Monthly Archives: September 2012

Was Kobach flying solo with skepticism about Obama birth records?

Kobach talks to reporters Monday

At Monday’s hearing where the State Objections Board laid to rest any question about whether President Barack Obama’s name will be on the ballot in Kansas, Secretary of State Kris Kobach was the only member of the board to show up.

Its other members — Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer — sent top aides to the meeting as surrogates. Schmidt, whose office said he was out sick, and Colyer, said to be with patients at his plastic surgery practice, voted along with Kobach in favor of delaying a decision last week to seek Obama’s certified birth documents and other records.

But they seemed to somewhat distance themselves from Kobach’s skepticism — physically and philosophically.

Schmidt made it pretty clear last week that he didn’t buy the argument of Joe Montgomery, the Manhattan resident and Kansas State University employee who initially challenged Obama’s qualifications to be on Kansas ballots. But he echoed Kobach in saying he was disappointed the Obama campaign sent only a page and a half letter that brushed the claim aside.

Montgomery withdrew his claim after a flurry of negative reaction.

In an e-mail to The Eagle, Schmidt’s chief of staff, Jeff Wagaman, said Schmidt had not reviewed the certified documents the panel sought last week and that he was ready to deny the objection last week.

Sherriene Jones-Sontag, Gov. Sam Brownback’s spokeswoman, said Colyer hadn’t reviewed those documents either. “Colyer never doubted President Obama’s qualifications to be on the ballot in Kansas,” she wrote.

The Eagle received no response to a question last week about how Brownback felt about the board seeking certified documents.

Last week, Kobach said he didn’t agree with Montgomery’s reading of case law. And he was careful not to say explicitly that he doubts Obama qualifies. But in seeking certified documents and other records from three states, many people, particularly on Obama’s side, said Kansas was giving credence to an argument largely discredited years ago.

Monday, Kobach said he has seen the documents and he noted their “raised seal” as proof of authenticity. He said he has no doubt that Obama’s birth certificate in the Hawaii Department of Health is the same one posted on the White House’s website.

Kobach said that puts it to rest. “I have no doubts now,” he said.

Another presidential campaign twist emerged in a CNN blog post Monday evening that said Republican candidate Mitt Romney told a Univision America Radio host that he hasn’t met with Kobach at any official policy meetings. That seems to show that the Romney campaign wants to keep its distance when compared with their response to Kobach’s endorsement earlier this year, which says Kobach is “on the team.”





Chamber PAC endorses Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton

Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton is the lone Democrat the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee endorsed in its latest round of political picks.


Norton, who is chairman of the board this year, is in his third term as a commissioner representing District 2, which includes south-central Wichita and Haysville.


The former Haysville mayor and Target manager faces Republican Ben Sauceda, a political newcomer, in the November election.


Norton was deemed “pro-business” by the PAC, which released its endorsements Thursday.



Lawmakers fume over state official’s refusal to answer questions about waiting lists

TOPEKA – State lawmakers Wednesday bristled over a top state official’s refusal to answer questions about the state’s growing list of people with disabilities waiting for services.

Gary Haulmark, commissioner of community services and programs in the state’s department for aging and disability services, said a state lawyer told him not to discuss the waiting lists because of “pending litigation.”

The waiting lists include people with physical and developmental disabilities, and the state’s growing waiting lists have been the subject of intense scrutiny for at least a year, including a federal investigation.

The list of people waiting for services has grown from 2,075 people in 2008 to 7,518  as of September, state figures show. That includes people who have no services and those who are underserved.

Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, said Haulmark’s refusal to answer questions was “unprecedented.”

“Never once has anyone been instructed not to answer questions that the legislature asks about the waivers, which we are in a position of needing to do,” she said. “What’s the secrecy about it?”

Haulmark said he couldn’t respond.

Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, pressed Haulmark to answer questions.

“I can understand not being willing to answer questions about pending litigation,” he said during a meeting of the Legislative Budget Committee in the Capitol. “But what makes you think we’re going to ask about litigation?”

Vratil said he understands not talking about pending litigation, but he said he was shocked that Haulmark couldn’t respond to the legislature at all. “That I find hard to believe,” he said.

Budget Committee Chairwoman Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, asked Haulmark to bring the state lawyer with him to a meeting Thursday to explain why lawmakers can’t get answers to basic questions.

Haulmark indicated he would bring the lawyer to the meeting.

Tom Laing, executive director of InterHab, a statewide association of developmental disability service providers, said the waiting lists represent unmet needs and the undiminished hopes of families who need help.

“The growth of the waiting lists represents the insufficient state response to those hopes and needs,” he said.

Learn more about the waiting lists in this Eagle story.

Flaharty likely to replace Frieden as Democratic candidate in District 93 House race

TOPEKA — Pamela Frieden, the Democratic nominee for southwest Sedgwick County’s District 93 House seat, has withdrawn from the race, the Secretary of State’s office announced Tuesday.

Democrats are poised to install Sammy Flaharty, of Garden Plain, as their new candidate in a meeting of three precinct committee members in Goddard Thursday.

Frieden announced she would not seek the seat before the August primary. But she won anyway with 262 votes to Flaharty’s 164. Frieden couldn’t immediately be reached Tuesday.

Flaharty, who is a substitute teacher after retiring from a job with the Kansas Corporation Commission and closing a hair-styling business,  said she, her husband and one other person are the only Democratic precinct committee people in the 93rd District.

“I’m pretty sure I’ll be the candidate,” she joked.

Flaharty will face Dan Thimesch, a former Democratic House member who is running as an independent, and Republican George Edwards in the November election.

Gabel challenges Sawyer’s residency in 95th House District

TOPEKA – The State Objections Board on Thursday will consider a complaint filed by Kansas for Liberty that contends Tom Sawyer, a Democratic candidate for House District 95 in south Wichita, doesn’t live at the house he owns in the district.

Craig Gabel, president of Kansans for Liberty, filed a complaint that says their independent investigation has determined Sawyer “is not the true resident nor does he reside” at the home at 1041 S. Elizabeth. Gabel wants Sawyer’s name removed from the Nov. 6 ballot.

Gabel said that he expects people to submit written affidavits or to testify during at a hearing in Topeka on Thursday that Sawyer isn’t living at that address. Gabel declined to name any of those who may testify.

“From any normal person’s perspective, the man doesn’t live in this house,” Gabel said. “If he can prove that he does, more power to him.”

Sawyer is a former House member who ran for governor in 1998 and resigned from the House in 2009 to serve on the Kansas Parole Board. He couldn’t be immediately reached on Monday afternoon. Sedgwick County Appraiser records show Sawyer as the owner of the house, and state records show he is registered to vote at the address on South Elizabeth.

Sawyer faces incumbent Republican Rep. Benny Boman in the Nov. 6 election.

Gabel’s challenge of Sawyer’s residency is one of many the State Objections Board has considered this year. The Board is comprised of Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer.

Stanley likely to replace Armstrong on ballot for Bel Aire’s 85th House District

TOPEKA — It’s official. Rebecca Armstrong, a Democratic candidate for Bel Aire’s 85th House District, has been removed from the November ballot, the Secretary of State’s office confirmed Monday.

That paves the way for  retired school administrator and psychologist Barry Stanley, who lost to Armstrong 189 votes to 214 in the August primary,  to take her place and run against incumbent Republican Rep. Steve Brunk. But it will be up to precinct committee leaders to decide on Wednesday whether to officially install Stanley in the race.

Stanley said he doesn’t know of anyone else seeking the Democratic nomination.

Although he has been campaigning and trying to raise money, Stanley said he may be at a disadvantage.

“I’ve lost some significant time here,” he said. “There’s no way I can match Mr. Brunk with money, but I can perhaps match him with the people I meet and spreading the message that I think Kansas faces a very critical time.”

Stanley had raised $1,605 in the lead up to the primary. Brunk, who was first elected to the House in 2003, had $36,462 left to spend in his latest campaign finance filing.

Armstrong said she filed as a “placeholder” and didn’t campaign or attempt to raise significant money during the primary. She said she learned shortly after filing that Stanley, who she supports, had also filed. Armstrong said she likely won the primary with votes from women who tend to support other women on the ballot.

“When I won in the primary, it just made it more complicated,” she said.

Armstrong said she hopes that Stanley can become well-known by voters before the election in November.



Environmental lawyer gets third spot on utility commission


The state’s utility regulation commission is back up to full strength with the swearing-in of Shari Feist Albrecht, officials said Wednesday.

Albrecht comes to the job from a position as an environmental attorney with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, where she has worked since 1993. Previously she was a member of the commission staff serving as director of the Oil and Gas division.

Gov. Sam Brownback filed Albrecht’s appointment in June and an interim Senate committee confirmed the appointment last week. Joining current commissioners Mark Sievers and Thomas Wright, Albrecht will serve until March of 2016.

The commission has been running with two members since Commissioner Ward Loyd’s term expired in March.

Albrecht comes into office in the middle of two major rate cases in which Kansas Gas Service and Kansas City Power & Light are seeking millions of dollars in rate increases.

Sievers and Wright recently conducted public hearings by themselves on the KGS case, including a hearing in Wichita.

The court-like evidentiary hearings in the cases have not begun yet, so Albrecht will be sitting as a voting member on the proposed rate hikes, said KCC spokesman Jesse Borjon.

Kansas Democratic conventioneer dismisses conservative outrage over Hitler comment

A comment by a Kansas Democratic National Convention delegate likening Republican justification of voter ID to Hitler’s “Big Lie” strategy rolled through the right-wing blogosphere today, generating outrage from conservatives across the nation.

Contacted at the convention in Charlotte, the delegate, Pat Lehman, said she stands by her comment that Republicans are using a Big Lie technique to sell voter identification, which she called a set of “Jim Crow” laws designed to suppress voting, especially among minorities and the elderly who generally favor Democrats.

“I’m not going to stand by and let them lie about voter suppression,” she said. “I didn’t say they were like Hitler, I said Hitler was the model for the Big Lie.”

“It’s not the first time the right wing’s gotten hysterical about me and it won’t be the last,” she added. “They’re hysterical about everything.”

Kelly Arnold, vice chairman of the state Republican Party, called Lehman’s comments “outrageous, insulting and an embarrassment to all of Kansas.”

He said with no record to run on and no plan going forward, Democrats “will resort to the lowest attacks possible to divert attention away from the fact that Americans are worse off today than they were four years ago.”

A story in today’s Wichita Eagle and on titled “Kansas delegates head to N.C. for Democratic convention” became a cause celebre for conservatives who assailed Lehman, a longtime Democratic Party and labor activist.

Lehman was quoted in the article saying that Republicans are not telling the truth about pushing voter identification laws in states across the country where they hold control, including Kansas.

Republicans say they support voter ID to prevent voter fraud, but Lehman said she believes polling-place fraud is minimal and the real motivation is to limit voting by traditionally Democratic constituencies who are less likely to have the needed ID, especially elderly voters who don’t drive and were more likely to have been born without a birth certificate being prepared.

Of the Republicans’ justification, she said: “It’s like Hitler said, if you’re going to tell a lie, tell a big lie, and if you tell it often enough and say it in a loud enough voice, some people are going to believe you.”

Joan Wagnon, chairwoman of the Kansas Democratic Party and the state convention delegation, said she’s not received any blowback from Lehman’s comments.

And, while she said she wouldn’t have invoked Hitler, Wagnon said Lehman is essentially correct about Republican untruthfulness.

“I’m sure she (Lehman) was commenting on their lack of veracity,” she said. “The Republicans have not been terribly careful about footnoting their contentions.

“Our job at this convention is to get the facts out,” she said. “One thing that makes the public really angry is for people to play fast and loose with the truth.”

Bob Dool, chairman of the Sedgwick County Republican party, said it is a “gross, gross misrepresentation of the purpose of the (voter ID) law” to suggest that it’s designed to exclude certain classes of people from voting.

“The voter ID law is working smoothly and there’s been plenty of opportunity for people to get the necessary ID,” he said. “It’s really too bad that the rhetoric has gotten so far out of hand this election.”

The Eagle story quoting Lehman was linked to by several national online publications, including Slate and the web editions of the Washington Post and Washington Times. It also was linked to by the Drudge Report, which aggregates web content of interest to conservatives.

The national links generated more than 50,000 hits on the story and a wave of angry comments from conservatives on the local and national sites.

Many blasted Lehman for the Hitler reference, while simultaneously comparing liberals, Democrats and President Obama to Hitler, Nazis, communists and socialists.

“These leftist wackos have taken Goebbels’ lesson to heart with their lock-step repetition of their own Big Lies and then accuse their opponents of their own sins,” read a typical comment from “It’s brazen enough to resonate with the completely ignorant.”

There was substantial discussion of whether the Big Lie technique should be attributed to Hitler or Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s chief propagandist.

In fact, Hitler outlined the concept of the Big Lie in his book Mein Kampf, although he raised it as an accusation against Jews.

Goebbels made a similar comment years later, in regard to Winston Churchill.

The chairman of the California delegation left the convention amid controversy over a comment he made comparing Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s speech at the GOP convention to Goebbels’ propaganda. The delegate apologized for the comment and said he was returning home for dental treatment.

The conservative Weekly Standard speculated a similar fate could await Lehman.

“The top California Democrat who likened Ryan to Goebbels is now reportedly returning to his home state for a ‘pre-scheduled root canal,’” the Weekly Standard wrote. “One wonders if Lehman will now have to leave the Democratic convention for some reason, whatever reason.”

Lehman says she’s not going anywhere and was wholly unapologetic about the outrage her comment generated among conservatives.

“They’re used to getting away with lying and nobody calling them out on it,” Lehman said. “When pigs get caught under the gate, they usually squeal.”