WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A growing number of GOP leaders in Kansas are calling for the resignation of three elected officials who were recorded planning a cover-up of their role in a plot to smear the Democratic mayor of the state’s largest city.
The controversy stems from an ad that falsely suggested Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple was accused of sexual harassment when he served in the Kansas Legislature. The ad was published on YouTube during the mayoral election last year, The Wichita Eagle reports.
The calls for the resignation of Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O’Donnell, Wichita City Council member James Clendenin and state Rep. Michael Capps have increased following the release of a pair of recordings made last November. In one of them, which was released Monday, Capps is heard threatening to bring down the entire party if county Republican leadership were to carry through with a call for him to resign after his role in the Whipple smear was revealed. The party released the statement anyway, but Capps remained in office.
The three GOP officials have repeatedly denied and downplayed their parts in the conspiracy. None of them have returned calls for comment from The Associated Press or The Eagle, which has been reporting on the smear video for more than a year.
“What I heard on the recording represents the very worst of politics and shows they have abused the positions entrusted to them by Kansas voters,” Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Estes said in a Facebook post on Monday night.
Also Monday, Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said that he is investigating whether the three can be ousted from their elected positions. Of the three, only O’Donnell is up for reelection. The Sedgwick County Republican Party, the majority on the Sedgwick County Commission and the Wichita Chamber of Commerce also are demanding resignations.
Pressure began to mount last week after the first recording was released. In it, the three can be heard plotting to frame Sedgwick County Republican Party Chairman Dalton Glasscock for the Whipple smear video. The recording was made on Nov. 3, 2019, which is the very day Capps went on a radio show and publicly accused Glasscock of approving the anti-Whipple ad. That would have been a violation of campaign-finance laws because Glasscock worked as a media consultant on the campaign of then-mayor Jeff Longwell.
Longwell said in an email Saturday night that the ad did nothing to help him. “I could make the argument that because of the media and speculation of who was involved that I was hurt by the fabricated video and had nothing to do with any of it,” he said.