Kansas Republicans are demanding an investigation into what they say is a former Democratic state legislator impersonating a state legislator.
The state GOP claimed on Thursday morning that former state Rep. Ann Mah (D-Topeka) has been presenting herself as an incumbent legislator on her website and by submitting testimony to two state legislative committees in recent weeks on letterhead with a representative title. Mah narrowly was defeated last year by state Rep. Ken Corbet (R-Topeka) following a series of court orders on the race.
State GOP Executive Director Clayton Barker said that he will be forwarding information to Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor (D) that indicates Mah is impersonating a public officer, a class B misdemeanor in the state. The evidence includes testimony Mah submitted this year to the state House Commerce Committee on a labor bill and to the state Senate Judiciary Committee on a bill to give the secretary of state prosecutorial power. In addition, Barker noted that Mah's website says, "it is my honor to serve on your behalf in the Kansas legislature."
Baker told The Huffington Post that attoneys he consulted said the party has a case against Mah. He said that Mah relinquished the title when she left office last month. “I had 15 legislators complain that this was bizarre," Barker said.
Mah told HuffPost that she was not trying to impersonate a legislator and dismissed the state GOP's complaint as "silly." She said that she developed the letterhead for the testimony because she's entitled to use the title of representative for life. In terms of the website, Mah described the issue as an oversight and said she contacted her webmaster earlier this week to update the website.
Mah first learned of the state GOP's complaint when contacted by HuffPost Thursday. “They are grasping at straws. Maybe I do a better job at representing people than the current representative," Mah said. "I stay in touch and represent the viewpont better that he does. They are concerned if we had the race today I would win. It must have been a slow day at GOP HQ.”
Mah, who is best known for her opposition to voter identification laws and Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), said she thinks the GOP is worried about her chances in a rematch against Corbet in 2014, a run she is planning. Mah said that the impersonation claim is a GOP attempt to "miscredit" her.
Barker and other Republicans are not worried about a Mah comeback, said Barker. Lee McGowan, a spokesman for the Shawnee County district attorney's office, told HuffPost that the office is unaware of the situation with Mah and did not have a comment on whether Taylor would launch an investigation.
At least one Republican member of the Commerce Committee said that Mah's letterhead was "confusing" to him and other freshman lawmakers. State Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina) told HuffPost that with many legislative newcomers, Mah's letterhead made it appear that she was currently in office. He also noted that he agrees with Barker that former lawmakers do not retain the title for life.
“When someone goes out there and is attempting to intentionally confuse people to further their cause, it is certainly a problem," Claeys said.
UPDATE: 3:11 p.m. -- Kansas Democrats are trying to turn the table on the accusation that Mah is impersonating a legislator, by saying the state Republican Party claimed Corbet was a legislator during his 2012 campaign against Mah. In a piece of campaign literature that appears to be paid for by the Kansas Republican Party and has now been distributed on Twitter, Corbet says "as your state legislator, I am working hard" on various education issues.
Barker told HuffPost that there is no similarity between the literature and Mah's case. He said he did not remember the literature being developed, noting that the party sent out thousands of pieces of literature for candidates statewide last year.
“It is pretty clear that it is a piece of campaign literature. If they want to take that the DA, go right ahead," he said. "That doesn’t change that Mah is trying to claim being a representative. The number of complaints is going up as more people call me saying they were worried about that, too.”
State Democratic Party spokesman Dakota Loomis told HuffPost that the party does not plan to contact the district attorney with the GOP literature.
“The Kansas GOP legislators should be focusing on making sure Kansans are getting back to work and having good public schools," Loomis said. "Not on claims that someone is trying to impersonate a legislator when they are not. This is a complete distraction from the work the people of Kansas elected them to do.”