This just (well, yesterday) in from the Kansas City Star:
Johnson County district attorney Paul Morrison made it official this morning: He will challenge incumbent Phill Kline for Kansas attorney general next year.
And he’ll do it as a Democrat.
Morrison made the announcement on the steps of the Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe. Other press conferences were scheduled today in Wichita, Topeka and Pittsburg.
Although never mentioning Kline by name, Morrison said it was time to put the office of attorney general in the hands of a prosecutor and not a politician.
“As attorney general, I’ll insist we get that office back to the basics: safety, security, and the kind of independent approach Kansans ought to be able to expect from the state’s chief law enforcement officer,” said Morrison, who previously has been affiliated with the Republican Party.
After Morrison’s announcement, a Kline supporter handed out a statement from Kline suggesting Morrison was soft on crime.
Welcome news in Kansas, indeed. Just so you know what Mr. Morrison is up against, here's something from the Washington Post, back in March on Phill Kline:
A Kansan With Conviction
Attorney General Sees Abortion Records Fight as Matter of Principle
By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 20, 2005; Page A03
Phill Kline, Republican attorney general of Kansas, is determined not to be defensive. Making headlines with his subpoena of abortion records and his closed-door discussions of evolution with State Board of Education members, the former scholarship wrestler comes across as well satisfied with what he has wrought.
He has a job to do, Kline explained during a break at a meeting of attorneys general in Washington. Principles are at stake, he said, and liberals who dismiss the conservative values agenda as a political stratagem really do not know what they are talking about.
"Kansans know that freedom does not mean license and that values do matter," Kline, 45, wrote in an op-ed article in the Kansas City Star last week. His theme was "what's right with Kansas."
"For if we lose these common threads, common truths, then all liberty is truly in danger," Kline continued. "Kansans know that democracy without virtue is two wolves and a sheep deciding what is for dinner -- the sheep will always be eaten."
Kline, a fifth-generation Kansan, spent eight years in the Kansas House, adding an extra "l" to his first name to avoid mix-ups with a senior legislator with the same name. Becoming known as "Little Phill," he sponsored laws on crime victims' rights and was named legislator of the year by the state's developmentally disabled and mental health communities, according to his Web site.
Kline on Abortion Rights Issues (my headline here):
He ...helped write a state law restricting late-term abortions, the issue now winning so much national attention from friends and foes.
As attorney general, Kline sought to require Kansas health workers to report sexual activity of girls younger than 16, the age of consent. The workers filed suit, and a federal judge blocked the request. Kline then persuaded a state judge to back the subpoena for records of more than 80 women and girls who received abortions in 2003 at two clinics. He described it as a search for evidence of illegal late-term abortions and child rape.
Clinic lawyers made the investigation public last month when they termed Kline's quest a "fishing expedition" and asked the Kansas Supreme Court to intercede on grounds of privacy. Supporters of the clinics -- Women's Health Care Services in Wichita and a Planned Parenthood facility in Overland Park -- noted Kline's hope that Roe v. Wade (the case that resulted in a decision upholding the right to abortion) will be overturned, and said his true goal is to frighten women away from abortions.
Referring to the current battle with abortion clinics, skeptics said that if his ambition were to find criminal cases of underage sex, Kline would have targeted other categories of health workers and focused just as intently on girls who gave birth as on those who had abortions. They also noted that the Wichita clinic is operated by George R. Tiller, who channeled about $150,000 to Kline's opponent in 2002.
Kline insisted his goal is to uncover criminal activity, including at the clinics.
"They are a target of an investigation. It's like you show up at a bank robber's house and say, 'Hey, we think you robbed a bank. You have a ski mask inside, a gun and some money.' 'Well, let me go and check, and I'll get back to you,' " Kline said.
Kline on Evolution (my headline here):
In February, Kline sparked complaints from six news organizations after he met behind closed doors with the six conservative members of the Kansas State Board of Education. He held back-to-back sessions, each attended by three members. Had he met with the six together, the media organizations wrote, the state Open Meetings Act would have required the session to be open.
Kline said he discussed education funding and the issue of evolution in both meetings. He said board members -- intent on changing how evolution is taught in public schools (my bold) -- asked him if it would be constitutional to affix a sticker to textbooks saying evolution is a theory, not a fact. A federal judge in Cobb County, Ga., recently ordered such stickers removed.
"Yeah, it's constitutional. It is theory. I know the difference between scientific law, scientific theory, scientific hypothesis," Kline said in the interview.
Although evolution is commonly termed a theory, most scientists consider the evidence, accumulated over 150-plus years, to be overwhelming, and they say opponents misuse language to mislead the public.
It is a touchstone of Kline's political philosophy that Kansans -- especially conservative Kansans who gave the state to President Bush by nearly 2 to 1 in November -- do not always get the credit they deserve from outsiders, especially liberals.
"As our culture screams, eviscerating words through cheap use, Kansans assess," he wrote in the Kansas City Star. "As national pundits scurry, Kansans think. And as a national focus turns to the latest sexy voyeuristic tidbit, masquerading as news, Kansans decide. Then Kansans act with deep conviction."
In the interview, Kline decried "this almost silencing of dissent and debate . . . out of this false claim that we might be embarrassed by the discussion."
Kline's use of "dissent," Frank (my note: Thomas Frank, author of "What's the Matter with Kansas?") wrote in an e-mail commenting for this report, "confirms my book's central thesis, that the conservative movement understands itself as a heroic uprising of the downtrodden against the powers that be.
"The day I take that narcissistic image seriously is the day that Mr. Kline goes to the masters of Kansas and tells them he is going to fight the agribusiness conglomerates, zealously defend the right of workers to organize in the state's meatpacking plants, and dedicate his career to ensuring proper education and health care even for the very poorest."
For the record, I am a registered Republican in this state, so I can vote in the primaries. Democrats just don't have the clout here in the primary elections. I vote for the moderate candidates, unless they're running against a Democrat in the general election and then I have to weigh in--do I vote in the primary at all.
I was a Democrat all my life until I moved to Kansas. In any event, I'm putting my political energy behind Paul Morrison. He's been a good and able district prosecutor and someone who seems even-handed. Not soft on crime. My guess is that Kline will cite something like the following (from the KC Star back in 2001):
Prosecutors urge appointment of more experienced lawyer to aid Robinson
By TONY RIZZO - The Kansas City Star
Date: 07/25/01 22:15
Does John E. Robinson Sr. have the absolute right to hire any lawyer he wants?
Johnson County prosecutors say not if that lawyer lacks the experience to handle a death-penalty case. On Wednesday they filed written arguments to back up their position that a more experienced lawyer should be appointed to assist Robinson's hand-picked defender.
District Attorney Paul Morrison and Sara Welch, an assistant district attorney, cited Kansas law as well as rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.
They wrote that they knew "of no cases where a conviction has been reversed because of over-representation by counsel. We know of many convictions reversed because of under-representation by counsel, however."
According to the U.S. Supreme Court, they said, "the essential aim of the (Sixth) Amendment is to guarantee an effective advocate for each criminal defendant rather than to ensure the defendant will inexorably be represented by the lawyer whom he prefers."
Robinson has been represented by the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit since shortly after his arrest last summer. Those lawyers, paid by the state, were appointed after Robinson was found to be indigent.
But it seems to me, that's the law and Morrison knew the case against Robinson was airtight. It's a law that's supposed to help provide fair treatment.
That's what I'm thrilled about this morning. Wanting to see Kline & Morrison duke it out and eager to stand behind Morrison and help!!!
So now you know--the word is out! There's hope in this here red state!