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Noonletter, Oct. 10, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

You’re rubber ...

Democrat Laura Kelly called baloney on Republican Kris Kobach when he said Kansas can save $377 million a year by denying services and benefits to immigrants in the country illegally. Kobach said there’s no reason an 18-year-old should be forced to get a permit for a concealed weapon. Independent Greg Orman said the state actually needs to impose tighter control on guns. And Libertarian Jeff Caldwell and independent Rick Kloos were happy to be on stage with the frontrunners.

At a forum in Wichita, sponsored in part by your own Kansas News Service, the candidates for governor swapped barbs and honest disagreements.

Madeline Fox was there and breaks down results here.

On guns, Kelly talked of “common sense” policies restricting gun access. As a state senator, she has, at times, voted for looser rules on concealed carry. She backed off of those positions in the Democratic primary. Kobach continued his “full-throttle” conservatism on the issue, arguing guns need to be more widely available. Orman tilted more toward tighter controls.

Kelly continued her push for Medicaid expansion. Orman leaned the same way, but said it can be done without cost taxpayers more. Kobach opposes Medicaid expansion.

On schools, Kelly attacked tax cuts that she says have hurt education in the state. Kobach repeated his position that it’s a matter of how money is spent, not just how much. Orman contended again that he can improve the state’s economy, and that the subsequent benefits will trickle down to schools.

And Kobach was the only candidate who said he wouldn’t reinstate former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ order protecting state employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

KanCare Cop

Assuming she gets confirmation from the Kansas Senate, Sarah Fertig will be the state’s next inspector general for Medicaid. The position is a watchdog over the state's $3 billion program that serves 400,000 people.

She will begin working, but her appointment is still subject to a Senate vote in January.

Friends with big planes

Last Saturday, President Donald Trump came to Topeka to stump for Kobach (and Republican congressional candidate Steve Watkins). Next week, Vice President Mike Pence will be flying in Air Force Two to Wichita.

It’s yet another sign that Team Trump is all-in for the hard-line conservative the governor’s race.

Office space

Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel reports in a news release that she’s now visited all of the agency’s 36 offices.

A DCF news release says she met nearly all of the 2,200 people who work for her.

It’s a troubled agency, facing a growing caseload and disturbing instances of kids kept overnight in while DCF struggles to find enough places to put foster children, particularly those with mental health and behavior problems.

“We have had candid conversations with child welfare stakeholders and have gained vital insight about the challenges facing local communities and families,” Meier-Hummel said in the release. “We have heard them, and we are working diligently and swiftly to make improvements to address these issues.”

Does this mean we get a sub?

The Kansas teacher shortage ain’t going away. The latest numbers collected by the state from local school districts show 600 empty positions, 100 more than a year ago.

Stephan Bisaha reports that many of the vacancies are in special education and elementary positions. That’s despite ongoing efforts by the state to grant teaching licenses more quickly. And there’s fear that the problem is actually worse because local officials are reluctant to report vacancies.

Next up, a woman

The Episcopal Diocese of Kansas is on the verge of electing its first female bishop.

Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports that three women are up for the bishop’s job, meaning it’s also the first time anywhere in the country that all of the candidates to head an Episcopal diocese are women.

Nearly half of the clergy in the Kansas diocese are women.

Really, dude?

Precinct committeemen are the foot soldiers of a party. They can also sometimes be, to put it generously, passionate. And sometimes they say pretty awful things.

The Kansas City Star has reported that Michael Kalny, a Republican committeeman in Shawnee, sent a Facebook message to Anne Prichett, president of the Johnson County Democratic Women’s north chapter.

It crossed some lines in attacking Sharice Davids, the Democrat running for Congress against Republican incumbent Kevin Yoder. 

“Little Ms. Pritchett- you and your comrades stealth attack on Yoder is going to blow up in your leftist face,” Kalny wrote. “The REAL REPUBLICANS will remember what the scum DEMONRATS tried to do to Kavanaugh in November. Your radical socialist kick boxing lesbian Indian will be sent back packing to the reservation.”

Roughly 50 exclamation points followed the end of the message.

Davids is a lawyer and amateur mixed-martial arts fighter. She’s openly gay and Native American.

The message was quickly condemned by Kalny’s fellow Republicans.

More bad TV

Yoder’s latest television ad features a testimonial from the widow of an Indian engineer murdered in an Olathe bar.

Sunayana Dumala praises Yoder in the spot for efforts to help her remain in the U.S. after her husband's death last year.

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

 Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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