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Republican legislators and officials in Kansas have reported receiving “cryptic” letters containing white powder since Friday, with some officials speculating they are politically motivated.
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), which is working alongside the FBI on the investigation, confirmed over the weekend that roughly 100 letters have been sent. So far, it appears the letters have been sent exclusively to Republicans, and one Republican lawmaker suspects it could be connected to Republicans overriding the Democratic governor’s vetoes.
“This is not okay,” Republican State Rep. Tory Marie Blew, who received a letter, said in a Facebook post. “I don’t know all the details, but as of now only Republicans [sic] legislators have received this package.”
The number of letters being reported has steadily increased since Saturday, when officials said roughly 80 letters had been reported across the state. On Sunday, that number was 90, and officials updated the number to roughly 100 as of Monday, according to the KBI. ABC News reported that the substances that have been tested so far are neither explosive nor a biohazard.
“Law enforcement is working to safely collect the letters and investigate the incidents,” the KBI said in a statement. “Currently, no injuries have been reported, but we ask everyone to remain vigilant in handling mail.”
State Rep. Stephen Owens, a Republican, believes the letters could be a response to one of the nine vetoes the legislature has overridden this year — including one that bans transgender-identifying athletes from competing on sports teams opposite their biological sex. Republicans control both the House and the Senate in the state, but Democrat Laura Kelly has been governor since 2019.
Owens told CNN that the sender was “very deliberate” in trying to get the officials to open the letters, as the one he received had the return address of a church located in his district.
“Violence and acts of violence and threats do absolutely nothing, nothing to change one’s perspective,” Owens said. “As a matter of fact, that strengthens the resolve of myself and my colleagues and of our party to continue the work that we’re doing.”
The letter Owens received begins by saying “Salutations[.] [T]o honor your recent accomplishments I send to you a gift from the exclusive astruc baruch collection[.] [I]t’s important not to choke on your ambition,” according to a photo of the letter Owens shared with the outlet. It was signed, “your secret despirer.”
The Republican Attorney General and House Speaker were among those who received letters, while no Democrats have reported receiving letters as of Sunday, according to KMBC. Owens told CNN he believes the other officials who received them are also Republicans. It’s unclear if each one said the same thing as the one Owens received.
“We are very appreciative of KBI Director [Tony] Mattivi, the agents of the KBI, local law enforcement and fire departments, the KS National Guard, KDHE, the FBI, the Office of the State Fire Marshall, and everyone else who was involved in the massive process of retrieving these envelopes and ensuring the safety of our members,” a spokeswoman for Speaker Daniel Hawkins said.