TOPEKA — An ongoing feud among Democrats in the Kansas Senate has spilled over into the party's primary for secretary of state.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka e-mailed 27,000 Democrats last month, announcing his endorsement of incumbent Chris Biggs and urging a fellow senator, Chris Steineger of Kansas City, to withdraw from the race.
Hensley, who has spent the better part of three decades in the Statehouse, said Democrats stood the best chance in more than 60 years of holding onto the secretary of state's office. Biggs was appointed in March by Democrat Gov. Mark Parkinson to finish the unexpired term of Republican Ron Thornburgh, who left for a job in the private sector.
In his letter, Hensley noted the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission fined Steineger $5,000 in May for a campaign finance law violation.
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The commission concluded Steineger violated a law restricting how campaign funds can be used. Twice last year, Steineger used his Senate campaign fund to pay for polls testing how well voters recognized his name for a potential run for statewide office. Kansas campaign finance laws prohibit the use of funds contributed for the purpose of one race to be used for another, in this case, Senate funds for a statewide campaign activities.
"Kansans deserve a secretary of state who understands the law, follows the law, and is committed to enforcing the law," Hensley wrote Democrats.
Steineger dismissed Hensley's letter, saying the two have clashed in recent years over issues and alliances Steineger made with non-Democrats.
"I represent Wyandotte County, not a party boss," Steineger said.
He vowed to stay in the race, calling Hensley "an old-school, Chicago-style" political boss who wants to dominate the state party.
"The Kansas voters are going to make up their own darn mind about all the candidates and based on what the qualifications are for that person to hold office," Steineger said.
He touts his 14 years in the Legislature and small-business background, as well as being able to work with other legislators in Topeka regardless of party.
Hensley said he doesn't mind references to Chicago politics or Mayor Richard Daley, who was known for his bare-knuckles politics.
"I'm not a party boss, I'm a party leader. It's my duty," Hensley said.
Neither the Biggs campaign nor the Kansas Democratic Party would comment on Hensley's letter.
The winner of the Aug. 3 primary faces the winner of a three-way Republican primary in the November general election.
One of those candidates, Kris Kobach, is the former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party and a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Kobach, who is running on a platform of fighting voter fraud, helped write the Arizona immigration law now being challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Justice Department.
Hensley said Biggs was the best candidate to defeat Kobach in November, should the two emerge from the primaries Aug. 3.
State Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for Sedgwick County Commission in District 4, plans a meet-and-greet fundraiser with lieutenant governor candidate Kelly Kultala next week.
The event will be from 5 to 7 p.m. July 14 at All Occasions Events Center, 4940 E. 21st St.
The event is open to the public. A buffet is available for a $20 donation. To RSVP, call Paris Cunningham, 316-807-5112.