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Candidates upset by last-ditch attack ads

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, at 11:53 p.m.

Democrats, Republicans and political action groups are making their final pitches to voters this weekend, and they’re taking a few last swings at opponents, hoping to tip the scales in their favor.

The attacks have some candidates upset.

Democratic Senate candidate Keith Humphrey, who is running against incumbent Republican Sen. Mike Petersen in District 28 in south Wichita and Derby, said the Kansas Republican Party should apologize for an ad it sent to voters that questions why he changed his name and raised questions about his businesses.

Citing the Internet Movie Database and online public records, the ad says "Keith Humphrey doesn’t want you to know about his background … or that his name hasn’t always been Humphrey."

Humphrey said he was born as Keith Desoto and that his name changed when he was adopted at age 11.

The ad also questions the purposes of his businesses because it’s not clear in state filings what two of them do. He owns four aviation-related businesses, one of which is called Desoto Capitol and is a company set up as the owner of the building that houses his jet engine repair company. He said he used his former last name as an homage to his biological father, who he recently reconnected with. He said he also used that name when he wrote screenplays while living in California as a tribute to his father.

The other business referenced does aviation sales consulting work, Humphrey said.

Humphrey said such attacks keep good, qualified candidates from running for office.

"It’s a sad commentary for what’s happening," he said.

Kansas Republican Party Executive Director Clay Barker said he believes the ad is factually true, and he said it’s just part of what both parties are doing to try to win the election.

Barker said he feels that attack ads sent by Democrats have escalated the attacks.

"It’s kind of like the Democratic Party declared war, and we’re fighting back," he said.

Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon called the ad "a new low" because it attacks that he was adopted.

"This is a sad, desperate mail piece that seeks to play on people’s worst fears and prejudices," she said in a media release.

Petersen has been attacked too.

The Kansas Democratic Party sent out postcards that say Petersen "is playing politics with women’s health."

The ad says Petersen supported Gov. Sam Brownback’s rejection of a $31 million federal grant intended to help the state set up an insurance exchange, which is required under the federal health insurance overhaul. It cites a Topeka Capital-Journal article, but that article doesn’t mention Petersen.

Brownback — not the Legislature — made the decision to send back the grant. Although he wasn’t directly involved in the decision, Petersen said he did support Brownback’s decision because he felt there were too many federal requirements the state would have had to meet if it accepted the money.

The Democrats attack ad goes on to say that in Washington D.C., politicians are redefining rape and denying rape victims health services unless they can prove it was forcible. Petersen said he doesn’t understand the connection.

"It has nothing to do with me," he said. Petersen said Democrats may be attacking his anti-abortion stances because they used a photo of Petersen at a pro-life rally.

Petersen also said that a Democratic Party ad is wrong. The ad quotes Humphrey saying that "As a lifelong Kansan, I’ll never stop fighting for you."

Humphrey said he wasn’t aware of the Democratic Party’s ad. He said he never said he was a lifelong Kansan. Humphrey lived in several states looking for work after leaving the Navy. He has said he has lived in the district for seven years.

Barker, with the Republican Party, said Kansans will likely see even sharper attack ads across the state this weekend.

"You kind of save your best for last," he said.

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