Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Kansas Politics: All attorney general all the time

By Diane Silver

The coverage of the attorney general's race between incumbent Republican Phill Kline and Democrat Paul Morrison is coming fast and furious. Here are the latest bits of news from the mainstream media with a teeny bit of commentary. I hope to have a more in-depth look at the race soon.

From The Wichita Eagle:

The battle for Kansas Attorney General

Profile of Phill Kline

Kline is seeking a second term. He says his approach to the job includes putting safety first and protecting children from sexual predators and rapists, which has led to his pursuit of medical records from abortion clinics.

He contends that his Democratic opponent, Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison, is soft on crime. He points to a Senate bill Morrison supported that Kline says helped reduce the sentences of hundreds of criminals. Morrison disputes that claim.
Note to Kline: Morrison wasn't one of the many Republican lawmakers who voted for this bill. Those folks include the candidate for lieutenant governor, Susan Wagle.

The Kansas City Star also says that Kline -- who never met a tax cut he didn't like while he was a lawmaker -- is being a bit two faced. The Star writes:

The attorney general says now the Legislature should have paid for more prison space. But Kline had been a champion of tax cuts in the 1990s that left the state without enough money to even contemplate a major prison construction program.

If Kline objects to abbreviated probation and parole terms, he's certainly had ample opportunity to do something about them himself. As attorney general, he has a seat on the sentencing commission. But except during campaign season, he can't seem to work up much interest in the commission's activities.

In nearly four years, Kline has never attended one of its meetings. Kline deceptively claims in his campaigns that the Legislature and sentencing commission freed hundreds of criminals to commit violent crimes.

Profile of Paul Morrison

Morrison may still be inexperienced as a politician, but if Democrats had phoned central casting to request a candidate to oppose Kline, Hollywood would have handed them Morrison.

He fits the image of a typical Kansas lawman, intimidating from his bald head down, past the squinting eyes, the mustache, the flat growl of a voice, the habit of pointing an accusing index finger at a foe....

Morrison says he is running because he thinks Kline has the wrong priorities in seeking medical records from abortion clinics rather than focusing on public safety, that Kline has shown lack of judgment in his staff hirings, and that Kline lacks trial experience. Kline contends those assertions are wrong.

Lawrence Journal-World

Ads Refer to Abortion Without Saying It

Chat with Kline

Notice that Kline never refers to Morrison -- a respected district attorney -- by his full name. He's always "Paul" this and "Paul" that. This is an interesting tactic designed to belittle Morrison, and frankly, I think it's a bit childish.

Also notice the detail Kline gives about his law practice. It sounds like he may have done a bit, but certainly not much or at the very least, nothing to match Morrison's 25 years as a district attorney.

Topeka Capital-Journal

The Capital-Journal takes a detailed look at the law Kline claims is all Morrison's fault. This strikes me as an unbalanced piece that does little to look at the context in which the bill was passed, and the fact that Morrison was not the only person involved. His role may well have been very small. Also, the story does note that Kline's claim of "hundreds" of criminals released by the law is far from the truth. No one was released from prison by this law.

The Capital-Journal writes:

In simple terms, the legislation cut in half the period of post-release supervision the offenders were to serve.
What I would like to see is a more in-depth look at the impact of the law. If this bill hadn't become law, what would have been different? Kansas prisons were bursting. Would dangerous felons have been released without this law?

As important is for someone to take a close look at what role Morrison actually played in this. He is being attacked for "passing" a bill, he had no power to pass. He wasn't in the Legislature then. He didn't have vote. What exactly did he do?

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