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Kansas Democrats Say Brownback Favoritism Behind Revived Highway Project

Andy Marso
KHI News Service

A Kansas senator says a highway project in his district is back on schedule, drawing protests from Democrats who say Republican Gov. Sam Brownback picked that project over others to help a political ally in an election year.

The project to widen U.S. Highway 69 north of Pittsburg from two lanes to four was one of 25 delayed in April to help balance the state budget.

It sits in the district of Republican Sen. Jake LaTurner, who sent an open letter to Brownback decrying the delay.

In a subsequent interview at the Statehouse, LaTurner said that Brownback had traveled to his district while campaigning for reelection and pledged the highway expansion was coming.

“It’s very upsetting, especially after this administration has made multiple public promises to the people in my district that the road’s going to be built,” LaTurner said when the plans for Highway 69 were put on hold.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley predicted that Brownback would reverse course on the project to help LaTurner, who faces a reelection challenge from Lynn Grant, the widow of a popular former Democratic House member.

Hensley had sent a letter to Brownback saying any attempt to “cherry-pick” one of the delayed projects over another — including one in his district — would be seen as political favoritism.

According to LaTurner, the governor’s office has committed $25 million to start the project and will choose a contractor by Oct. 1. No other projects on the April list have yet been rescued.

Andy Marso is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in a statewide collaboration covering elections in Kansas. Follow him on Twitter @andymarso.

Andy Marso is a reporter for KCUR 89.3 and the Kansas News Service based in Topeka.
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