Conservative strategist nominated Sen. Marci Francisco for third-party bid; secretary of state says it’s invalid

Share this post or save for later

Post last updated at 7:06 p.m. Wednesday, June 5:

The Kansas secretary of state’s office ruled Wednesday that a Republican strategist’s filing of a minor party candidate nomination for longtime Democratic Sen. Marci Francisco was invalid.

Francisco was nominated without her knowledge to represent No Labels Kansas in the November 2024 general election for Kansas Senate District 2.

Kris Van Meteren listed himself on a document to the secretary of state’s office Monday as chairman of No Labels Kansas, which received recognition as a new minor party earlier this year. The party chair nominates candidates for minor parties, according to the secretary of state’s office — the individual candidates don’t file for themselves.

Van Meteren also owns The Singularis Group, an Olathe-based political group “working to promote conservatives and conservatism,” according to its website. The Singularis Group is working with David Miller, the Republican candidate for Senate District 2.

“I didn’t apply. I didn’t ask for this,” Francisco said Tuesday evening. “I filed in January to run as a Democrat, and I plan to run as a Democrat.”

But that’s not why the nomination was deemed invalid.

Van Meteren’s certificate of nomination was deemed invalid “due to K.S.A 25-302, requiring the nomination for the state office be called by the state chairperson of the party,” said Whitney Tempel, spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office. “The chairperson of the No Labels Kansas party is listed as Glenda Reynolds, not Kristian Van Meteren.”

“(Francisco’s) name will not appear on the 2024 General Election candidate list representing No Labels Kansas,” according to a tweet from the office of Secretary of State Scott Schwab.

The minor party nomination meant that Francisco’s name would have appeared on the Nov. 5 general election ballot regardless of whether she won the Democratic primary on Aug. 6. Because of Francisco’s name recognition among constituents, it was possible that Democrats could split their votes between two candidates in the general election enough that a Republican could win a plurality of the vote.

When asked whether No Labels Kansas’ nomination of Francisco was an effort to aid Miller’s campaign by attempting to split Democrat’s votes in the general election, Van Meteren referred to voter registration data that Kansas Senate District 2 is roughly 3-to-1 Democrat.

“Even if every Republican voted for Chairman Miller, his campaign would still face an extremely uphill climb,” Van Meteren said. “Again, I wish him nothing but the best, but he’s been around politics long enough, as have I, to be able to read the numbers and understand that the odds are long.”

Van Meteren said No Labels found Francisco to be the most palatable candidate, despite some disagreements with her positions. He said Francisco is a “known quantity, seems to be a genuinely amicable person and has always been civil.” He said Christina Haswood, Francisco’s primary opponent, is from the “radical, extreme left side of the Democratic Party.” 

Francisco said she has no plans to run in the general election as a No Labels candidate, will run only as a Democrat and support only Democrats in the race. She said the secretary of state’s office told her she could not reject the nomination. If Francisco were to win the Democratic primary, she would have one week to decide which party she would advance to the general election with.  

“I’m gonna run as a Democrat for the primary,” Francisco said. “I’m going to support Democrats in the general election.”

Francisco filed to run for reelection to Senate District 2 as a Democrat, a role she has held since 2005, and is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Haswood, current Representative of House District 10. 

Christina Haswood

“Republican operatives are meddling in Lawrence elections,” Haswood said. “We still have a lot to learn about the No Labels process, but the way I understand it now, when I win this primary, I’ll be the only Democrat on the ballot in the November election. I look forward to earning the votes of my neighbors to ensure we keep this seat – which Governor Kelly overwhelmingly won – blue.”

No Labels Kansas became the state’s fourth political party in January. But since then, two people have been arrested on suspicion of forging signatures on petitions the party used for its status, according to Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach. 

Miller, who served in 12 sessions of the Kansas House of Representatives decades ago and was previously chair of the Kansas Republican Party, said he wasn’t aware of Van Meteren’s connections with No Labels Kansas and its nomination of Francisco. 

“I don’t know anything about that,” Miller said. “I’m running because I want Lawrence Republicans to have a Republican to vote for. But No Labels is something, as I said, until this whole thing happened, I didn’t even know there was a No Labels party.”

The only other candidate nominated by No Labels Kansas this year was Echo Van Meteren, wife of the Singularis owner. Schwab’s office also ruled Wednesday that her No Labels nomination was invalid. She is running for Kansas Senate District 5, which includes parts of Leavenworth and Wyandotte counties, both in the Republican primary against Jeff Klemp. Democrat Jeff Pittman has also filed for the seat. 

In emails to Schwab, Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach and numerous members of the media on Wednesday, Kris Van Meteren challenged Schwab’s reason for invalidating the nominations. He asked Schwab, “With what agency, official or entity is Ms. Reynolds ‘listed’ as the chairperson of the No Labels Kansas party?”

Between 4 and 5 a.m. Monday, Van Meteren had filed documents with Schwab’s office forming two not-for-profit corporations — No Labels Kansas, Inc., and No Labels Party of Kansas, Inc. — just hours before submitting the nomination of Francisco. The nomination form lists Van Meteren as “Chairman – No Labels Kansas”; “Registered Member – No Labels Kansas”; and “Incorporator and Director – No Labels Kansas, Inc.”

In his email, he asked Schwab to “Please provide the Articles of Incorporation or other official documents in your possession or in Ms. Reynolds’ possession noting that she or anyone else owns the names ‘No Labels Kansas, Inc.,’ ‘No Labels Party of Kansas, Inc.’ or any similar derivation thereof.”

Singularis Group has also represented Ron Estes, Tracey Mann, Jake LaTurner and Beverly Gossage in Kansas, and Josh Hawley in Missouri, among other candidates, according to the company’s online portfolio. In 2022, Van Meteren sent a deceptive mailer during the Kansas abortion referendum vote about how abortion rights supporters should vote to retain Kansas Supreme Court justices.  

“I was hired by Mr. Miller to assist him with his campaign announcement, specifically to help him distribute press releases to outlets that may have some interest in that race,” Van Meteren said. “My role with No Labels is completely separate. Mr. Miller had no knowledge of No Labels’ intention to nominate Senator Francisco, played no role in this nomination, and likely was as surprised as anyone at this development.” 

Find out what’s really going on in your town. Read The Lawrence Times.

Don’t miss a beat … Click here to sign up for our email newsletters

Click here to learn more about our newsletters first

Cuyler Dunn (he/him), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, is a student at the University of Kansas School of Journalism. He is a graduate of Lawrence High School where he was the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper, The Budget, and was named the 2022 Kansas High School Journalist of the Year. Read more of his work for the Times here.

Latest Lawrence news:


Previous Article

Kobach, Schwab pursue alleged signature forgeries on No Labels party petitions

Next Article

Obituary: Damani ‘Dash’ Amiri Shomari Hughes Cleveland