Kansas hopeful rips House rival over false PAC ad tax claim
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A conservative Kansas legislator running for Congress is accusing a Republican primary rival of lying because of a television ad from a political action committee financed by his father that falsely claims she voted for a sales tax increase.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that state Sen. Caryn Tyson, of Parker, is trying to get stations to pull the ad sponsored by the Kansans Can Do Anything PAC. The PAC is financed by the father of rival GOP candidate Steve Watkins, an engineer, Army veteran and political newcomer from Topeka.
Tyson said Friday that the stations had yet to pull the ad, which she called “extremely disappointing.” The primary is Tuesday, and Tyson and Watkins are among seven Republicans running in the 2nd Congressional District of eastern Kansas.
Democrats see seat as a prime pickup opportunity because five-term Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins is not seeking re-election. The GOP nominee will face former Democratic candidate for governor and former Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis.
The Kansans Can Do Anything PAC’s 30-second ad calls Watkins “the better choice” for Republicans after attacking Tyson over a sales tax increase approved by lawmakers in 2015 to help close a budget shortfall.
“Tax ’Em Tyson voted for the largest tax hike in state history, driving sales taxes sky high,” the ad says, adopting language used frequently by critics at the time.
Tyson, who has repeatedly stressed her record of opposing tax increases, voted against the 2015 measure even though then-Republican Gov. Sam Brownback pushed for it to preserve income tax cuts enacted in 2012 and 2013. The measure split GOP lawmakers.
“The Watkinses are lying about my record,” Tyson said.
Watkins’ campaign has said the PAC is operating independently, as required by federal law. Watkins said Thursday that he does not know of the PAC’s activities beforehand because “I can’t.”
Even though she opposed the measure, Tyson was among four Republicans who helped negotiate the final details of the 2015 sales tax legislation in talks between the House and Senate. She was then vice chairwoman of the Senate tax committee; she is now chairwoman, and both positions automatically give the lawmaker a role in such talks.
She and the three other Republicans signed the negotiators’ report on the 2015 sales tax measure, allowing a final vote to go forward. The two Democratic negotiators did not.
The elder Watkins noted Tyson’s role as a tax negotiator.
But in the Legislature, it’s common for negotiators on major legislation to sign reports allowing final votes to occur even if they don’t back the final version. That’s particularly true of majority Republicans with a bill a GOP governor wants.
“I’m a doctor, not a politician,” the elder Watkins said. “But I noticed when Caryn Tyson signed her name to the largest sales tax hike in Kansas history, and assumed that mean she was in full support of it.”