Help Wanted: Kansas Governor Recruits Staff for State Democratic Party. Former Employees Have Described A Toxic Workplace.

Kansas governor Laura Kelly (D.) and Kansas Democratic Party executive director Ben Meers in February / Instagram
June 27, 2022

Democratic Kansas governor Laura Kelly is offering job applicants the chance of a lifetime: the opportunity to work for the state's Democratic Party under an executive director whom employees have accused of abuse.

Kelly encouraged politically minded Kansans on Thursday to apply for positions with the state Democratic Party, which was recently investigated for toxic workplace conditions. Five former employees accused the party’s executive director Ben Meers of mental abuse and bullying. The party corroborated many of the allegations in an internal probe, but Meers still oversees its day-to-day operations.

Kelly’s recruitment pitch could open her up to allegations of hypocrisy after she said she would not "involve myself" in the party’s internal affairs. "The party has its own leadership, and I’m going to let them deal with that and let them make that determination," Kelly told reporters this month about the investigation of Meers.

Former party staffer Rachel Hayden said Kelly’s silence meant that she "sides with the abuser." Hayden alleged Meers had "belittled, mentally abused, and gaslit" her, forcing her to quit her "dream job" and seek treatment in a mental health facility.

Another former party employee, Katie Sullivan, accused Democratic leaders of hypocrisy for failing to take action against Meers, whom she dubbed a "bully." "Us as Democrats, we preach fair treatment, and honestly the party must hold its leaders accountable for the values that we preach," Sullivan told the Kansas City Star.

Kelly, who appeared with Meers at a state party event in February, solicited applicants for field organizer and campus organizer jobs to mobilize voters in November. Requirements for the jobs include "strong interpersonal skills and ability to effectively and clearly communicate."

"It’s all hands on deck to spread our message throughout Kansas to elect steady, pragmatic leaders," said Kelly, who is considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic governors in the country. She narrowly won in a Democrat friendly environment in 2018 against an unpopular Republican challenger. She is running this year against Kansas attorney general Derek Schmitt (R.), a three-term incumbent.

Kelly’s campaign and the Kansas Democratic Party did not respond to requests for comment.