Candidates for Kansas Attorney General focus largely on issues in debate

Attorney General Steve Six has regularly compared his opponent to another Republican who held the office: Phill Kline.

On Tuesday, Derek Schmidt paused in his debate with the Democratic incumbent to say he's not Kline.

"In case anybody is not clear, my name is Derek Schmidt. I am the Republican nominee for attorney general in 2010 and this is not 2006," Schmidt said.

That moment was one of a few where the two candidates for the state's top attorney swapped jabs in a campaign that has not focused on personal attacks.

The second debate in Wichita had much of the tone of the first — two lawyers arguing with the decorum as they might use in the courtroom.

They talked about immigration, teen tobacco use, texting while driving and women in the judiciary.

But there were times when candidates took their shots.

Six pointed to Schmidt's current job as Senate majority leader.

"I would wear it as a badge of honor not to know how or why you guys do the things you do in the Legislature," Six said.

Six denounced Schmidt for supporting laws that let payday loan companies raise interest rates. That followed criticisms from Schmidt's camp last week that Six took donations from the short-term loan industry.

Schmidt said his time in the Legislature gives him broad-based experience in state government that would help him as attorney general.

Schmidt repeated his main campaign position — that Six should have joined other states in a lawsuit challenging the new federal health care law.

"I'm here to tell you Kansans are deeply troubled about the ongoing power grabs from the federal government that they believe will tip the balance of liberty for generations to come," Schmidt said. "We ought to be a part of that legal fight. We should not be sitting on the sidelines."

Schmidt's focus on fighting federal health care reform is part of what brings Six's comparisons to Kline, whose pursuit of one issue — abortion clinics — made national news and now has him facing charges before the attorney's ethics commission.

"We have worked tirelessly to recover from the damage of what that career politician did," Six said. "We cannot afford to squander the work that's been put together, the record that's been built and we really cannot afford to have another career politician in this office."

Six said during the past three years he's cut the amount of tax money being used to run the office. He said he did that by recovering $46 million from consumer and health care fraud and using some of those criminal seizures to fund his budget.

Schmidt pointed to his work as a consumer protection prosecutor under Attorney General Carla Stovall.

"I believe I'm the only candidate in the race who has personally prosecuted a Consumer Protection Act case on behalf of the state of Kansas," Schmidt said. "I know I've done it."

Replied Six: "Mr. Schmidt, you were in the office for less than nine months, so I don't believe it's the record you made it out to be there."

The Kansas Association of Broadcasters sponsored the debate at the Airport Hilton.

Excerpts from the AG candidate debate:

Also watch them here: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=43584987D3D18C6A