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Objections Board Rejects Residency Complaint Against GOP Candidate for Kansas House

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By Sherman Smith, Kansas Reflector

 

TOPEKA, Kan. — A state panel agreed Friday to allow Republican Kyler Sweely to remain on the ballot as a candidate for a Kansas House seat in a Hutchinson district, despite concerns that he appears not to be living at the house he leased shortly before filing.

Reno County Republican Party Secretary Robin Jackson and Precinct Committeewoman Dawn Varney objected to Sweely’s candidacy after compiling evidence that he doesn’t live at the residence where he signed a lease shortly before filing for office. But the Kansas State Objections Board — composed of Secretary of State Scott Schwab, Dwight Carswell from the attorney general’s office and Ashley Stites-Hubbard from the governor’s office — rejected the complaint.

The board members unanimously agreed with Sweely’s attorney, Ryan Kriegshauser, who argued the standard is low for establishing residency under state law. Because Sweely intends to renovate and eventually live at the house in Hutchinson, Kriegshauser said, he must be allowed to remain on the ballot.

Sweely, who is endorsed by the Kansas Chamber, faces Tyson Thrall in the GOP primary. The winner will take on incumbent Democratic Rep. Jason Probst.

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Robin Jackson, left, and Dawn Varney address the Kansas State Objections Board during a June 21, 2024, hearing in Topeka. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Probst said in an interview earlier this month that Republicans engaged in “district shopping” to bring Sweely into the race, even though he had “no connection to our community.”

Sweely is a 26-year-old U.S. Army veteran who moved from Harvey County to Reno County on May 29, shortly before the June 3 filing deadline.

In a presentation before the objections board, Jackson and Varney presented evidence they collected by walking around Sweely’s residence in Hutchinson. They described an overgrown yard, rooms with no furniture, uncollected mail, the absence of trash service and a real estate lockbox on the door.

“I believe what we’re really seeing is an attempt to deceive,” Varney said.

Sweely told the objections board that he grew up in Kansas, joined the military out of high school, was deployed to the Middle East and eastern Europe, and had lived in five or six states before working as a legislative staffer this past session. Sweely was an administrative assistant to the House Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Avery Anderson, R-Newton.

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From left, Ashley Stites-Hubbard, Secretary of State Scott Schwab and Dwight Carswell prepare for a meeting of the State Objections Board on June 21, 2024, at Schwab’s office. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Sweely provided a copy of the lease agreement he signed for the house in Hutchinson. He said he was working to improve the condition of the house while paying rent there.

Kriegshauser said the law is clear that candidates can move where they want before filing for office, voters should get to decide who wins the race, and the board for 30 years has consistently rejected residency-based objections.

The panel members, in brief discussion, agreed with Krieghauser’s interpretation of the law.

“My personal opinion would be that it’s on the Legislature to change it,” Schwab said.

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