Kansas recount confirms early trend: Johnson narrowly beats Tyson in GOP treasurer’s race

TOPEKA — State Sen. Caryn Tyson has accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for state treasurer as she seeks a recount in six counties that will try to keep the needle moving in extremely close primaries.

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

“Even though our campaign is over,” she said, “I will continue to work to protect our freedoms and make Kansas the brightest state in the nation. During the campaign, I have been blessed to meet and get to know so many amazing Kansans.”

Unofficial returns from the Aug. 2 primary and additional ballots processed by counties during canvassing show state Rep. Steven Johnson of Assaria, central Kansas, leading by 475 votes.

In the Republican primary for state treasurer, Assaria Rep. Steven Johnson defeated Parker Sen. Karyn Tyson. Johnson will face Democrat state Treasurer Lynn Rogers in the November general election. (Photos by Tim Carpenter and Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Tyson demanded a recount in Barton, Cloud, Dickinson, Harvey, McPherson and Ottawa counties. The secretary of state’s office said recounts in four of those counties cut Johnson’s lead by five votes. The recounts in McPherson and Cloud counties remained unofficial, but Johnson’s campaign said the results in those two counties would not overturn the outcome of the primary.

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

“We have not lost any ground as long as we are legally waiting for all the ballots to be counted,” Johnson said “Our team hit the ground running knowing this process could take weeks to complete.”

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

“I want to thank my opponent for her willingness to run and her continued service to this great state.” Johnson said “I also want to thank my many volunteers and supporters who were instrumental in winning a close race where every voter contact matters. Based on our support, we are well positioned to win the general election.”

‘Never Give Up the Fight’

The state’s three largest counties are still among those recounting ballots for constitutional amendments on abortion.

Melissa Levitt of Colby requested the recount and posted $119,000 to cover the costs, with help from Wichita anti-abortion activist Mark Giezen. A Christian-themed online fundraiser has generated $52,000 in support of the effort.

Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected a constitutional amendment that would have ended the right to terminate a pregnancy in Kansas. Levitt said she hoped the recount, which was limited to nine counties, would provide information about the integrity of the election.

As of Friday afternoon, three counties had notified the Secretary of State’s office that the recount was complete. Each of those counties — Harvey, Jefferson and Leon — reported a difference of one to four votes from the previous total. Johnson, Sedgwick and Shawnee counties were among those still counting their hands, along with Crawford, Douglas and Thomas counties.

“So far, not one county has matched their actual verified count,” Levitt said in a TikTok video posted Friday. “So I mean it’s something we’re going to look at, but the fact is we’re getting some very important and very valuable data coming out of it.”

Levitt said she is still collecting donations and prayers.

“Never fight,” she said.

State Elections Director Brian Caskey looks over signature files Monday at the Secretary of State's office in Topeka while Dennis Pyle and Kathleen Garrison look on.  (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
State Elections Director Brian Caskey looks over signature files sent by Dennis Pyle at the Secretary of State’s office in Topeka on Aug. 1. Payal, right, and Kathleen Garrison watch. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Pyle Review

Dennis Pyle’s application to go on the ballot in the November election as an independent candidate for governor remains unverified in part because of the recount, said Whitney Tempel, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s office.

Pyle returned nearly 9,000 signatures, which must be reviewed by county clerks, to get a spot on the ballot. An independent candidate must sign 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 canvassers meets on Sept. 1.

Republicans are expected to challenge the viability of Pyle’s petition. Any objection must be submitted within three days after the meeting of the State Board of Canvassers.

Pyle is running for governor because he considers Republican candidate Derek Schmidt 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’s office approved a petition by independent candidate Greg Orman within 11 days. Pyle signed on August 1.

Pyle described the inconsistency as “big brother practicing bully-style tactics” to approve his petition.

“Clearly the Secretary of State is working in liberal, loyalist party style to delay, if not stop, certification,” Pyle said. “It looks like they’re running a semi-organized operation on behalf of those who object to the candidacy of a real, freedom-loving Christian, Dennis Pyle. It’s not hard to check the list. It’s not rocket science.”

Tempel identified several differences between this year’s election cycle and the election four years ago. State law now requires post-election audits in each county, and the closeness of the treasurer’s race requires an audit of 10% of ballots in each county. Additionally, there were 24 counties conducting recounts for treasurer races, abortion amendments and legislative races.

Pyle previously requested state auditors conduct a seven-month review of the 2020 election.

Schwab said county clerks “go through a lot.”

“It’s a lot of work,” Schwab said. “My heart goes out to our clerks. They are doing an incredible amount of work.”

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