News & Politics

Conservative Newcomer Wins in Kansas After Incumbent Tried to Bully Her Out of Race

Gina Burke wins race for Ward 4 City Council in Overland Park, KS.

One of the few bright spots for conservatives in Tuesday’s elections happened in Overland Park, Kansas, where conservative newcomer Gina Burke beat an entrenched establishment figure running for a fifth term on Ward 4 City Council.

Normally, a race for city council generates no interest nationally, but in this case the incumbent’s behavior was so spectacularly awful that he deserves recognition.

Both before and after Burke announced her candidacy, Terry Goodman resorted to playing hardball against the 34-year-old mother of two:

Burke described in a long letter to Fourth Ward residents how Goodman tried to pressure her out of running:

I filed for office in late May, just a couple of days prior to the deadline. Within just a few hours, I began to receive numerous calls on my work number from Mr. Goodman. He then attempted to call my cell phone. My first reaction was, “This can’t be normal,” but I ultimately picked up my work phone, just to get the calls to stop.

Councilman Goodman asked why I was running. Not desiring to give my opponent my entire platform, I simply responded, “to get more involved.” He didn’t particularly like that answer and wanted to meet that night. I refused.

The next day, the unsolicited text messages started. You can see the screenshots on my website, ginaburkeforop.com. At first, he expressed frustration when I initially refused to meet:

“I regret that you are not willing to meet.”

Then it was exasperation that I desired to run, with an assumption that I had been recruited, which I wasn’t:

“Just still curious why you are so committed to running unless you have been recruited — especially when there are so many other ways to serve, become involved & learn about the city.”

The texts kept coming. He ranted about a candidate for Mayor before proceeding with a lecture:

“To the best of my knowledge, you have not reached out to the Mayor, City Manager, Chamber of Commerce, etc. — nor have you been attending City Council meetings as the other candidates have been doing. As I said, it’s unfortunate that you did not call me before filing to express your interest, and that at you are unwilling to meet tonight.”

Interestingly, I didn’t know I had to seek permission from anyone to run for office, nor that calling those in power was a prerequisite to running for office, including the man I was seeking to unseat. Perhaps most humorously, he said:

“Gina, I’m not afraid of losing. It’s just such a hassel (his spelling) and unnecessary expense when you draw a last minute opponent who is running “to be involved.”

Then, more phone calls. Another Councilman — Dan Stock from Ward 6 — called me. Mr. Stock said that it would be nearly impossible to beat Terry, but I should consider what I could get in return if I didn’t run. That very night, Mr. Goodman tried to call me two more times. In between, a THIRD councilman — Fred Spears from Ward 4 — tried to call, as well. So now I had 1/4 of the Overland Park City Council attempting to contact me — and all I had done was file!

Amazingly, Councilman Goodman also showed up at my house. Yes, that’s right — the day after I filed, I also found Mr. Goodman’s card on my door. What in the world?

Burke described more of Goodman’s efforts to intimidate her until finally she agreed to meet with him:

To put an end to the pestering, I decided in the phone call with Councilman Stock to relent and agreed to meet Mr. Goodman for breakfast at First Watch the following morning — June 1st, the filing deadline. To my surprise, Mr. Stock was also present. During this meeting, I was told twice that I didn’t have a chance. They wanted me to drop out.

I was told that Mr. Goodman had influence over Mayor Gerlach, who has the power to appoint people to boards and commissions. They also said Mr. Goodman could take me under his wing for a future election, with the implication being I should drop out of the race. I told them I would think about it. Soon after the meeting concluded, the texts started again:

“Should you opt to take the road that Dan and I have recommended, I have already reached out to Mayor Gerlach on your behalf.”

When Burke chose to pursue her campaign, Goodman continue his harassment campaign against her. Exasperated, she finally texted: “Please stop texting me.”

She alleged on her Facebook page that Goodman went on to contact voters who had Burke signs in their yards:

The letter I posted last week was not the first time my opponent has sent letters to people he “suspects” of supporting my candidacy. In this edition from early September, he sent a slightly different letter to a resident of Ward 4 who happens to be friends with a candidate in Ward 6. This time, he uses more bullying rhetoric, saying, “I would hope you would not cast your vote for a totally inexperienced, uninformed candidate in Ward 4.”

There’s more — he also attempted to harass Burke’s ally, mayoral candidate Charlotte O’Hara, who lost to longtime incumbent Carl Gerlach.

“My campaign is extremely well financed. I will out-walk both you and Gina and will cover every precinct in Ward 4,” Goodman emailed O’Hara. “This effort is well underway. I appreciate the opportunity of tying you and Gina together.”

He added:

THE FOLKS NEED TO KNOW THAT YOU ARE ENDORSING A SLATE OF ULTRA-CONSERVATIVE, UNINFORMED, AND INEXPERIENCED CANDIDATES.

After that experience, Burke said she understood why Goodman had run unopposed for all of those years. Overland Park voters deserve kudos for throwing the bully out on his ear.