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Headlines for Tuesday, October 28, 2014

School Funding a Key Issue, Late in KS Governor's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback and Democratic challenger Paul Davis are making funding for Kansas public schools a key issue as their hotly contested race nears its end. Davis was rallying Tuesday evening with teachers at the Statehouse after kicking off a 30-stop campaign tour through eastern Kansas with an event in Iola in southeast Kansas. Brownback's allies were circulating a report from the Kansas Legislature's nonpartisan research staff showing that total per-pupil spending on public schools has risen almost 5 percent since the 2010-11 school year, when Brownback took office. Critics contend such comparisons are misleading because they don't focus on funds for schools' daily operating budgets and the totals aren't adjusted for inflation. The election is November 4, and analysts say the race appears to be a toss-up.


Personal Loans Bolster Kansas Governor's Campaign

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows Republican Governor Sam Brownback's running mate made another $500,000 loan to their re-election campaign. The governor and his wife also made a $200,000 loan to his campaign last week. The Brownback campaign listed the transactions in a finance report filed Monday, covering the period from July 25 through Thursday. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer loaned the campaign $500,000 in August. He made similar loans in December 2013 and July, but they were paid back within days. The governor is in a tight race with Democrat Paul Davis. Davis raised more than $2 million during the past three months, bringing his total since the start of last year to $4.2 million. Brownback's totals were $1.6 million for the period and $3.4 million since the start of 2013.


Brownback Campaign Loan Raising Questions

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer isn't answering questions about a new loan he has made to the campaign of Governor Sam Brownback. A financial disclosure filing shows Colyer loaned Brownback's campaign $500,000 in August — the third such loan he's made to the governor's re-election bid. He made similar loans in December 2013 and July, but both were paid back within two days. At a campaign event Tuesday in Wichita, Colyer refused to answer questions about the loans or the origin of the money he's lending to Brownback's campaign. Brownback campaign spokesman John Milburn says the loans amount to simple "cash management." Brownback is in a tight race with Democrat Paul Davis. Davis spokesman Chris Pumpelly says Kansans should know where Colyer is getting the money to loan to Brownback's campaign.


Roberts Nears End of Senate Race with $927K on Hand

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Campaign finance reports show Republican Senator Pat Roberts raised about $2.2 million in contributions over three months for his Kansas re-election race and ended mid-October with $927,000 in his treasury. Federal reports available online Tuesday also showed that Roberts relied heavily on contributions from political action committees to fund his campaign. From July 17 through October 15, he raised nearly $1.09 million from PACs. The three-term Republican incumbent is in a close race with independent candidate Greg Orman. The challenger is a wealthy Olathe businessman who covered $963,000 of his campaign's expenses from mid-July through September. A report on Orman's campaign activities in October was not available online. Roberts had $1.4 million in cash on hand in mid-July. His campaign spent then spent $2.7 million through October 15.


Paul, Tea Party Groups Backing Pat Roberts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is urging Kansas conservatives to unite behind embattled Senator Pat Roberts, as a national tea party group that once supported Roberts's primary opponent pledged its support to the three-term incumbent. The unexpectedly competitive race is entering its final week, and some Kansas tea party supporters are conceding Roberts would be a better choice than independent Greg Orman, the wealthy Kansas City businessman challenging him. Others remain dissatisfied with Roberts and cautioned against mistaking national endorsement for individual votes. The GOP needs six seats to gain control of the Senate, and was not expecting to defend the seat currently held by Roberts in typically GOP-heavy Kansas. Roberts needs to overwhelmingly win conservative voters to beat Orman, whom Roberts has described, as did Paul, as a Democrat in disguise.


State Paid Over $34,000 to Defend Kobach in Candidacy Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Records from the Kansas attorney general's office show taxpayers spent more than $34,000 in legal fees for the secretary of state's failed effort to force Kansas Democrats to field a candidate for U.S. Senate. Secretary of State Kris Kobach told The Wichita Eagle that's not a lot of money, in litigation terms. The state paid Wichita-based Hinkle Law Firm $34,627 to defend Kobach against a lawsuit brought by Democrat Chad Taylor, who withdrew from the Senate race. The Kansas Supreme Court rejected Kobach's argument that Taylor should remain on the ballot because he did not declare himself incapable of serving, if elected. The state also retained Hinkle when it tried to intervene in a lawsuit to force the Democratic Party to name a replacement candidate, which also failed.

Judge Sets New Hearing Date in Gay Marriage Suit

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has set a new hearing on the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the state's ban on same-sex marriage. A court notice filed Tuesday shows the hearing on the ACLU's request for an order forcing Kansas to allow gay marriages is set for 2:30 p.m. Friday before U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree in Kansas City, Kansas. The ACLU filed the lawsuit for two lesbian couples denied marriage licenses in Douglas and Sedgwick counties after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five other states seeking to preserve bans on gay marriage. The ACLU is seeking a temporary injunction that would bring Kansas into line with a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals precedent set in other cases.


Romney, Dole Campaign with Kansas Senator Pat Roberts

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) _ Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is campaigning in Kansas for U.S. Senator Pat Roberts's re-election, portraying a vote for his independent challenger as a vote for Democratic President Barack Obama. U.S. Senate Majority Leader and presidential nominee Bob Dole joined Romney and Roberts Monday at an upscale Overland Park restaurant and bowling emporium. Roberts is in a tough race with independent candidate and Olathe businessman Greg Orman. A big part of Roberts's pitch for his re-election is helping Republicans recapture a Senate majority. Romney sought to tie Orman to the Democratic president. Romney lost to Obama in 2012. Dole was the 1996 GOP candidate. They appeared in Johnson County, the state's most populous county and home to 22 percent of the state's voters.


Dole Wants Romney to Run Again in 2016

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - Bob Dole says he thinks former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney should run for the office again in 2016. The 91-year-old former Senate majority leader made the comment Monday during a campaign rally for Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, who's in a tight race for re-election against independent candidate Greg Orman. Romney spoke at the event in the Kansas City surburb of Overland Park. Romney was the GOP nominee in 2012, when Democratic President Barack Obama won re-election. Dole was the 1996 presidential nominee. He drew loud applause from the crowd of several hundred people when he introduced Romney, saying "I want him to run again." As Romney worked the crowd afterward, he ignored a reporter's question about whether he'd run in 2016. He's said previously that he will not run.


Renovation Planned for Cosmosphere Planetarium in Hutchinson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - The Justice Planetarium at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson will be renovated and upgraded next year, including installation of a new digital projection system. The $400,000 renovation will be funded by contributions from the Walter E. & Velma G. Justice Fund for Reno County and from Dave and Dee Dillon. The Hutchinson News reports the upgrades will also include new seating, carpet, lighting and sound systems. The new projection system will allow the Cosmosphere to tailor programs for specific school field trip themes and grade levels. The planetarium will close for renovation in February and reopen in March.

Topeka Man Pleads No Contest to Prison Escape

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man who is serving more than 20 years for multiple burglaries and thefts has pleaded no contest to aggravated escape for walking away from prison in August. The Hutchinson News reports that 45-year-old Mark Lucas entered his plea Tuesday and will be sentenced in January. Lucas was discovered missing after a 12:30 pm head count at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility on August 3. He was captured three days later in Topeka. Lucas claimed at a June hearing that he walked away because his daughter was suicidal and he was trying to help her. He was convicted in five separate cases in Shawnee County in 2012 on multiple counts of aggravated burglary and theft. He also served prison time in 1994 for aggravated burglary and in 2003 for theft.


Oklahoma Paving Company Ordered to Pay Kansas Penalty

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has ordered an Oklahoma paving company to pay a $100,000 penalty for deceiving consumers in its door-to-door sales. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Tuesday a default judgment was entered this week in Shawnee County District Court against Will J. Harrison Jr. Harrison did business as Wester Construction and Will Harrison Paving. Judge Rebecca Crotty found that the company violated Kansas consumer protection laws. She also ordered the company to pay slightly more than $13,000 in restitution to two Kansas residents. Schmidt says consumers should be especially cautious of door-to-door home repair salespeople claiming to offer good deals.


3-Ton Beam Falls on Wichita Construction Worker

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A construction worker is hospitalized in serious condition after a 3-ton steel beam fell on him at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 25-year-old man was alert and responsive when emergency crews arrived shortly after 8 am Tuesday. The accident took place at the site where a new parking garage is being built. A spokeswoman for the Wichita Airport Authority says co-workers quickly removed the 48-foot-long girder off the man with a forklift. The man works for Crossland Construction. He was taken to Via Christi Hospital St. Francis.


Feds Block Kansas Plan to Reduce School Testing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas will not be able to let high school students skip state mathematics and English tests so they can focus on college entrance exams and career-oriented tests. The U.S. Education Department says Kansas's proposal would conflict with federal testing requirements that ensure accountability in schools. Interim Kansas Education Commissioner Brad Neuenswander says the state wanted to let schools choose whether to drop state tests so student could concentrate on such tests as the ACT and job skills. Kansas students are to take state math and English tests at least once in high school but Neuenswander says some students were testing more than once in high school. The state now plans to restrict the math and English tests to the 10th grade.


Salina Gives Initial Approval for Fieldhouse

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - A proposed $9 million downtown fieldhouse is one step closer to reality in Salina but the process is far from complete. The Salina City Commission on Monday gave preliminary approval to the proposed fieldhouse, which supporters say would solve a longstanding lack of indoor recreational offerings in Salina. The resolution directs city staff to continue discussions about the fieldhouse and the process for final approval could take until 2017. The vote came after private investors raised their financial commitment to the project to $4.5 million, with the city providing the rest of the funds. Supporters say the fieldhouse would be for practices, league games, tournaments and other activities.


Whooping Cranes to Stop at Quivira

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Whooping cranes will be passing over central Kansas as they leave their breeding grounds to migrate south from Canada to Texas. The Hutchinson News reports a few dozen of the rare birds are sighted each year in or near the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge. The massive cranes use Quivira's open salt flats and wetlands to roost during their visits, but each group typically doesn't stay more than a day or two, with many just stopping overnight. Barry Jones of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says group size averages from two to five birds. The best chance to find the birds at Quivira is at either dusk or dawn. The whooping crane is the tallest bird species in North America, standing nearly 5 feet tall.


Warm Weather Spurs Rapid Winter Wheat Growth

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Unseasonably warm fall weather is spurring rapid growth of the emerging winter wheat crop in Kansas. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that about 87 percent of the 2015 wheat crop has now been planted. About 72 percent has already emerged. The agency rates the crop's condition as 7 percent excellent, 58 percent good, 33 percent fair and 2 percent poor.


DNA Links Inmate to 1985 Rape

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — DNA has linked a Missouri inmate serving 30 years in prison for sodomy and forcible rape to the rape of a 14-year-old Kansas City girl 29 years ago. The Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor's office says 56-year-old Melvin Conley was charged earlier this month with first-degree assault and two counts of rape with a weapon. The charges were unsealed late last week. The victim told police that she had left a friend's house around 10 p.m. on July 5, 1985, when someone grabbed her from behind and told her to be quiet or be killed. Prosecutors say the girl was raped twice. Evidence collected from the victim was tested and linked by DNA to Conley. Online prison records show Conley is being held at the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron.


Kansas Bobcat a Big Hit at California Park

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A tiny bobcat that was rescued from a central Kansas oil rig is proving to be a big hit at a northern California wildlife refuge. The Great Bend Tribune reports that the little cat, called "Whisper," was brought to the Great Bend-Brit Spaugh Zoo this spring. She was sent in late May to Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, California. Turtle Bay animal curator Sharon Clay estimates Whisper was about 3 weeks old when she arrived there. She's now about 6 months old and weighs 13 pounds, and is expected to remain small. The California park has made Whisper an animal ambassador, easy to introduce to visitors because of her sweet nature. The staff has taught her to walk on a leash and sit on command.


Headphones Suspected in Train-Pedestrian Fatality

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Police in St. Joseph say a pedestrian who died after being struck by a train may have been wearing headphones. The victim in Saturday afternoon's accident has been identified as 29-year-old Romino Buruta, who was crossing railroad tracks on his way home from work at Triumph Foods. Police Detective Frank Till tells the St. Joseph News-Press that the train's engineer reported seeing a man who appeared to be wearing headphones or earbuds. The engineer said he sounded the locomotive's horn several times but the pedestrian continued to walk across the tracks. The death remains under investigation while authorities wait to see security video from the train's camera.


SE Kansas Judge OKs Grand Jury in Landfill Probe

GALENA, Kan. (AP) - A judge has approved a grand jury to investigate actions by members of the Galena City Council related to a proposed landfill in Cherokee County. Judge Oliver K. Lynch's decision came after opponents of a proposed landfill near Riverton filed a second petition earlier this month seeking the probe. A group of Galena residents is asking for an investigation into whether the Galena City Council made decisions behind closed doors. Mayor Dale Oglesby has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said he welcomes the investigation.


Central Kansas Woman Arrested After Police Chase

HALSTEAD, Kan. (AP) - Police in central Kansas say a woman has been arrested after leading officers on a high-speed chase. KAKE-TV reports the woman faces charges of attempted felony fleeing and eluding, as well as possession of stolen property. Halstead police say the woman tried to cash a stolen check at an area bank and then fled in a Chevrolet Equinox. They say she reached speeds of 110 mph before officers used spike strips to stop her car. No injuries were reported. Police haven't released her identity.


Topeka Man Sentenced in Carjacking Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas man has been sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison for his role in a carjacking. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says 29-year-old Shaun Kendall of Topeka pleaded guilty to one count of carjacking on Monday. He was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison. Authorities say Kendall and another man threatened the driver of a 1999 Dodge Dakota in January before stealing the truck. The other man charged in the carjacking is scheduled to be in court in December.


Kansas Man Admits Stealing from Army

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas man has admitted stealing $62,000 in cash from an Army fund he managed at Fort Riley. The U.S. Attorney's office says 59-year-old Michael Steffens, of Junction City, pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to one count of stealing public money. Steffens was a business manager of the Army's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation program at the northeast Kansas post. The fund provides programs and services to soldiers and their families. In his plea, Steffens admitted stealing the money from August 2013 until he was charged in August of this year. Both parties have agreed to recommend that Steffens be sentenced to two years' probation and restitution. Sentencing is scheduled for February 9.


Police Identify Young Girl Shot to Death in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas, police are investigating the death of a 10-year-old girl in a drive-by shooting. Police say in a news release that the girl died Sunday evening while she was inside a home that was sprayed by bullets from a passing vehicle. Police on Monday identified the victim as Machole J. Stewart. Investigators have not said how often she was shot. She died at the scene. No one else inside the home was injured. It was the second time in about a week that a young girl died in a drive-by shooting in the Kansas City area. Six-year-old Angel Marie Hooper was shot to death Oct. 17 at a convenience store in Kansas City, Missouri. Police have not arrested a suspect in that case.


Death of Man in Dodge City Considered Homicide

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities in southwest Kansas are asking the public for information about the death of a Dodge City man over the weekend. A man's body was found Sunday at the Ford County Fair Grounds. Police have labeled the death of 54-year-old Fabian Corral as a homicide, but no details about how he was killed had been released Monday. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation's Crime Scene Investigation team is working with police on the case.


Ex-Technology Director Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former city technology director has admitted purchasing more than $100,000 in electronic devices with city money and either giving them away or selling them on eBay. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says 44-year-old Andrew Davey of Overland Park pleaded guilty Monday to wire fraud. He is expected to be sentenced to a year and a day in prison. Davey admitted that when he was director of technology for the city of Lenexa he purchased the devices with city funds. City officials discovered the purchases after he left to take another job. Grissom says he gave iPads to members of his church and gave his mom a 50-inch television and iPad that he told her were obsolete and no longer needed by the city. Sentencing is set for January 20.


Police ID Man Killed by Wichita Officers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Police in Wichita say a man killed in a weekend shootout with officers was associated with a local gang and had outstanding warrants in a neighboring county. Authorities on Monday identified the man as 18-year-old Jeffery Holden. The Wichita Eagle reports that he had been listed as a missing person in the Kansas City area. The shootout occurred shortly after 6:30 am Sunday as police responded to multiple reports of a man firing at houses and passers-by. Police said Holden pinned one officer in his car with continuous gunfire, then shot at other officers as they arrived. Authorities said Holden fired simultaneously with two handguns. He was ultimately shot and killed outside a house. Police said Holden was the subject of outstanding warrants in Cowley County.


Chiefs' QB Smith Injured Shoulder in Rams Game

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith played with a sprained shoulder Sunday that he injured just before halftime in the 34-7 rout of the St. Louis Rams. Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid told reporters Monday that Smith landed hard on his shoulder in the 2nd quarter but played through the pain. The game was still very much in the balance when the injury happened. The Chiefs were leading just 10-7 at halftime. Smith went through a series of examinations Monday. Reid said the quarterback's shoulder is "tender" and declined to say whether he will miss any practice time this week. The Chiefs play the New York Jets on Sunday.


Singer Aaron Lewis Apologizes for Botching Anthem

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Singer Aaron Lewis has apologized for botching the lyrics of "The Star-Spangled Banner" during his performance before Game 5 of the World Series in San Francisco Sunday. The lead singer of the metal band Staind published a note on his website Monday after stumbling during his rendition of the national anthem. Lewis apologized for flubbing the lyrics and said "My nerves got the best of me and I am completely torn up about what happened."  When the Fall Classic returns to Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City tonight (TUE), the Kansas City Symphony will play the national anthem. If the Royals win and force a Game 7 on Wednesday night, opera star and Kansas City native Joyce DiDonato will sing the anthem.


Snyder, Currie Pay for Dorms to Open Early

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State football Coach Bill Snyder and Athletics Director John Currie are giving a Thanksgiving gift to student fans of the football team. The university announced Tuesday that Snyder and Currie will each donate $2,500 to allow the university's residence halls to re-open early during Thanksgiving weekend. The Wildcats are scheduled to play the University of Kansas on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, the end of the university's week-long fall break. Snyder's and Currie's donations will cover the cost of reopening the residence halls on Friday and Saturday to allow students to return early to campus. Residence halls will open at 1 pm on Friday, November 28. The game time for the KU game has not been announced. The game will be the final home contest of Kansas State's season.


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