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Headlines for Friday, August 10, 2018

UPDATE: Kansas Mail-In Ballots Put Kobach Lead at 110

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's lead over Governor Jeff Colyer stands at only 110 votes after late mail-in ballots were added to previous vote totals Friday in their hotly contested Republican primary race. Colyer has accused Kobach of advising county election officials not to count some late mail-in ballots that legally should be counted. Kobach said his advice on their handling has followed the law. State law says mail-in ballots would be counted if they were postmarked Tuesday and arrived by Friday. Kobach's lead had been 191 votes when statewide results were first reported Wednesday morning. More than 313,000 ballots were cast in Tuesday's primary. Counties still must review almost 9,000 provisional ballots given to voters at the polls when their eligibility is in doubt.

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Secretary of State Kris Kobach Steps Away from Elections Oversight Duties in Contested Kansas Vote Count

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach stepped aside from his duties as the state's top elections official Friday until his hotly contested primary race with Governor Jeff Colyer is resolved, but rejected Colyer's accusations that the advice he has been giving local election officials on handling ballots violates state law. Kobach said in a letter to Colyer that he was turning his election duties over to his top deputy, Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker. Colyer had demanded in his own letter Thursday to Kobach that the secretary of state stop providing guidance to county officials as they counted late mail-in ballots from Tuesday's Republican primary and prepared to count other ballots next week. Under state law, mail-in ballots are counted if they were postmarked Tuesday and arrive in county election offices by Friday. The secretary of state's office was updating vote totals as it received new numbers from individual counties.

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Colyer Wants Kobach Deputy to Step Aside, Too 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  An aide to Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer says Secretary of State Kris Kobach's top deputy also shouldn't advise county election officials while their tight Republican primary battle hangs in the balance. Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr said the governor objects to Kobach having Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker take over Kobach's election duties while the race is unresolved. Kobach announced Friday that he's stepping away from those duties until after the final primary vote is certified by the state. Colyer had called on him to stop advising county officials on yet-uncounted ballots. Marr said that while Rucker is "a good and decent man," assigning Kobach's duties to an employee that Kobach can fire does not end conflicts of interest. Colyer has said the state's attorney general should advise counties.

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Man Picked for Kansas Election Duties Had Past Controversies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top assistant who Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has tapped to take over his duties until the Republican gubernatorial primary race with Governor Jeff Colyer is resolved has been reprimanded in the past for his handling of abortion investigations. Kobach on Friday picked Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker after the governor demanded a day earlier that Kobach stop advising election officials on the handling of uncounted ballots. Rucker also will serve in Kobach's place on the state board that certifies the final election results. Rucker was a top aide to former Attorney General Phill Kline when both men faced criticism over investigations of abortion providers. Rucker received an informal admonition from a disciplinary panel for allowing misleading information to be given to the Kansas Supreme Court.

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Kansas Governor to Monitor Vote Canvass; Updated Results Trickling In 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer's re-election campaign plans to have a representative in all 105 counties next week as local election officials review mail-in and provisional ballots to arrive at final official vote totals. Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach are locked in a tight race for the GOP nomination for governor. The primary was Tuesday. Kobach led by 121 votes out of more than 311,000 cast as of Thursday. The counting in their race is not complete because state law says mail-in ballots that are postmarked Tuesday can be accepted by the counties as late as Friday. County officials also must review perhaps several thousand provisional ballots, given to voters at the polls when their eligibility is in question. Colyer's spokesman said the governor believes Kobach's office is advising county clerks to discard mail-in ballots that by law should be counted, and the campaign representatives will be at canvass meetings to be sure that they are.
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10:35 a.m.

Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer says he's "not entirely" comfortable with the vote-counting process in his still-unsettled Republican primary race with Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Colyer said Friday on Fox News that he wants to make sure every legitimate vote is counted. Kobach led by 121 votes out of more than 311,000, with perhaps several thousand votes uncounted. Kobach promised Thursday night that he would remove himself from further counting but said the move would be "symbolic" because counties do the actual work. He did so after Colyer demanded in a letter that he stop advising county election officials. Colyer told Fox News that he believes Kobach has advised them not to count some ballots that should be counted. Kobach's office has not responded to those allegations.

(-Related-)

2 Teens Got About 4,000 Votes in Close Kansas Primary Race

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — More than 3,700 Kansas voters cast ballots for two 17-year-old candidates in Tuesday's election for the GOP nomination for Kansas governor — a race that is still undecided because the vote was too close to declare a winner.  Tyler Ruzich, of Prairie Village, and Joseph Tutera Jr., of Overland Park, received a combined 3,758 votes after running under a quirky Kansas law that set no minimum age to run for the office. The primary ended with Secretary of State Kris Kobach leading Governor Jeff Colyer by 191 votes.  "In a normal election, we would not say 3,700 votes was a substantive chunk," said Russell Fox, professor of political science at Friends University. "But under the election results that we actually have, 3,700 votes is more than enough to make a huge difference."  Ruzich received 2,217 votes and Tutera garnered 1,541 votes.

No one knows if the teenagers' votes would have gone to Kobach, Colyer or someone else if the teenagers weren't on the ballot, said Robert Beatty, political science professor at Washburn University. But he said the Republican Party took the teenagers seriously enough to not allow them to participate in candidate debates, The Wichita Eagle reported.  "They understood that they could steal some votes, and that's exactly what happened," Beatty said.  Tutera said Wednesday he has no regrets about running. He said he and Ruzich were astonished by how many votes they received.

"If I hadn't run, or Tyler hadn't run, that could have been the difference between who gets elected," he said. "It's very weird to think about."

On the Democratic ballot, 17-year-old candidate Jack Bergeson got 3,850 votes but it didn't impact that primary because state Senator Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, easily won the Democratic nomination.  Previously, Kansas and Vermont were the only states with no age requirement to run for governor.  After the teenagers' campaigns drew national attention, the Kansas Legislature passed a law in May that set a minimum age to run for governor at 25, and 18 to run for any other state office. But that wasn't in time to stop the current batch of political upstarts from being on the ballot.

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National Democrats Move Sharice Davids to Top-Tier Candidate

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Democratic congressional candidate Sharice Davids is getting some help for her campaign from a national Democratic committee. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Friday named Davids to its "red-to-blue" list of top-tier candidates, which makes her eligible for organizational and fundraising help, staff resources and candidate training. Davids, from Kansas City, Kansas, won Tuesday's six-way Democratic primary and will take on incumbent GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder in the general election. Davids, an attorney, is the state's first lesbian, Native American congressional nominee. Committee chairman Ben Ray Lujan said in a statement that Davids has the grassroots energy and momentum to move the seat from Republicans to Democrats. The Kansas City Star reports the committee on Thursday began airing a television ad in the Kansas City market supporting Davids.

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3 Kansas Teens Dead, 10 Others Injured in Missouri Church Van Crash

BOLIVAR, Mo. (AP) — Three teenagers from Kansas are dead and 10 other people are hurt after a church van heading for an outing crashed in southwestern Missouri. The wreck happened around 10:40 a.m. Friday near Bolivar. Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. John Lueckenhoff says those killed were a 16-year-old boy from Olathe, a 14-year-old girl from Louisburg and a 17-year-old girl from Stilwell. Their names were not released. All 10 of the injured were taken to hospitals in Bolivar and Springfield, about 30 miles south. Three are in serious condition. The van was from Faith Chapel Assembly of God in Overland Park, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City. Lueckenhoff says he doesn't know specifically where the group was going. The van ran off the road, struck a tree and overturned. The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

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Handcuffed Man Jumps to His Death from Highway Overpass

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A handcuffed man who jumped to his death from a highway overpass in Kansas City, Missouri, had just been arrested.  Police told the Kansas City Star that the man had just been arrested before jumping from the overpass near Missouri Route 210 and Interstate 435 Thursday morning.  Police were responding to a report of a man and woman on foot jumping in and out of traffic. Officers detained the couple and handcuffed them. Police say the man broke free, ran and jumped to his death. His name has not been released.  Police say it is unclear what the man and woman were doing on the highway.

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Authorities: Car in Kansas River Murder Case Stolen in Missouri

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement officials say a car that was driven into the Kansas River, killing one child, was stolen from a central Missouri town.  Monroe County Sheriff's Sgt. Tony Coleman says the vehicle was stolen last Friday from a rural home in Madison shortly before it was driven into the river near Lawrence.  Scharron Dingledine is charged with first-degree murder in the death of her 5-year-old daughter and attempted first-degree murder for injuries suffered by her 1-year-old son.  Authorities allege she intentionally drove the car into the river.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports Coleman says a car was stolen from a Madison home and that a different car that didn't belong to the homeowner was left behind. Madison is about 43 miles north of Columbia.

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Woman Faces 2 Murder Counts in Death of Pregnant Woman

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City woman is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the June deaths of a woman and the victim's unborn child.  The Kansas City Star reports that Wyandotte County prosecutors announced charges Thursday against 26-year-old Alora Mendoza of Kansas City, Kansas. She is also charged with attempted aggravated robbery.  Jocelyn Ybarra and Ybarra's unborn child were killed on June 2. Relatives say Ybarra was 12 weeks pregnant when she was fatally shot.  Mendoza has been in custody for about a month on unrelated charges.

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Kansas Man Sentenced in 2016 Killing in Neodesha

NEODESHA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to more than 19 years in prison for a 2016 death in Neodesha.  The Kansas Attorney General's office says 37-year-old DeJay Lynn Schlegel, of Neodesha, was sentenced Wednesday in the December 2016 death of Michael Elam.  Schlegel pleaded no contest in May to second-degree murder, arson, interference with law enforcement and theft.  Elam was found dead inside his home after it burned down. Investigators say Schlegel and his girlfriend, 25-year-old Hayley Hurst, broke into Elam's home.  Hurst has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and theft.

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Man Gets 14 Years in Prison for Shooting Kansas Revenue Department Employee

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man who owed about $400,000 in taxes who was convicted of shooting and wounding a Wichita tax agent has been sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison.  Television station KWCH reports that Ricky Wirths was sentenced Thursday.  He was found guilty in June of attempted first-degree murder for shooting Cortney Holloway five times at a Kansas Department of Revenue office in Wichita in September 2017. The shooting happened the same day that Holloway served a tax warrant at Wirth's home.  Before sentencing, Holloway told the court the shooting left him unable to run with his children and made it difficult for him to write. He still has two bullets in his body.  Wirths apologized and said he hopes Holloway's family can forgive him.

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Kansas Man Indicted in Shooting of Southern Illinois Police Officer

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (AP) — A Kansas man has been indicted on charges that he fired the shots that wounded a southern Illinois police officer during a chase two years ago. A Jackson County grand jury returned the indictment Thursday against 24-year-old Alex B. Karcher of Salina, Kansas, on felony charges of aggravated battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm. Karcher is charged with firing several shots at Carbondale Officer Trey Harris. Officials say one shot wounded Harris in the eye, causing him to lose vision. Authorities say Harris was among officers chasing Karcher and three other men after gunshots were fired in a dispute over 15 pounds of marijuana. Karcher was arrested on drug charges soon after the July 2016 shooting. Defense attorney David Lawler didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

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Man Drowns in Private Lake in Eastern Kansas

LA CYGNE, Kan. (AP) — Officials say a man has drowned at a private lake in eastern Kansas.  The Kansas parks department reports 55-year-old Melvin Eugene Stierwalt, of Kansas City, Kansas, drowned Wednesday at Tanglewood Lake near La Cygne.  Witnesses reported they saw Stierwalt jump off a platform but they later couldn't find him and called authorities.  Game wardens using sonar recovered his body about noon on Wednesday.

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Family of Black Man Shot by Kansas Deputy Files Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The family of an unarmed black man who was shot in the back following a police chase in Kansas has sued alleging he was beaten by officers while he lay dying from a gunshot wound.  The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Kansas by the family of 24-year-old Matthew Holmes stems from an Aug. 28, 2017, incident that included a 20-mile chase of the suspect vehicle that reached speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour.  Authorities who investigated the shooting found Holmes was shot in the back by a McPherson County sheriff's deputy while Holmes was on the ground struggling with Newton police officer.  Prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges, finding that the deputy had a reasonable belief the officer faced imminent death or great bodily harm.

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Abandoned Kansas City Church Destroyed in Fire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities in Kansas City, Missouri, are investigating after an abandoned church was destroyed in a fire.  KCTV-TV reports the fire broke out before 4:30 am Thursday at St. Francis Seraph Catholic Church. Firefighters say the building was engulfed in flames by the time they arrived.  Fire officials are calling the blaze suspicious.  No injuries were reported.  Historic Kansas City listed the building on its Dangerous Buildings List, and a city official says the building was expected to be demolished within the next few days.

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Kansas Attorney Pleads Guilty to Evading Federal Income Tax

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A Leawood lawyer has pleaded guilty to evading federal income taxes.  David Mandelbaum admitted in his plea Wednesday that he hid income and assets from the Internal Revenue Service for five years. He owed about $132,000 in federal income taxes during that period.  Prosecutors say Mandelbaum set up several bank accounts under different names. He also deposited his own money into a trust account set up for funds belonging to his clients.  Mandelbaum agreed to pay about $202,000 in restitution to the IRS.  His sentencing is scheduled for October 29.

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Mississippi Man Sentenced to Life After Death Penalty Voided

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi man whose death sentence was overturned in 2014 has been resentenced to life in prison. State prison records show 44-year-old Roger Gillett was resentenced last month. Gillett and then-girlfriend Lisa Jo Chamberlin were convicted of killing Gillett's cousin and the cousin's girlfriend in 2004 because they wouldn't open a safe. Dismembered bodies of Vernon Hulett and Linda Heintzelman were found stuffed in a freezer on a farm near Russell, Kansas. The Mississippi Supreme Court voided Gillett's death sentence, finding jurors wrongly considered Gillett's attempted escape from a Kansas jail. The Hattiesburg American reports Forrest County District Attorney Patricia Burchell consulted victim families before deciding against the death penalty. Chamberlin's death sentence was reinstated in March after a federal appeals court dismissed accusations of racial bias in jury selection.

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Dockless Scooters Prohibited from Kansas City Shopping Area

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City shopping district has banned the use of new dockless electric scooters in the area because of safety issues.  The Kansas City Star reports that users of the Bird scooter rentals were notified Wednesday not to ride or drop off in the Country Club Plaza.  Kansas City struck a six-month deal with California-based Bird Rides Inc. last week to put a limited number of electric scooters on the city's streets. The move came after the company dropped about 100 scooters into the city without notice or clearance.  Plaza general manager Meredith Keeler says safety incidents with scooters in the pedestrian-heavy district caused complaints.  Bird Rides says the company proactively made the Plaza a no-ride zone. The company says it's working with city officials to operate within guidelines.

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Wichita Gets Nearly $1 Million Grant for School Security

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita school district plans to use a nearly $1 million grant to improve security at its schools this year.  The improvements will include upgrading classroom doors that can lock from inside, adding cameras, and buying more metal detectors.  The Wichita Eagle reports a state grant earmarked for school security will finance many of the improvements.  Terri Moses, Wichita's director of safety services, says other improvements include adding defibrillators in every district building.  Moses says the district will buy eight metal detectors but there currently are no plans to place them permanently or regularly search students as they enter buildings.  The project is expected to be completed by the end of the school year.  Beginning this fall, Kansas schools will be required to conduct nine crisis drills each year.

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Report: Kansas Forecast to Harvest More Corn Than Wheat

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A government report says Kansas farmers are forecast to harvest more than twice as much corn than wheat this year. The National Agricultural Statistics Service forecast on Friday Kansas corn production at 658 million bushels, about 4 percent below last year's crop. The crop is expected to be harvested off 5.1 million acres this fall. That compares to the recently completed winter wheat harvest which the government estimated at 277 million bushels, down 17 percent from last year. Kansas harvested 7.3 million acres of wheat. The agency also forecast the state's sorghum harvest this fall to total 231 million bushels, up 15 percent from a year ago. Kansas soybean production is forecast at 173 million bushels, down 8 percent from last year.

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K-State Signs Football Legend Bill Snyder to New 5-Year Contract

So much for Kansas State coach Bill Snyder retiring anytime soon.  Just days after saying he felt energized heading into this season, the school announced Thursday it had signed Snyder to a new five-year contract that includes a pay bump to $3.45 million this season and could keep the 78-year-old coach with the Wildcats through the 2022 season.  Snyder already had a contract that essentially rolled over each year. But the new deal increases his salary immediately while adding an additional $300,000 each of the next two season, and it includes a clause that allows for a salary renegotiation after the 2020 season.  "We felt that it was important to recognize his commitment to our football program, and we look forward to his continued leadership," Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor said.  Snyder resurrected the Kansas State program when he arrived in 1988, taking a program that had been dubbed "Futility U" to national prominence. He stepped away in 2005, citing a desire to spend more time with his family, only to return in 2009 when the program had again fallen on hard times.  (Read more about this story.)

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