Rep. Melissa Rooker target of possible recall effort by conservative groups

State Representative Melissa Rooker has become the apparent target of a conservative group talking about launching a recall petition to remove her from office. Rooker represents the 25th District in northeast Johnson County.

Rep. Melissa Rooker
Rep. Melissa Rooker

Kansans For Liberty, which describes itself as an umbrella organization for conservative groups, including Tea Party groups, around Kansas is the force behind the recall effort. Craig Gabel, who organized a statewide leadership meeting in Wichita Nov. 16, said recall petitions for Rooker and Rep. Diana Dierks of Salina were on the agenda but did not get discussed because the meeting ran long. Whether to move forward with a recall will be decided by a smaller group, he said. Gabel is president of Kansans for Liberty.

“They’ve picked the wrong fight,” Rooker said. “I’m willing to to stand up and say we represent the people … not special interest groups.” Gabel said his group’s problem with Rooker and Dierks stems from their votes on the education committee.

“The recall effort is all about letting them know there are consequences,” Gabel said, calling the two legislators “obstructionists” to his membership’s agenda in the legislature last session. We “don’t like their (voting record),” he said.

That motive for a recall may not square with state statute that says grounds for a recall are conviction of a felony, misconduct in office or failure to perform duties prescribed by law – and “misconduct” must involve a violation of the law. Rooker said she has asked the Kansas Attorney General for an opinion regarding the burden of proof to file a recall petition.

“They don’t control me, that’s the problem,” Rooker said. “I will never pass a purity test (for them), nor do I want to.” Gabel said his group represents about 60 conservative organizations in the state, serving as the communication arm. Both Gabel and Rooker pointed to Political Chips as an affiliated conservative group active in Johnson County.

A recall vote requires several steps, one of which is securing the signatures of 10 percent of the vote total in the 25th District in the last election. That would be nearly 1,300 signatures. Even if the recall vote does not materialize, Gabel said, his group is courting candidates to run in the primary.

Rooker expects the entire northeast Johnson County delegation, mostly moderate Republicans, could face challenges from the right in 2014. She heard early on an effort would be made to defeat her.

The House education committee blocked a number of measures in 2014 that were favored by conservatives, including voucher bills and charter bills and Rooker worked against a challenge to Common Core standards that was repelled on the House floor.

“My job is to represent the people of the 25th District and seek consensus,” Rooker said. “I’ve done due diligence,” she said, referring to the number of town halls, surveys and other public appearances she has made. Her district includes the northeast corner of the county extending west into Roeland Park and Mission, down through Mission Hills and Fairway, including a small portion of Prairie Village.

Gabel said the agenda for the Nov. 16 meeting – including discussion of legislative positions – came from issues any of the member groups wished to discuss. It is found below. Gabel himself was a candidate for state office in 2012. A Wichita Eagle profile at that time detailed some problems he has had with taxes and police reports.