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'It's over with': Abortion recount hampers Kansas Republicans' pivot to general election

Katie Bernard, Jonathan Shorman and Chance Swaim, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Political News

Kansas Republicans have spent the past two weeks trying to move on.

The landslide Aug. 2 vote preserving abortion rights in the state constitution was a stunning defeat for many anti-abortion Republicans. GOP candidates up and down the ballot quickly pivoted to the Nov. 8 general election.

Rather than continuing the fight over abortion, Republicans were hoping to shift the focus back to inflation and President Joe Biden as they seek to tie incumbent Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and Rep. Sharice Davids to the president whose popularity has sagged in recent months.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the Republican nominee for governor, and former Cerner executive Amanda Adkins, the Republican nominee in the 3rd Congressional District, have both shown little desire to make abortion a central focus on their campaigns following the Aug. 2 amendment vote.

But now a far-right Wichita anti-abortion activist and a Colby-based election denier are keeping abortion front and center. Mark Gietzen and Melissa Leavitt raised $120,000 to trigger hand recounts in nine counties, including the largest in the state.

The recount won’t dramatically move the needle on the more than 165,000 vote lead. But it will keep the issue top of mind for voters as Republicans seek to win back the governor’s office and the 3rd District in November.

 

Neither Schmidt’s campaign, nor Adkins’ campaign, responded to questions about whether the GOP candidates supported the recount effort.

“What’s ironic is the very people who I think it hurts are on the side of the people continuing to keep it in the spotlight,” said Stephanie Sharp, a former moderate Republican state legislator who now operates a political consulting firm.

She added that she believes the recount “hurts Amanda and Derek but the right can’t let it go.”

Schmidt and Adkins, Sharp said, already had support from voters on the right. Now they need to convince voters in the middle, many of whom voted “no.” The 3rd District is one of the most competitive congressional seats in the country and key to Republicans’ hopes of winning the U.S. House.

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