Rep. Raj Goyle’s 4th District congressional campaign and the state Democratic Party are vowing to file a federal complaint over an electronic billboard that they call “bigoted and illegal.”
The campaign for Goyle’s opponent, Republican National Committeeman Mike Pompeo, denied any involvement in the billboard and the campaign manager said he didn’t even know it existed until he was contacted by the Goyle campaign Sunday.
The messages at issue appeared for at least 24 hours on a programmable electronic billboard at the Eck Insurance agency, 540 S. Broadway, Wichita.
One image carried the message, “Vote American, vote Pompeo” overlaid on a stylized U.S. flag. Another flashed an image of cowboy movie star John Wayne with the wording “True Americans vote for Pompeo.”
Goyle, who is of Indian-American descent, said: “We’re all proud to be Americans and the implication of ‘Vote American, vote Pompeo’ is pretty clear. What the implication is is that one of the candidates in the race is not American.”
Goyle was born in Cleveland and moved to Wichita in infancy with his parents, who are both Indian-born physicians. After college, law school and working in the Washington, D.C., area for several years, he returned to Kansas and has represented an east Wichita district in the Statehouse for almost four years.
The Goyle campaign contends the sign violated federal laws requiring disclosures on election communications.
John Eck, the owner of the insurance agency, said no insult was intended. He said he used the term “American” in his sign because of Pompeo’s military service, but considers Goyle an American also.
“Nothing was intended other than I was showing people who I supported,” said Eck, who has made the maximum allowed contribution to the Pompeo campaign.
Eck pulled the plug on his billboard, which also carried messages supporting several other Republican candidates.
The sign touched off a terse exchange between the competing campaign managers.
“I am writing to request that the Mike Pompeo for Congress Campaign put an end to all bigoted and fear-mongering attacks and tactics,” Goyle campaign manager Kiel Brunner wrote to Rodger Woods, his opposite at the Pompeo campaign. Brunner said it harks back to an incident early in the race when the Pompeo campaign apologized after sending a Twitter message linking voters to a bigoted online screed.
In a reply message, Woods urged the Goyle campaign to focus on issues “instead of outrageous accusations that have no basis in fact.”
“Kansans will not be fooled by this latest attempt from your campaign to distract them from the real issues,” he wrote.