THE STAR AT 125


Monday, Nov 06, 2006
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ATTORNEY GENERAL RACE | Last campaign swing is a statewide meet-and-greet

Racking up miles, smiles

As tensions build over Tuesday, Kline and Morrison crisscross Kansas’ highways and byways once more.

By JIM SULLINGER
The Star’s Topeka correspondent
Kline

PARK CITY, Kan. | Phill Kline looked puzzled as he stood in front of a large political rally here, his eyes darting through the crowd of enthusiastic supporters.

“Where’s my daughter?” the Republican attorney general asked Friday of no one in particular. His question was soon answered.

Hillary Kline, 14, was moving quietly through the rows of seats, shaking hands and smiling broadly as if to say, “Thanks for supporting my dad.” He often introduces his daughter as reclaiming the name Hillary for the Republican Party.

Earlier, Democrat Paul Morrison, Kline’s opponent in Tuesday’s election, walked into The Breadbasket cafe in Newton, Kan., and began moving from table to table, shaking hands and introducing himself and his wife, Joyce.

Linda Driskill, a Newton housewife, was eating breakfast when Morrison approached her table to shake hands and chat.

Driskill had seen the political ads but hadn’t decided whom to vote for. She said meeting Morrison could make the difference.

Since Thursday, Morrison and Kline have boarded chartered buses and crisscrossed Kansas in a final frenzy of campaigning before voters make their final decisions Tuesday.

The itinerary stretched from Liberal in the far southwest to Shawnee in the northeast and included a lot of stops in between.

The routine in each town is much the same: Get off the bus, shake a lot of hands and greet supporters, pose for pictures, give a stump speech to the crowd and a few interviews to the local press, and get back on the bus.

“It’s part of campaigning,” said Tim Shallenburger, Kansas Republican chairman. “People need to know (the candidates) care enough to come to their town.”

Shallenburger said the final weekend is a tense time for candidates, and these statewide tours give them a way to work off that nervous energy.

“The only time worse than this weekend is Monday,” he said.

Besides his wife, Morrison was traveling with several campaign aides and “Popeye,” the family’s Boston terrier.

Morrison, the Johnson County district attorney, makes a point of telling his audiences about his rural western Kansas roots and how he grew up in a working-class family. He was born in Dodge City and lived in several western Kansas towns.

“I’m not a native of Johnson County,” he told supporters in Newton. “I’m from way out in western Kansas.”

A typical stump speech consists of his high-profile cases as a prosecutor and pledges to “still try some cases” if elected.

He criticizes Kline for not paying enough attention to consumer fraud, and accuses the attorney general of using the office to further a personal agenda.

“There is so much to be done in that office,” he says. “We can do better.”

In introducing Morrison to a small crowd in McPherson, Brett Reber, a local attorney, said he wants an attorney general who isn’t political, and Morrison fills the bill.

“He can’t even decide whether he’s a Republican or Democrat,” Reber joked.

When Kline speaks to audiences, he usually tells a joke.

“You all look in good health,” he says. “Of course, I already knew that. I looked at your medical records.”

Kline then explains that a charge by his political opponents — that he wants to see people’s personal medical records — is a distortion.

“Your medical records are not in jeopardy,” Kline said, adding that the 90 records he has obtained from two abortion clinics are part of an effort to prosecute cases of child rape and determine whether the clinics are obeying state abortion laws.

He said hospitals and doctors have complied with requests for records and the only resistance has come from abortion clinics in Overland Park and Wichita.

“They want to try to buy this election,” he told supporters Saturday at the Double D Restaurant in El Dorado, Kan. “Federal law says that if Planned Parenthood has failed to report a child rape, they lose federal funding. And that’s $225 million a year.”

Friday’s Park City event appeared to be two parts political rally and one part church revival.

As it finished, the ministers leading the rally laid hands on Kline, his wife and daughter, and prayed for his victory.

“We have a strong man of God in Phill Kline, who is not afraid of the gospel of Christ,” said Mark Holick, a pastor and rally leader.

Kline finished his bus tour Saturday in Shawnee. Morrison is still on his bus today.


To reach Jim Sullinger, call (816) 234-7701 or send e-mail to jsullinger@kcstar.com.