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Kansas GOP primary for treasurer remains too close to call. Here’s what to know.

Kansas City Star logo Kansas City Star 8/10/2022 Katie Bernard, The Kansas City Star

A week after Election Day in Kansas, voters are still waiting to learn who the Republican nominee for state treasurer will be.

The margin between State Rep. Steven Johnson, an Assaria Republican, and state Sen. Caryn Tyson, a Parker Republican, is less than 1% of the vote.

The candidates are watching as Kansas counties finalize their vote counts. Every vote will be counted by the end of Monday. However, candidates must decide by 5 p.m. Friday whether they will seek a recount.

Here’s what you need to know:

Where do things stand?

As of Tuesday at 3:30 p.m., Johnson leads Tyson by 505 votes.

Vote counts are changing as counties canvass their votes - a process by which election officials determine which provisional ballots can be counted and add the ballots to the county results. Once canvassing is completed, county election officials certify the results for their individual county.

Kansas Director of Elections Bryan Caskey told reporters Monday that there were 24,380 provisional ballots cast across the state during the primary election.

So far, 41 counties have tallied the votes from provisional ballots. Three of Kansas’ four largest counties – Johnson, Sedgwick and Shawnee – are not scheduled to complete that process until Monday.

A map of results from the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office shows Johnson with a commanding lead in western and central Kansas, while Tyson won much of eastern Kansas.

Who are the candidates?

Johnson and Tyson are both longtime state lawmakers.

Johnson, a farmer, was first elected to the Kansas House in 2010. He is the former chair of the House Tax committee and currently chairs the House Insurance and Pensions committee.

Tyson, a software engineer, was also first elected to the Kansas House in 2010 and has been in the Kansas Senate since 2013. The conservative Republican chairs the Senate Tax committee.

The winner of the primary will face incumbent Treasurer Lynn Rogers, a former Democratic state lawmaker from Wichita. Rogers served as Democratic Gov Laura Kelly’s lieutenant governor for the first two years of her term.

She appointed him treasurer in after Republican Jake LaTurner gave up the position when he was elected to the U.S. House in 2020. Rogers officially took over the office in January of 2021.

What does the treasurer do and why is it a desirable office?

The treasurer is Kansas’ chief financial officer.

The office is responsible for distributing the state’s budget and payroll, overseeing the state’s education savings plans, issuing municipal bonds and maintaining a list of unclaimed property in the state.

The state treasurer also holds a seat on the board of trustees for the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.

The office has historically been a jumping off point for higher office in Kansas.

Two members of Kansas’ current congressional delegation are former treasurers – LaTurner and Rep. Ron Estes, both Republicans.

Former Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who served in the U.S. House for a decade, and Joan Finney, Kansas’ first female governor who passed away in 2001, both spent time as treasurer before ascending to higher office.

Tyson had sought the Republican nomination to succeed Jenkins in the Kansas 2nd Congressional District 2018, but she ultimately lost to Steve Watkins who lasted one term in the seat.

Will there be a recount?

In Kansas, it is up to each candidate to request a recount if they believe it is necessary. Candidates must request a full or partial recount by 5 p.m. on Friday, before the results will have been certified in three of the state’s biggest counties.

If a candidate requests a recount they must put up a bond to cover the cost of the recount. If the outcome of the election is changed by the recount, the bond is returned to the candidate. If the outcome is the same, the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office will cash the bond and disperse the funds to local jurisdictions.

Neither Johnson or Tyson have indicated plans to seek a recount thus far.

The election will officially end when each county has certified their results and the State Board of Canvassers meets to certify the results.

The State Board of Canvassers must certify the election results by Sept. 1 but could meet earlier. Johnson or Tyson could concede the race before then.

What is the audit?

A new Kansas law required that any race with a 1% or smaller vote split undergo an enhanced audit.

Kansas law already required counties to perform a hand recount of 1% of precincts in races assigned by the Secretary of State’s office to ensure the count is accurate.

The enhanced audit requires each county to perform a hand recount of 10% of their precincts in the GOP primary for treasurer. As of Monday afternoon Caskey said about 60% of counties had completed their audits and no major irregularities had been found.

What will this mean for the general election?

A prolonged primary could give Rogers an edge as he is able to continue campaigning with unified Democratic support while Republicans are split over their nominee. Rogers, an incumbent, did not have a primary challenger and has been campaigning for reelection all year.

In 2018 the Republican primary for governor was similarly tight between then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Colyer ultimately conceded to Kobach rather than pursuing a recount.

State Sen. J.R. Claeys, a Salina Republican who managed Kobach’s 2018 campaign and is currently working on Johnson’s campaign, said last week that the days where the primary was uncertain gave a “huge strategic advantage” to Kelly, the Democrat in the race.

In an interview, Monday, Claeys said Johnson was continuing to campaign and fundraise as if he were the nominee to avoid granting Rogers that same advantage.

©2022 The Kansas City Star. Visit kansascity.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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