Sedgwick County Clerk and Kansas Republican Party Chairman Kelly Arnold announced Thursday he will halt his campaign for secretary of state and focus on his role as GOP chairman during this election cycle.
Arnold, 40 years old and a product of McPherson County, left the race exactly a week after making a campaign stop at a political open house at The News. He observed while here that candidates were dropping out of the governor’s race, but the secretary of state race’s candidate field was growing.
In his campaign, Arnold called for adding elections staff in the secretary of state’s office to better serve county clerks/election officers and election commissioners who increasingly rely on each other for answers, he said. He also said the office's “40-year-old technology” for handling business services needed to be upgraded.
On Thursday, he wrote on Facebook: “My desire to ensure efficient, secure elections and to reduce the burdens faced by Kansas entrepreneurs led me to consider the office of Secretary of State. While I have ceased exploring a campaign, I still remain committed to these principles.”
His decision to focus on the success of other Republicans running for office this year drew favorable comments on his Facebook page.
Arnold told The News he began thinking about withdrawing "just this week." There was no specific trigger or turning point, he said.
State Rep. Keith Esau, R-Olathe, said he had heard Arnold was under pressure to choose either to run for office or to continue as GOP party chairman. Arnold’s term as party leader will end in early 2019 - after the November general election.
“I’ve got to take the man at his word,” said Craig McCullah, a former staff member in the secretary of state's office and now running for the office, regarding Arnold’s reason for withdrawing. “I do think it’s not good for the state chairman of the party to be running for statewide office. I think it’s probably the best for the party,” McCullah said.
Arnold wrote Thursday that he is “very passionate about Republicans winning elections and securing a better future for our great state."
Arnold’s departure reduces the Republican primary field for secretary of state to Esau, McCullah, and State Rep. Scott Schwab, Olathe. At the end of 2017, Schwab reported the most campaign dollars on hand - $58,609 - and Arnold was behind him at $37,278. Esau reported just $3,633 in cash on hand at the end of the year, while McCullah had not yet entered the race.
Secretary of State Kris Kobach is running for governor this year, creating the first wide-open race for secretary of state in eight years. A Democrat and a Libertarian also will be on the November ballot for the office.
Arnold is about in the middle of his term as county clerk.