Challenger forecasts dogfight in AG’s race
Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison says he has no delusions about his fall campaign and the election for Kansas attorney general.
Morrison, who changed parties last year and announced he would run as a Democrat against incumbent Republican Attorney General Phill Kline, stopped Friday in Lansing for a campaign visit with about 30 supporters at The Overlook restaurant.
In 2002, a relatively unknown Democrat, Chris Biggs, came within 4,000 votes of defeating Kline in the attorney general's race. Fast-forward to 2006 and many reason Morrison, who has been district attorney for 18 years in one of the state's most populous counties, could breeze to a victory over the controversial Kline.
"People tell me, 'Morrison, you're just going to stomp him. Look at all your credentials, and Chris Biggs - you know, he didn't have much money and he came so close.' And I say, that's not the case. Incumbency changes everything. I'm running against an incumbent attorney general - not much of one, but an incumbent attorney general."
Rather than a cakewalk to the attorney general's office, Morrison said he expected the remaining five weeks of the campaign to be a tough fight for votes, "a scratch and claw all the way along."
During the stopover in Lansing, Morrison drew distinctions between himself and Kline on three fronts: safety, priorities and judgment.
Of his record of keeping Kansans safe, Morrison said, "I've got a record of keeping people safe and being effective at that for a total of 26 years, and for almost 18 years as DA in Johnson County. My opponent has never tried a case in his career. I think that anybody that has ever watched his career or knows much about him has characterized him as a career politician. I don't think that's how you get things done when it comes to figuring out ways to keep people safe."
Morrison criticized Kline for having his priorities out of whack in his ongoing investigations into Kansas abortion clinics. Kline, Morrison said, was squandering the "incredible power of the Attorney General's Office" through his subpoenas of medical records in those clinics.
"Why does he do that?" Morrison asked. "He does that because he's pursuing a personal cause that most of us really don't think is that important - and probably most of us think is none of his business."
Morrison said examples of Kline's poor judgment have been on display since the early days of his administration when Kline hired his nephew as his driver - despite state anti-nepotism laws and the fact Brad Kline's driver's license had been suspended.
Morrison also panned Kline for hiring Bryan Brown as head of the Consumer Protection Division. Brown has a history of arrests from his days as an anti-abortion activist.
"I think those kind of judgment issues are inexcusable for somebody in the position of attorney general," Morrison said.
Kline has countered Morrison's assertions during campaign appearances and debates against Morrison.
Kline says he's successfully argued for the Kansas death penalty before the U.S. Supreme Court. Kline has said the subpoena of records from the clinics was necessary to investigate allegations of child rape and illegal late-term abortions. Of the two hires that have come into question, Kline has said he wasn't involved in bringing his nephew on board, and he said Brown was engaged in acts of civil disobedience when he was arrested.
As Election Day draws near, Morrison told the Lansing audience, the campaign likely would turn rough as Kline fights for his political life.
"We've raised a lot of money in this campaign, but I'm telling you what: We're going to need every penny of it," Morrison said. "I think it's going to get rough toward the end. He's desperate; he doesn't really have another profession to fall back on, and he's never going to practice law, so I think it's going to be close."