How big of a role did Independent candidate Dennis Pyle play in the election?

Independent candidate for governor, Dennis Pyle, received just 2% of the vote.
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 1:11 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Independent candidate for governor, Dennis Pyle, received just 2% of the vote, which some argue could have changed the outcome of the election had he not been in the race.

Pyle is a former Republican who served in the Kansas legislature for 20 years.

“He is easily one of the most conservative members of the state legislature and also a very vocal member,” said Associate Prof. of Political Science at the University of Kansas Dr. Patrick Miller. “So, there is really no question about where he stands politically and he had run for governor as an independent attacking the republican, Derek Schmidt, as a liberal and as a moderate.”

Miller said Pyle and Schmidt both targeted the same voters.

“I think it is fair to say that they both ran as very conservative candidates,” he said. “Neither one of them was trying to occupy the center of the electoral space.”

At the end of election night, Pyle’s votes were greater than the very tight margin between Schmidt and Democratic Incumbent Laura Kelly. A fear Schmidt’s campaign vocalized heading into Tuesday.

“I think it is a credible narrative that Dennis Pyle played some kind of spoiler role in this race. Most of his voters, if they were going to vote if he were not on the ballot, probably would have voted for Derek Schmidt, certainly not 100%,” said Miller.

He adds there is, however, no data to prove it.

“We never had a single poll this year that asks that kind of question of Dennis Pyle’s voters,” Miller continued saying, “There is not a piece of data that I can point to tell you that X percent of Dennis Pyle’s voters preferred Derek Schmidt over Laura Kelly as their second choice. There is not a question that was ever asked, would you vote if Dennis Pyle were not on the ballot?”

He said the “what if” will remain top of many Kansans minds.

“I think it will certainly make some people feel better to rationalize Laura Kelly’s win as a kind of spoiler effect from Dennis Pyle, and that may or may not be true, but I think the reality is we will never know whether or not it is true because we just do not have that data,” Miller added.

Pyle issued a statement Wednesday afternoon thanking his supporters, family, and his running mate Kathleen Garrison.

He also said, “As much as Kansas desperately needed a conservative governor, the Republican party gave us a candidate that could not and did not win. The Pyle team sent a needed message to the Republican party, that Kansas needed a strong conservative candidate.”

Pyle also called out the GOP saying they could have done better. He added, “All said, Schmidt got the anti-Kelly vote, period. The left-wing endorsements for Kelly gave her the win. Or, there was an issue with the voting machines?”