During the recent campaign for the 111th District, Kansas House of Representatives, Barb Wasinger outworked nine-term incumbent Eber Phelps to eke out the narrowest margin in Kansas House races this year — a mere 32 votes of more than 8,000 cast.
Such a close race wasn’t surprising, as one of the things Barb heard often going door to door was, “Eber is such a nice guy.” Indeed, Eber has had 18 years to cultivate this image. But his actions during, and after the campaign, have shown him to be anything but. One has to assume that given his dirty campaign tricks and attempts to steal this election, how well did voters really know him?
During the campaign, Barb said she would run a clean campaign, with no negativity towards her opponent. When she learned an outside group conducted a telephone message testing campaign, Barb found that some identified it as a “push poll” that portrayed Eber negatively, she called several groups in Topeka telling them to knock it off.
Eber took the exact opposite tack, with he and Ellis County Democrats never missing an opportunity to smear Barb or her family. Eber sent out mailers under the name of the Kansas Democratic Party, calling Barb unreliable and hypocritical, with one even showing Barb and her husband with a red “X” over their image. Since when did family members become targets in local races? He attacked her missing several meetings as a city and county commissioner, ignoring the fact she had undergone life-saving open heart surgery and took time to move her elderly mother across the country. Eber took great pains to make sure his fingerprints weren’t on these mailers, but his Oct. 26 campaign finance disclosures show he reimbursed the Kansas Democratic Party $6,100 for this. Not the kind of thing a “nice guy” would do.
Once the election was completed, Eber demanded a recount. He got it, and saw his margin of loss grow by roughly 10 percent. This led him and the Democratic Party to begin bullying County Clerk Donna Maskus, herself a Democrat, accusing she and her staff of rejecting legal votes, counting illegal ones, and failing to conduct a lawful election and recount. Ellis County Republicans have full confidence in Mrs. Maskus to conduct fair and lawful elections, win or lose. Her own party disagrees, but only in races where they lose. Ellis County Democrats have thrown this career public servant under the bus, drove over her, and is now backing up to do it again. How’s that for a “nice guy?”
On Thursday, Dec. 6, Eber released a long letter to media conceding he lost the election, ignoring tradition and not calling Barb to congratulate her. In his letter, he wrote he had asked his supporters to “not contest the results.” Yet on Monday, Dec. 10, seven Ellis County Democrats including Janis Lee filed a civil suit against Barb Wasinger, alleging the County Clerk of botching the conduct and count of the election and demanding the judge overrule the will of Ellis County voters and declare Phelps the winner.
One wonders how hard Phelps really tried to get his supporters to “not contest the results?” If Eber was really the “nice guy” everyone says he is, he would prove his intent by filing a statement with the Court, asking that the suit be dismissed. Will Eber do this, or will his inaction force Barb to spend tens of thousands of dollars defending herself against a frivolous, nuisance lawsuit?
The election is over, and the voters of Ellis County want this nonsense to stop. Actions speak louder than words, Eber. Will the real Eber Phelps please stand up?
Chair, Ellis County Republicans.