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National No Labels group accuses Kansas GOP operative of impersonating a party officer

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab is sworn into office on Jan. 9, 2023, on the south side of the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.
Sherman Smith
Kansas Reflector
Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab is sworn into office on Jan. 9, 2023, on the south side of the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

The national chief strategist for No Labels says Kansas GOP political operative Kris Van Meteren is unaffiliated with the party and “fraudulently misrepresented himself” when he filed nominations under the party’s name.

Those nominations were invalidated by Secretary of State Scott Schwab, igniting a fiery rebuke from Van Meteren, who claims he seized ownership of No Labels Kansas in a series of moves Monday morning, shortly before the candidate filing deadline for this year’s election cycle.

Van Meteren set off alarms by nominating state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, against her will, and his wife, Republican Echo Van Meteren, who is also running for a Senate seat. In doing so, he guaranteed the candidates would have a spot on the November ballot — under their chosen party if they win the primary, or under No Labels if they lose, creating three-way races.

Francisco faces a primary challenge from Rep. Christina Haswood, while Echo Van Meteren faces GOP challenger Jeff Klemp, who is backed by the powerful Kansas Chamber.

Last year, No Labels Kansas gathered signatures and submitted paperwork to the Kansas Secretary of State in order to be formally recognized as a party. But officers associated with the national movement took no action to nominate candidates in Kansas.

Kris Van Meteren filed paperwork on Monday to incorporate No Labels Kansas as a business entity. In his version of events, he then called a convention, elected himself chairman and nominated the two candidates.

Schwab said the nominations were invalid because they were made by Kris Van Meteren, rather than Glenda Reynolds, a Democrat who was designated chairwoman when the party submitted paperwork last year.

“At the time that it applied for ballot qualification in 2023, No Labels Kansas designated a state leadership team and submitted adopted bylaws to the Secretary of State,” said Ryan Clancy, the national No Labels chief strategist. “That leadership team and those bylaws remain unchanged, with Glenda Reynolds as the chair of No Labels Kansas.

“We understand that a longtime Republican operative fraudulently misrepresented himself to the secretary as the chair of No Labels Kansas, when he has no affiliation whatsoever with the state party committee, and proposed action that would have violated No Labels Kansas’ bylaws. We are pleased that the secretary disregarded this obvious attempt at election manipulation and expect that the Republican operative will be prosecuted for impersonating a party officer” under state law.

The alleged crime is a Class A misdemeanor.

Kris Van Meteren owns the political consulting group Singularis and is a longtime player in Kansas politics. In recent years, he is best known for the high-profile split with his former business partner, Jared Suhn, which spawned a lawsuit and an ethics inquiry.

In an email to Kansas Reflector, Kris Van Meteren said he followed state law as he registered to vote under the No Labels Kansas party, incorporated the name, secured nonprofit political party status with the IRS, called a convention, was elected chairman, and made nominations.

He provided copies of supporting documentation, including video of the nominating commission.

“Clearly, they don’t have all of the pertinent facts in hand and are making wild-eyed claims without understanding Kansas law,” he said. “The truth is that I’ve gone to considerable lengths to abide by the statutes and regulations in play.”

He also noted that the national No Labels movement had hired petition gathers who now face criminal charges for allegedly forging signatures in Kansas.

“I, of course, had nothing to do with the hiring of these charlatans,” he said.

In a lengthy post on his personal Facebook page, Kris Van Meteren lashed out at Republican forces who are aligned with Suhn. He accused Schwab of orchestrating an “obvious political stunt, executed on behalf of both Democratic and Republican fever swampers.”

“To hear lefty reporters breathlessly tell it, I’m a half-crazed, ultra-conservative gypsy who showed up in politics yesterday, bent on swindling the good people of Kansas into buying some kind of dangerous electoral snake oil,” Kris Van Metersen said. “Obviously, potentially giving general election voters more options is such dangerous medicine. The buzz phrase du jour within the political establishment is ‘election interference’ and fever swamp dwellers are seizing the opportunity to accuse me of it.”

This story was originally published in the Kansas Reflector.

Copyright 2024 KCUR 89.3

Sherman Smith