HIAWATHA, Kan. (WDAF) — Dennis Pyle left the Republican Party in June to run as an Independent candidate for governor.
Pyle has been a state senator since 2005 and served with Democratic Governor Laura Kelly and Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt.
“To me, the fiscal issues, the social policies define me as a conservative, and they’re definitely a lot further to the left than I am,” Pyle said in an interview with WDAF-TV Tuesday.
Pyle’s comment was in reference to both Kelly and Schmidt, as Pyle’s candidacy could complicate Schmidt’s attempt to beat Kelly in November.
“I’m going to keep Laura Kelly and Derek Schmidt from winning. That’s our plan. That’s our goal,” Pyle said when asked if he thinks traditional Republicans are concerned that he will keep Schmidt from winning in November.
Pyle had his committee assignment stripped this past legislative session because he did not like the redistricting map that Republicans drew which put Lawrence in the 1st Congressional District. He does not know if Republicans are upset he got enough signatures to appear on the ballot.
“I’ve got a lot of excited Republicans and Independents and Democrats all across the spectrum that are very glad that I am on the ballot,” he continued.
Emporia State Political Science Professor Michael Smith said Pyle is not close with senate leadership now, so his run for governor won’t impact it.
“It’s a little bit like Missouri where over in the Senate, they had that Conservative Caucus,” Smith said. “The Republicans are already conservative, but no matter how Conservative Republicans are these days, there’s always going to be a Caucus that’s really more alt-right than Conservative, really really hard right.”
Smith said Pyle might bring out a few voters that would have either not voted, only voted in other races, or voted for other third-party candidates.
“However, most of his votes will inevitably come at Schmidt’s expense,” he continued when asked about Pyle. “That’s just how the math works.”
Schmidt and Kelly are not commenting on Pyle’s entrance. Pyle will not be able to participate in the three debates that Kelly and Schmidt are through because he does not have enough polling support.