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Headlines for Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Kansas news summary for staff and wire reports.

All Five Kansas Justices Retained on Supreme Court; Some GOP Lawmakers Ousted

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas voters have blocked an effort by conservatives to give Republican Governor Sam Brownback a chance to remake the Kansas Supreme Court.  Voters also ousted some of his allies from the Legislature in a backlash over the state's budget problems.  At least nine Republicans in the Kansas House lost their seats to Democratic challengers.  But not all of the Kansas legislative races have been decided, due to slower than usual ballot counting in Johnson County.  Five of the Supreme Court's justices were on the ballot in Tuesday's election for a yes-or-no decision by voters statewide on whether they remain on the bench.  All five were retained.  Four were appointed by previous governors and strongly criticized by conservatives, abortion opponents and critics of rulings overturning death sentences in capital murder cases.  But the court's defenders benefited from voters' frustration with the state's fiscal woes. 

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Group Disappointed by Kansas Supreme Court Votes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group that sought to remove four Kansas Supreme Court justices is calling voters' decision to keep them "a win for criminals and a loss for victims." Kansans for Justice said in a statement Wednesday that it is disappointed that voters, in its words, "left bad justices in place." The group formed two years ago by victims' family members after the court overturned the death sentences for Jonathan and Reginald Carr. The brothers faced execution for killing four people in Wichita in December 2000 after sexually torturing and robbing them. It campaigned to oust Chief Justice Lawton Nuss and Justices Carol Beier, Dan Biles and Marla Luckert. Justices face a statewide, yes-or-no vote every six years on whether they're retained. The court's defenders said it has been fair and impartial.

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Brownback:  Sluggish Economy Hampered GOP Re-Election Efforts 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says a sluggish economy made it more difficult to re-elect Republicans to the Legislature and the GOP still emerged with strong majorities in both chambers. The Republican governor on Wednesday disputed the idea that the election represented a referendum on him or his fiscal policies. Democrats had a net gain of 12 seats in the House and unseated 11 Republican incumbents. They also picked up an open seat in the Senate. Brownback noted that Republicans still appear to be headed toward majorities of 85-40 in the House and 31-9 in the Senate. Voters also retained four Kansas Supreme Court justices targeted by abortion opponents and GOP conservatives for ouster. Brownback noted that no justice has been ousted in such a retention vote.

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Trump Wins Kansas; GOP Keeps All Four Seats in Congress

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican nominee Donald Trump carried Kansas in his race to win the White House and Kansas Republicans kept control of all four of the state's seats in the U.S. House.  Republican Senator Jerry Moran also cruised to an easy re-election Tuesday.  The most competitive congressional race was in the 3rd District in the Kansas City area, but GOP incumbent Kevin Yoder dashed the best hopes Democrats had for picking up a seat in Congress since 2008.  Voters sent Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo, of Wichita, and Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, of Topeka, back to the U.S. House of Representatives.  One new Republican will join them.  Dr. Roger Marshall, of Great Bend, won his race in the Big First Congressional District of central and western Kansas.  Marshall defeated Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp in the GOP primary and pushed back a challenge from independent candidate, Alan LaPolice, in Tuesday's election. Secretary of State Kris Kobach had predicted that a record 1.3 million of the state's 1.8 million registered voters would participate. More than 505,000 ballots were cast in advance, 47 percent more than before the last presidential election in 2012.

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All Kansas Court of Appeals Judges Retained 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  A campaign by abortion opponents has failed to remove four Kansas Court of Appeals judges. The secretary of state's office reported Wednesday that voters chose to retain Judges Karen Arnold-Burger, G. Gordon Atcheson, Steve Leben and G. Joseph Pierron Jr. for another four years. Abortion opponents were upset over a ruling in January on temporarily blocking enforcement of a law banning a common second trimester abortion method. The Court of Appeals split 7-7, and the law isn't being enforced while the Kansas Supreme Court considers the issue. The four targeted judges would have blocked enforcement. Also on the ballot were two appeals judges who would have allowed the law to be enforced. David Bruns and Kathryn Gardner were retained by significantly larger margins than the other four judges.

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Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach Has Trump Transition Team role 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's secretary of state says he's serving on President-elect Donald Trump's transition team. Kris Kobach, a conservative Republican, told various Kansas media outlets Wednesday he has no expectation of a role in Trump's eventual administration. But he says he's open to working for Trump, if offered. As part of his unpaid role with the transition team, Kobach will help advise Trump on policy matters leading up to his January inauguration. Kobach previously advised Trump on immigration policy during the campaign, successfully adding to the Republican Party's platform Trump's plan to build a wall along the U.S.'s southern border with Mexico. Kobach also has served as counsel to Attorney General John Ashcroft during the President George W. Bush's administration.

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No Votes Lost in Johnson County System Crash 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County says a paper trail allowed election officials to reconstruct a digital file after its tally software system crashed on election night while workers were scanning in mail-in ballots. Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker said Wednesday the important thing is that the count is accurate and nobody lost a vote. Technicians are still trying to pinpoint the exact cause of the Tuesday's failure that occurred as an onslaught of late mail ballots were being scanned in, overwhelming the system. Officials say they had to go to the last uncorrupted backup and rebuild that digital file. The vote count was completed around 1 pm Wednesday. Johnson County commissioners last year had planned to spend $13.1 million to replace aging voting machines. But Metsker says he recommended the county wait until the latest voting system technology is certified. Metsker says last night was a great illustration of why it is important to have a paper trail.

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Johnson County Results Delayed Wednesday Morning

OLATHE,Kan.  — Johnson County election results were still delayed as of 9:00 this (WED) morning.  The Johnson County Election Office says the delay was due to an unexpectedly large number of paper ballots received by mail in the past two days. The Kansas City Star reports that the Johnson County Election Office says that it has finished tabulating votes, but would not be able to release the results until the Kansas Secretary of State resumed collecting results later in the morning. Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker said workers were processing the ballots as fast as they could. Metsker said that workers tried to get through all the paper ballots before the election, but several large shipments of ballots arrived at the office on Monday and Tuesday.

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Teacher Defeats 29th District Incumbent 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Johnson County teacher has defeated a Republican member of the Kansas House amid voter discontent with GOP Governor Sam Brownback. Democrat Brett Parker of Overland Park unseated GOP state Representative James Eric Todd in Tuesday's election in the 29th District. Many voters were upset with Brownback and fellow Republicans because of the state's ongoing budget problems. Todd is an attorney first elected to the House in 2012. Parker is an English language teacher at Countryside Elementary School and Pioneer Trail Middle School in the Olathe school district. He is an active member of the Kansas National Education Association, and both he and the teachers' union have strongly criticized Brownback. Parker had the endorsement of local education groups and several former moderate GOP legislators.

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Republican Representative Loses to Challenger in 16th District 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A conservative Republican legislator in the Kansas City area has lost her seat to a Democratic challenger who described GOP Gov. Sam Brownback's policies as a "disaster." GOP state Representative Amanda Grosserode was defeated Tuesday in the 16th District of Johnson County by Democrat Cindy Holscher of Overland Park. Holscher had the backing of local teachers' unions and education groups. She worked 12 years for Sprint Yellow Pages in budgeting, marketing and management. Grosserode was first elected to the House in 2010 and is chairwoman of a House budget subcommittee on education spending. Grosserode and fellow GOP legislators faced a backlash over the state's ongoing budget problems. Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since Republican lawmakers slashed personal income taxes at Brownback's urging in hopes of stimulating the economy.

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Kansans Vote to Include Right to Hunt and Fish in State Constitution

Kansas voters have signed off on amending the state constitution declaring that Kansas residents have the right to hunt, fish and trap wildlife.  The measure will add a section to the state's Bill of Rights to explicitly preserve hunting and fishing as a preferred way to manage wildlife. Any future measures seeking to limit hunting or fishing would need proof that a particular animal could become endangered.  Kansas now is among roughly 20 states in which hunting and fishing are a constitutional right.  Proponents say the measure is a pre-emptive safeguard against possible restrictions such as pushes to ban hunting and fishing outright or incrementally. Opponents counter that the measure might prevent citizens from stepping in to prevent unsportsmanlike practices.  The amendment passed overwhelmingly, by nearly 700,000 votes.

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V-A: Employee Emailed Veterans' Personal Data to Himself 

DENVER (AP) — The Department of Veterans Affairs has warned more than 2,100 veterans in eastern Colorado and Kansas that their personal information may have been compromised when an employee emailed documents to himself. The VA said Wednesday the information included full names, parts of Social Security numbers and medical diagnoses. A VA employee told The Associated Press that he is the person who emailed the information to himself and described it as unauthorized wait lists that could be used to conceal lengthy delays in providing care. The employee spoke on condition of anonymity because he fears retaliation. The VA's internal watchdog announced last month that it was looking into the employee's claims at the request of two senators. The VA says it takes the allegations seriously and will work with the inspector general.

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Kansas Education Official Says Assessment Test Results Flat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Kansas education official says results of the 2016 state assessment tests were essentially flat, but he expects to see improvements in the future. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Education Commissioner Randy Watson reported on the results to members of the Kansas State Board of Education on Wednesday. Those numbers show that 41.33 percent of Kansas students in third through 10th grades met or exceeded grade-level reading expectations in the spring, down from 42.02 percent in 2015. The data also show that 34.44 percent of those students met grade-level math expectations for college and career readiness, up from 33.04 percent in 2015. More students performed at the highest level in reading and math than in 2015, but there also were more students performing at the lowest level.

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Sitter Who Left Girl's Body in Field Faces Interfering Charge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A baby sitter who left the body of a Wichita toddler in a field has been charged with interfering with a police investigation. The Wichita Eagle reports that 26-year-old Tyerria Miles made her first appearance Tuesday morning in Sedgwick County on the felony charge. She doesn't have a listed phone number. Investigators said they believe 2-year-old Jhornee Bland died early May 8. Miles was caring for Jhornee in the days before her death. Police have said Miles put the girl's body in the field and lied to her mother about Jhornee's whereabouts. After the Jhornee's mother reported her missing, Miles disclosed the location of the body on May 9. The coroner who conducted the autopsy was unable to determine what killed her.

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Victim of Kansas Homicide Identified as 34-Year-Old Man

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a Kansas City, Kansas, homicide victim as a 34-year-old man. Police said in a news release Wednesday that Jeffery Wing, of Kansas City, Kansas, was the victim of the Monday night killing. Responding officers found him shot inside of his vehicle. He was taken to a hospital and later died from his injuries. Anyone with information is urged to call a tips hotline. No other information was immediately released.

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University of Kansas Vice Chancellor Becomes Finalist for Top Job at Georgia School

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas vice chancellor for public affairs is one of the four finalists to become president of Valdosta State University in Georgia.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Tim Caboni is scheduled to visit the school's campus November 17 and 18 to meet with students, faculty, staff and president search committee members.  Caboni was in the running to be the president of Georgia Southern University, but another candidate was chosen in April.  Valdosta State is a regional university that has about 10,700 undergraduate and graduate students. It is a part of the University System of Georgia.

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Man Fatally Shot After Fighting for Kansas Deputy's Gun

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a sheriff's deputy has shot and killed a motorist who tried to take the deputy's gun after a pursuit ended in a crash in western Kansas.  The Ellis County prosecutor said in a news release that the chase started early Tuesday after Hays police officers attempted to stop the white driver from crossing the center line. The motorist reached speeds of more than 100 mph before crashing while attempting to pass another vehicle on U.S. 183.  The release says a deputy used a stun gun when the driver attacked. The two tussled on the ground before the driver was fatally shot while attempting to take the deputy's gun.  The officer was treated at a hospital and released. The name of the suspect and the deputy weren't immediately released.

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Man Charged in Kansas Stabbings that Killed Girl

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man accused of fatally stabbing a 6-year-old girl, critically injuring her sister and raping their mother is charged with first-degree murder.  Sedgwick County prosecutors filed charges Tuesday against the 47-year-old man, who is related to the mother. He's jailed on $1 million bond.  Wichita police responding to a vehicle accident Friday found the 6-year-old and her 24-year-old mother stabbed inside a Jeep in a strip mall's parking lot. The girl died at a hospital.  Her 4-year-old sister, also stabbed, was found miles away wandering in a field.  Case documents that would show whether the man had an attorney weren't available online Tuesday. Calls to the jail seeking the same information rang unanswered.  The Associated Press is withholding the man's name to prevent potentially identifying a sexual assault victim.

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Kansas College Mourns 2 Students Who Died in Crash

STERLING, Kan. (AP) — Students and faculty at Sterling College in Rice County are mourning two juniors at the school who died in a car collision.  The Hutchinson News reports that 25-year-old Xavier Bradford of Lancaster, California, and 21-year-old Esther Jenkerson of Datil, New Mexico, were killed in the accident Monday morning.  Authorities say the vehicle that Bradford and Jenkerson were traveling in collided with a semitrailer in Reno County. The semitrailer's driver was not injured in the incident.  Bradford had been studying writing and was a player on the football team. Jenkerson was an athletic training major at the college of about 650 students.  Students gathered Monday evening to remember the two and listen as Sterling College Chaplain Christian Dashiell spoke.

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Wichita State University Going Tobacco-Free in 2017

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University is set to implement a ban on tobacco use on campus in 2017.  The Wichita Eagle reports that students, faculty, staff members and visitors won't be allowed to use tobacco on the university campus starting July 1. The new policy includes cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes. People will be allowed to smoke in designated outdoor areas during sporting events, with prior approval from the university.  Student-run organization Tobacco Free Wu & Me has led efforts to ban tobacco on campus. The group's current vice president Emma Crabtree says the July start date will allow the organization time to publicize the new policy.

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Hit-and-Run Crash Kills Pedestrian in Dodge City 

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man injured in a hit-and-run crash in Dodge City has died. The Hays Post reports that police say 27-year-old Evan Kaiser, of Dodge City, died around 6 pm Tuesday. He was flown to a Wichita medical facility after he was struck from behind while walking. Authorities are looking for the driver. The vehicle involved is believed to be a Nissan Murano with possible damage to the passenger side. Authorities are urging anyone with information to call police.

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Chiefs' Ware Passes Concussion Test, Houston Could Be Back 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware passed the NFL's concussion protocol and returned to practice Wednesday, and he should be available for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers. Ware was hurt in Indianapolis and missed last week's game against Jacksonville. Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston is also expected to be added to the roster, though coach Andy Reid said the move had not yet been made. Houston has been out after having surgery on a bothersome ACL in his left knee in February, and the deadline to join the active roster is Wednesday. Reid has been hopeful that Houston will return for the stretch run, but he has not given a timetable for him to get on the field. Houston has been practicing for about three weeks.

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