Gov. Sam Brownback is calling for more civility in state and national politics a day ahead of Kansas’ primary elections.
Late Monday, Brownback became the latest high profile Republican to speak out against GOP nominee Donald Trump’s comments about the parents of a decorated Muslim American soldier who died in Iraq. The parents appeared at the Democratic National Convention.
“Recently, the Gold Star parents of Captain Humayun Khan spoke of the ultimate sacrifice paid by their son on the Iraqi battlefield of the War on Terror. Their story is a gripping testament of the price paid by the families of military members who nobly choose to defend their country and the ideas for which it stands,” Brownback said in a statement. “The courage and pain of Khizr and Ghazala Khan should be honored by all Americans.”
Brownback, who has endorsed Trump, did not address the candidate by name, but he said speech in the “public square should reflect who we are as a nation, and those pursuing public service should hold themselves to a high standard of integrity and respect.”
Brownback then turned his attention on to state-level politics.
“Here in Kansas, there have been instances of false and malicious attacks on the character of candidates. These smears have no place in political debate. Candidates must abandon this repugnant tactic,” Brownback said. “Discussions of political and policy differences are healthy, but character assassination harms families and the structure of our political system.”
Political mailers with scurrilous attacks have been prevalent as Tuesday’s primary approaches, with groups making questionable claims about both moderate and conservative candidates.
Brownback’s comments drew scrutiny, however, because of his own past campaigning.
“Sam Brownback brought Washington, D.C.-style politics to Kansas in a very overt way. And if anybody’s an expert on smear tactics and character assassination, it’s Sam Brownback,” said Senate Minority Leadery Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.
Hensley said the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and other groups that support Brownback are “demonizing moderate Republicans” ahead of the primary. He noted that Brownback’s campaign did not shy away from such tactics in 2014, when the governor ran for re-election.
“For the governor to come out now and say we need civil discourse in campaigns, in my way of thinking, is very hypocritical,” Hensley said.
Brownback’s campaign ran ads linking Democrat Paul Davis to the Kansas Supreme Court’s controversial decision to overturn death sentences for the Carr brothers.
Nola Foulston, the former Sedgwick County district attorney who prosecuted the Carrs, called the ads reprehensible. Davis was a personal friend of one of the Carrs’ victims.
The Republican Governors Association and the Kansas Republican Party also ran ads about a 1998 incident in which Davis was present at a strip club during a police raid. Davis, whose law firm represented the club, was questioned by police, but not accused accused of any crime.
The information about the strip club incident became public only after an attorney working for the Brownback administration requested it from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. That attorney, Tim Keck, has since been elevated to secretary of aging and disability by the governor.