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Headlines for Friday, August 5, 2022

 

Close Vote in Race for Kansas GOP Nomination for State Treasurer Triggers Audit

TOPEKA, Kan. (Kansas Reflector) — A narrow margin in the race for the Republican nomination for state treasurer triggered a new provision in state law requiring counties to conduct additional audits in especially close contests. According to the Kansas Reflector, as of Thursday, state Rep. Steven Johnson held a slim 314-vote lead over opponent state Senator Caryn Tyson. The race has not been called because not all mail-in ballots have been tallied, along with provisional ballots. The unofficial total shows Johnson with 214,262 votes to Tyson’s 213,948 in the Republican primary. A recently passed state law requires all 105 counties to audit an additional 10% of their precincts because the race was decided by less than 1% on election night. This special audit requires a hand count that will take place this week. The state board of canvassers must certify race results for federal and state offices no later than September 1.

Johnson and Tyson entered the GOP campaign for state treasurer with similar backgrounds. He is a farmer from Assaria and she is a farmer from Parker. Both have served since 2011 in the Legislature, playing important roles in crafting state tax policy as chairs of legislative committees. The eventual winner will face Democratic state Treasurer Lynn Rogers in the November general election. (Read more.)

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Kansas Democratic Candidate for AG Tries to Distinguish Himself from GOP Nominee

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Democrat running for Kansas attorney general is trying to distinguish himself from well-known Republican candidate Kris Kobach.  The Kansas News Service reports Democratic candidate Chris Mann has gone as far as calling Kobach a threat to Democracy. Mann is a former police officer and county prosecutor. He says he wants to focus on consumer rights and public safety, rather than politics. Man also criticizes Kobach for focusing on his own political agenda instead of what’s best for Kansans. That includes voter ID laws Kobach pushed as Kansas Secretary of State. “My opponent, Kris Kobach, has already proven he’s a threat to democracy in Kansas," Mann said. Kobach’s campaign says he would serve the interests of Kansans and fight federal overreach, while Mann would align with President Joe Biden. The general election is November 8th.

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Kansas Abortion Vote Sparks New Hope for Democrats in Midterms

NEW YORK (AP) — Democrats displayed a newfound sense of optimism about the election-year political climate after voters in traditionally conservative Kansas overwhelmingly backed a measure protecting abortion rights. At the White House, President Joe Biden hailed the vote in Kansas as the direct result of outrage at the Supreme Court’s decision in June to repeal a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion. Republicans and the high court “don’t have a clue about the power of American women,” Biden said. “Tuesday night in Kansas, they found out.”  On Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., boasted of the political winds “blowing at Democrats.”  "The people of Kansas sent an unmistakable message to Republican extremists,” he said. “If it’s going to happen in Kansas, it’s going to happen in a whole lot of states.” With three months until the November election, the optimism may be premature. But it represents a much-needed break for a party that has spent the better part of the past year reeling from crisis to crisis, including the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan and rising prices for gasoline and other goods. Those developments have contributed to Biden’s low approval ratings, leaving Democrats without a unifying leader in a position to rally voters before the election, with control of Congress at stake.

(-Related-)

What's Next in the Kansas Abortion Debate?

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Both abortion activists and opponents are shifting their focus after voters rejected an amendment that would have stripped the right to an abortion from the state constitution. The Kansas News Service reports that anti-abortion groups called the vote just a temporary setback and promised to come back with new strategies for reducing abortions. Abortion activists celebrated and called for expanding abortions across the state. Ashley All, of Kansans For Constitutional Freedom, which opposed the amendment, says the group will need to continue advocating for abortion rights. She says abortion opponents may still try to pass new restrictions. “I have no doubt that there will be additional bills put forward in the spring to limit access in other ways," she said. The group is also campaigning to support Kansas Supreme Court justices who will face retention elections this fall. Anti-abortion groups may push to remove them to reshape the court.

Dirty Tricks in Kansas Via Text: Does Yes Actually Mean No?

UNDATED (AP) – The day before Kansas voters rejected a ballot question that could have eroded abortion rights, many people in the state reported receiving anonymous text messages with misleading information about the vote. The texts urged recipients to vote “yes” to support choice, but voting that way would actually have empowered lawmakers to restrict or even outlaw abortion. The tactic reflects the growing use of text messages to spread disinformation about voting and politics. Experts say text messages can be just as effective or even more effective than social media when it comes to disseminating falsehoods, and the anonymity of wireless communication can make it much harder to identify the source. Kansas voters on Tuesday ended up rejecting the measure.

Will Abortion Be on More State Ballots After Kansas Vote?

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion rights opponents were shocked and abortion advocates energized by a decisive statewide vote in heavily Republican Kansas this week in favor of protecting abortion access. Yet that's not likely to translate into new abortion votes across the U.S. this November. While California, Kentucky and Michigan are likely to vote in the fall on abortion access, other states probably won't follow, at least not immediately. In states that allow citizens to put questions on the ballot without going through the Legislature, deadlines for doing it have already passed. Kansas voted because lawmakers who put the question on the ballot expected it to prevail.

Missouri Democrats Turn to Illinois, Kansas for Abortion Help

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A top Democratic state lawmaker is asking Illinois and Kansas to cover emergency abortions for Missouri Medicaid patients. Missouri House Democratic Minority Leader Crystal Quade on Wednesday asked the Democratic governors of Kansas and Illinois to get Medicaid waivers for out-of-state abortion seekers. Democratic President Joe Biden announced the Medicaid waivers Wednesday to help pay for abortions in cases of medical emergencies and for rape and incest survivors. Abortion is outlawed in the Republican-led state of Missouri except to save the life of the mother. But neighboring Kansas on Tuesday voted to keep the right to an abortion enshrined in the state Constitution. Abortion also is legal in Illinois.

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5th Abortion Clinic Opened in Kansas in Lead-Up to Vote

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Planned Parenthood quietly opened another abortion clinic in Kansas in the lead up to a decisive statewide vote in favor of protecting abortion access. The Wyandotte Health Center in Kansas City, Kansas, had long been in the works but opened with little notice this summer as neighboring Missouri banned nearly all abortions in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. Other nearby states took similar actions. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Friday that Emily Wales, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, highlighted the clinic while discussing abortion access in a conference call this week.

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Kansas GOP Uses Texts to Hinder Independent’s Gubernatorial Bid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Republican Party tried Thursday to undercut a state lawmaker’s independent candidacy for governor by texting people who signed his petitions for the November ballot to urge them to remove their names. The texts told the signers for state Sen. Dennis Pyle’s bid that their names are on petitions to help Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly win reelection. Pyle, from Hiawatha, has clashed with GOP leaders and was a Republican until June. He called the text message “a blatant lie.” Pyle submitted petitions with nearly 8,900 signatures to the Kansas secretary of state’s office on Monday for verification that the signers are registered voters, as required. State law requires 5,000 valid signatures, and typically exceeding that number by several thousand gets someone on the ballot. State law gave signers until midnight Thursday to reconsider. His run would complicate GOP nominee and state Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s efforts to unseat Kelly. Some Democrats hope Pyle and Schmidt would split conservative Republican votes enough for Kelly to win a second four-year term, and the governor’s allies helped gather signatures for Pyle. As of Thursday evening, only one name had been removed by request.

Schmidt’s campaign has dismissed Pyle as a “fake conservative” and a “vanity candidate.” Shannon Pahls, the state GOP’s executive director, said it received a list of some signers through an open records request and began texting them. Pahls defended the texts, saying they were a response to the efforts by Kelly’s allies to help Pyle. “We believe Kansans should be aware of that, and aware of their right to remove their name,” she said in a statement. Pyle is a strong abortion opponent and advocate of spending and tax cuts who has publicly doubted the validity of the 2020 election. Schmidt, too, opposes abortion and describes himself as a conservative. But Schmidt worked for moderate Republican U.S. senators at the start of his career, and doubts about him have lingered among hard-right Republicans. Pyle describes both Kelly and Schmidt as liberals, predicted he will unite conservatives and said GOP leaders accept that Schmidt’s nomination was “a huge mistake.” “They need to stop whining about me being a spoiler, and they need to put on their big boy pants,” he said.

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Kansas Supreme Court Issues Opinion in Complex Employment Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (Kansas Reflector) — The Kansas Supreme Court issued an opinion Friday clarifying two points of state employment law. The ruling could support the claim made by a former Kansas Highway Patrol superintendent that his rights were violated when he was forced out of the law enforcement agency. The Kansas Reflector reports that a federal district court asked the state Supreme Court to interpret certain points of state law to help in its evaluation of the case. The U.S. District Court judge said that the state law pertinent to former Superintendent Mark Bruce's wrongful termination lawsuit was not "a model of clarity" and had been made less clear following changes made to the Kansas Civil Service Act by the 2018 Kansas Legislature.  Supreme Court Justice K.J. Wall said in his written opinion that state law defined the rank of KHP major as being within the classified or civil service system. This is significant to the case, because only employees in classified state government positions had a right to continued employment. Unclassified workers in Kansas are considered at-will employees, which are subject to immediate termination. The opinion also addressed a question about probationary periods for demoted workers. Civil service employees serving a probationary period don’t have a right to continued employment. Wall’s opinion stressed that the Supreme Court examined only questions posed by U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Crabtree. Seeking answers to “certified” questions from the federal court is unusual because the lawsuit is not currently pending before any Kansas state court.

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Woman Arrested in Leawood for Allegedly Attacking Pro-Life Teenager Who Was Canvassing for Kansas Abortion Amendment

LEAWOOD, Kan. (KC Star) An 18-year-old woman from Austin, Texas, allegedly was assaulted Sunday afternoon in Leawood while canvassing to encourage people to vote “yes” on Kansas’ Amendment 2. The Kansas City Star reports that the teen contacted police Sunday afternoon and told them that about an hour earlier, she had been canvassing door-to-door for the group Students for Life Action when she was allegedly attacked. Captain Brad Robbins, a spokesman for the Leawood Police Department, said the teen was told by the woman who answered the door that she did not want to discuss the topic. As the teen was walking away, she told police that another woman yelled at her and then started hitting her. A 37-year-old woman, whose name was not released by police, was arrested and charged in Leawood Municipal Court with misdemeanor battery and released. (Read more.)

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Kansas Collects Tax Revenue Above Expectations for 24th Consecutive Month

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - The state of Kansas has reported tax revenue collections above expectations for the 24th consecutive month. The state brought in $127.6 million more in tax receipts than anticipated in July, for an estimated total of about $586 million. Governor Laura Kelly touted the news as an example of the state’s economic successes. The revenue report indicated higher-than-expected corporate tax receipts, reflecting optimism that corporate profits will remain stable, Kelly said. Corporate income tax collections were $36.6 million, or 66% more than the estimate.

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Two Conservative Republicans Oust Incumbents on Kansas Board of Education

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Two conservative Republicans have ousted incumbents in the primary and secured seats on the Kansas Board of Education. The Kansas News Service reports the new members could push to reshape what’s taught in schools. Dennis Hershberger’s four children were home-schooled in a small town outside Hutchinson. He ran for state school board because he says he doesn’t like what’s happening today in public schools. "Kindergartners coming home reporting to their parents that they spent the day celebrating Pride Month – I mean, what does that have to do with learning?," he said.  Hershberger beat school board member Ben Jones in Tuesday’s GOP primary. Board member Jean Clifford lost her seat to Cathy Hopkins. Both conservative candidates oppose lessons on racism or sexuality. They don’t face challengers in November, so they will take their seats in Topeka next year.

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Remembering the Atchison Man Who Helped Invent Rock & Roll

ATCHISON, Kan. (KPR) - It's hard to pinpoint exactly where and when Rock & Roll began. But the small Kansas town of Atchison can boast that one of its own residents played a part in its creation. Bobbi Athon, the communications director for the Kansas Historical Society, says Jesse Stone was a musical prodigy who helped lay the foundation for what we know today as rock and roll. Stone was born in Atchison in 1901 to a family of musicians. Inspired by their musical skills, he decided to learn piano. Stone taught himself theory and harmony and started a small band. The band accepted a job on a radio show in St. Joseph, Missouri. This new broadcast medium made them famous throughout the region. Atlantic Records hired Stone in the mid-1940s to incorporate the sound of Southern music for the label’s rhythm and blues audience. Among other compositions, Stone wrote “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” for Big Joe Turner, a blues artist from Kansas City, Missouri, who became a teen idol with his original recording of the song. (Hear more about Jesse Stone.)

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Haskell Indian Nations University Nets Major NSF Award

LAWRENCE, Kan. (Indian Country Today/KPR) – Haskell Indian Nations University has been named as the recipient of a $20 million award from the National Science Foundation. The award is the largest research award ever granted by the NSF to a tribal college or university. Indian Country Today reports that the award-winning project is called "The Large Scale CoPe: Rising Voices, Changing Coasts: The National Indigenous and Earth Sciences Convergence Hub." Its purpose is to create a hub for university-trained social, ecosystem, and physical earth systems scientists and students to exchange and develop information coming from Indigenous people from diverse coastal regions. This will allow those groups to work together in a systematic way to address coastal hazards related to climate change. Haskell Foundation Director Aaron Hove said the award "cements Haskell's leadership role in Indigenous Climate Change research, and demonstrates what a small institution can accomplish when it builds relationships internationally known research institutions like the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Scripps Research Institute, and large research universities." Haskell Indian Nations University is the lead institution in the hub project. 

(Additional reporting...)

Haskell Indian Nations University Gets $20 Million Award to Fund Science Hub on Climate Change

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Haskell Indian Nations University has received the largest National Science Foundation award ever granted to a tribal college or university, a $20 million award to fund an Indigenous science hub project.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the five-year award is funded under the American Rescue Plan Act and was announced Wednesday by Bryan Newland, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s assistant secretary for Indian affairs. The project will create a hub at Haskell called “Rising Voices, Changing Coasts: The National Indigenous and Earth Sciences Convergence Hub.”  Newland says the hub is designed to support tribal communities as they address challenges from a rapidly changing climate. Longtime Haskell professor Daniel Wildcat will serve as the hub’s lead investigator. (Read more.)

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Blood Drive Set for Next Week at Lawrence Church

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - A Lawrence church will host a blood drive benefiting the region’s local blood supplier next week. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the drive will take place at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meeting house (3655 W. 10th St.) in Lawrence Thursday, August 11, from 2 to 6 pm.  It will benefit the Community Blood Center, which is the primary provider of blood donations to more than 70 hospitals and medical centers in the greater Kansas City region, including LMH Health. Donors must be 16 years old or older and will need to bring a valid ID. Those who are age 16 will also need a signed parental consent form. Donors can pre-register online, but walk-ins will also be accepted as time allows.

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United Way of Douglas County Plans to Merge with United Way of Greater Topeka

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The United Way of Douglas County and the United Way of Greater Topeka announced Wednesday that the two nonprofit groups plan to merge. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the resulting organization, the United Way of Kaw Valley, would serve four counties: Shawnee, Jackson, Jefferson and Douglas. Leaders from both organizations say the two groups are in the final stages of authorizing the merger. Jessica Lehnherr, the current CEO of the United Way of Greater Topeka, will serve as the CEO of the new organization. The organizations will hold final approval votes next month for the merger and plan to file with the Kansas secretary of state this fall. (Read more.)

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.

 

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