- Associated Press - Sunday, September 24, 2017

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Democrats are locked in a heated battle over a top party official in a fight that is expected to come to a head when they gather in Wichita next week for an annual convention.

The Wichita Eagle reports the rift is exposing divisions among Democrats as they prepare for gubernatorial and congressional elections next year.

At the crux of the conflict is party secretary Casey Yingling, a member of the political consulting firm Ad Astra Group, which works for Democratic congressional candidate James Thompson. He challenged Republican Ron Estes, who won a special election earlier this year to replace former Congressman Mike Pompeo in the south-central Kansas seat he vacated when he became President Donald Trump’s CIA director. Thompson is running against Estes again in the race to be decided in 2018.

Democratic State Committee members may vote on Yingling’s recall during the convention in Wichita next week. A petition charges in part that she had a conflict of interest when as a member of the party’s smaller executive committee she voted on a $20,000 request for Thompson’s campaign. The executive committee rejected the request, which created tension between the party and the Thompson campaign in the weeks before the April vote.

The recall petition has been circulating among state party committee members since last month.

“The attempted self-enrichment cited in the recall petition was neither the first nor the last attempt by Ms. Yingling to use KDP resources for her personal benefit,” said state party Chairman John Gibson in a letter to state committee members.

Gibson wrote that Yingling has been unwilling to remain neutral in primaries and has actively recruited candidates to create primaries. Most of the candidates have little chance of winning their primaries, he said, contending they generate income for her.

Yingling said the allegations are untrue, adding that “anyone in support of the petition is not focused on winning elections.”

Yingling said that Ad Astra has not solicited any new partisan clients since she became party secretary in February.

Thompson, who gained national attention for his competitive run against Estes, blasted the “unfounded accusations and innuendo” against Yingling.

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