.”
“As we go down the home stretch, it’s always important to make sure all of our supporters are fully engaged and show up,” Schmidt said. “We do this in every election and focus on the full spectrum of our support.”
Nationally, Democratic groups supported far-right candidates in the Republican gubernatorial primary races in Maryland and Illinois, as well as a number of U.S. House races, because they thought these people would be easier to defeat in November.
This strategy has also been tried in Kansas. In 2020, a Democratic-aligned group spent millions promoting former Secretary of State Kris Kobach to the Republican US Senate primary. The effort ultimately failed and the race was won by current U.S. Senator Roger Marshall.