Daily Archives: March 17, 2010

Departed candidate Kelsey endorses Mike Pompeo in 4th District Congress race



TOPEKA — Fourth District congressional candidate Mike Pompeo picked up a key endorsement today when state Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, threw his support behind the Republican national committeeman.

Kelsey was one of the frontrunners in the GOP primary campaign until abruptly dropping out earlier this month after learning that his wife, Doris, has a heart condition.

Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo

Kelsey had shown strong support among religious conservative voters who tend to play a crucial role in Kansas Republican primaries. “I’ll have to earn their support, just like Dick did,” Pompeo said during a news conference called by Kelsey at the Capitol. “But with his help, I think we’ll get there.”

Kelsey hailed Pompeo for his business and military background. Pompeo heads an oilfield-equipment business and is a graduate of West Point.

“Mike brings a good broad perspective to the race,” Kelsey said. “He shares my pro-family issues, protection of the unborn.”

Despite Kelsey’s departure, the GOP primary field remains crowded with candidates including oilman Wink Hartman, the well-known owner of the Wichita Wild football team and the Hartman Arena; state Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, and Jim Anderson, a retired airline pilot and small-business owner.

In a KWCH Eyewitness News/Survey USA poll late last month — the only independent poll so far in the race — Hartman showed stronger support than Kelsey and Pompeo put together. Hartman apparently benefitted from an early run of TV ads introducing him to voters.

The winner of the Republican primary is likely to face a well-financed state Rep. Raj Goyle, D-Wichita, in the general election. Retired court services officer Robert Tillman has also announced a run on the Democratic side.

Wednesday’s endorsement was the second in a week that Pompeo has picked up west of Wichita.

Rep. Dan Kerschen, R-Garden Plain, whose House district lies within Kelsey’s Senate district, endorsed Pompeo shortly after Kelsey quit the race.

Kerschen, a farmer, called Pompeo “real solid” and said he was impressed by Pompeo’s grasp of agricultural issues, which are critical to his sprawling and largely rural district.

Washburn University political science Professor Bob Beatty, who has been closely watching the race, said Kelsey’s endorsement will help Pompeo, but how much will depend heavily on how much Kelsey helps the Pompeo campaign.

If Kelsey agrees to share his donor and volunteer lists, the effect could be significant in offsetting Hartman’s greater name recognition, Beatty said.

Name recognition will be significant because the 4th District race will be down the ballot from the more attention-getting race for U.S. Senate matching current 4th District Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Goddard, against 1st District Rep. Jerry Moran, R-Hays, Beatty said.

Kelsey said he plans to campaign hard for Pompeo.

“I will campaign as actively as his campaign desires me to do,” Kelsey said.

Desire won’t be a problem, Pompeo added.

“I plan to seek his advice and his help in lots of places and lots of times,” Pompeo said.

Senate panel removes covenant marriage provision from bill

TOPEKA – The Senate Judiciary Committee eliminated provisions from a measure on Wednesday that would have allowed couples to agree to work harder to stay married.

Couples agreeing to the optional “covenant marriages” would go through premarital counseling and could only be ended for specific reasons or after a legal separation.

The marriage would also cost an additional $25 and could be dissolved after an infidelity or in cases where one partner is convicted of domestic violence or a serious crime.

The extra steps wouldn’t be optional.

In committee, Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, called the idea a “step backwards” for Kansas family law. Thirty years ago, the Kansas moved to a no-fault divorce state and covenant marriages would be a return to the old style of divorces, he said.

“If we go back to a fault based divorce, it would increase the acrimony between parents and it would do damage to the children because it pits on parent against another,” he said.

Vratil, an attorney, proposed eliminating the covenant marriage option, couples could still establish the same guidelines through a pre-nuptial agreement.

Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, R-Shawnee, who voted against the amendment, said that covenant marriages could help combat the divorce rate.

“No fault divorce has been very destructive and it is heavily in favor of one of the partners in the marriage who has done the most extensive damage in the marriage and the children,” she said. “It is only fair to allow people to have the option to make the decision for their own minds.”

The amendment passed with Pilcher Cook and Sen. Les Donovan, R-Wichita voting against it. The remainder of House Bill 2667, which would re-codify laws dealing with domestic relations passed out of the committee to the full Senate.

Commissioners agree to offer settlement to jail inmate

Sedgwick County commissioners voted after an executive session today to offer an undisclosed amount to settle a lawsuit involving an inmate who was severely injured.

The county would not discuss the amount.

While being held on a probation violation and awaiting a mental evaluation, Edgar Richard Jr. suffered a beating by a jail deputy in February 2008 that fractured his jaw and left him in intensive care for weeks.

Richard died recently of stomach cancer.

A lawsuit filed in federal court last month against the county contends Richard —59 at the time he was injured — was vulnerable because of a mental illness and that his mental health declined while he was held in an isolation cell.

The lawsuit accuses Sedgwick County and the Sheriff’s Office of negligence and alleges that they knew of a “de facto policy” of excessive force at the jail.

In April 2009, Manuel Diaz, a former Sedgwick County detention deputy, pleaded no contest to aggravated battery for Richard’s injuries.

Money to be reimbursed to Sedgwick County general fund

Sedgwick County commissioners have voted to transfer $1.6 million from arena sales tax money to the county’s general fund to reimburse for staff time spent on Intrust Bank Arena.

County chief financial officer Chris Chronis, as well as county management, recommended against doing so, saying that taking money out of the operating and maintenance fund for the arena and Kansas Coliseum pavilions would create a shortfall four years earlier than anticipated.

Commissioners Kelly Parks, Karl Peterjohn and Gwen Welshimer voted to transfer the money; board members Tim Norton and Dave Unruh voted not to.

The county estimates staff will have spent a total of $2.6 million of time on the arena but have not made a final determination on numbers for 2009. Through 2008, the value had been estimated at $1.6 million.

Management considers the costs to be “indirect”; Parks took issue with that term.

Read more about the issue in Thursday’s Eagle.