University of Kansas Chancellor Pressures Lawmakers for More Funding
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas's chancellor is asking gubernatorial candidates and lawmakers to provide more funding to higher education. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that KU Chancellor Douglas Girod has been holding meetings to urge the Legislature to approve the Kansas Board of Regents' $85 million budget request. University of Kansas campuses would receive about $33 million if the budget is approved. Girod says the state's new governor in January will define what this legislative session will look like. He says Kansas education officials are simply asking for the restoration of funding the Legislature cut in 2008. Girod says the university has faced challenges since announcing plans to cut $20 million from its budget by leaving many vacant faculty positions unfilled and implementing a buyout program for older faculty members.
GOP Hopes Trump's Topeka Visit Will Boost Novice U.S. House Candidate
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Republicans say they hope President Donald Trump's visit to Topeka on Saturday will boost Steve Watkins' 2nd Congressional District campaign, which has faced questions over claims he has made about his qualifications and background. Watkins, a political newcomer, has tied himself to Trump throughout the campaign in a district the president won by 17 percentage points in 2016. Watkins' Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, is a former state lawmaker who won the district while running for governor in 2014. Saturday's rally is the first time a president has campaigned for a candidate in the 2nd District since George W. Bush attended a rally for then-Congressman Jim Ryun in 2006. Democrats have targeted the district as one of two in Kansas they hope to flip this year. Watkins, an Army veteran, has removed a testimonial from his campaign website about his "heroic leadership" when a deadly earthquake hit Mount Everest after the person quoted said it wasn't accurate . He also has acknowledged inaccurately claiming that he started a Middle East business, although he continues to tout his experience with the company on the campaign trail. There are also doubts about his claim that he is a sixth-generation Kansan and he has acknowledged meeting with Democrats before entering the race as a Republican. After Watkins attended a candidate forum with Davis on Wednesday in Independence, Wilson County GOP chairman Kris Marple said he will vote for Watkins despite some qualms. "I'm willing to give him a term," Marple said. "We're just talking two years. If we come to find out that stuff's true and he's really not what he says he is, we'll replace him in two years, I guess."
The last time a Democrat won the seat was in 2006. Incumbent Republican Rep. Lynn Jenkins, who won each of the past four elections by double digits, chose not to seek re-election. Pat Leopold, Jenkins's former chief of staff who is running Watkins's campaign, rejected the suggestion that Republicans aren't supporting Watkins. "Once people get to know Steve, with very few exceptions, Republicans are on board. This is a conservative guy with a military background, great business background, who shares their values," Leopold said.
Saturday's rally comes only two months after Trump's 2020 campaign manager, Topeka native Brad Parscale, wrote an open letter condemning Watkins's unauthorized use of images of the president in campaign material before the primary. "It will legitimize his campaign," Connie O'Brien, a former state lawmaker and the vice chair of the Leavenworth County Republican Party, said of Trump's visit. She and her husband were among 40 county GOP officials to sign a letter opposing Watkins before the primary, but she's decided to support him after attending a meeting in late August where Watkins's childhood friends vouched for his integrity. The Kansas Farm Bureau PAC, an important GOP constituency, has yet to endorse anyone in the race after its preferred candidate lost the GOP primary.
Kris Kobach Backs Judge Kavanaugh Ahead of Trump's Topeka Campaign Stop
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Kris Kobach is voicing support for Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court ahead of President Donald Trump's rally in Topeka to boost Kobach's campaign for governor. Kobach said Friday that Kavanaugh's reputation has been "trashed" during Senate confirmation hearings and the review of Kavanaugh's past as a prep school student is "character assassination." Kobach said he believes Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford was sincere in testifying that Kavanaugh tried to rape her at a high school gathering in 1982, when both were teenagers. Kobach said he also believes she may have "misremembered" the incident. The Senate could vote on Kavanaugh's nomination Saturday, the same day Trump will rally with Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, and GOP congressional candidate Steve Watkins. Kavanaugh has angrily denied the allegation.
GOP Congressional Candidate: 'I Want to Keep Our Culture'
INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — Republican Congressional candidate Steve Watkins says he supports President Donald Trump's call for a border wall with Mexico because he wants to "keep our culture." The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Watkins said Wednesday during a candidate forum with Democrat Paul Davis in Independence, Kansas, that people who back the wall aren't "mean-spirited" or "racist bigots." Watkins and Davis are vying for the seat left open in eastern Kansas' 2nd Congressional District by the retirement of GOP Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins. Davis says Republicans and Democrats in Washington squandered opportunities in the past to adopt comprehensive immigration reform. Davis says there should be a "pathway to becoming an American citizen" for people who are "contributing to our economy, that are playing by the rules, that are paying taxes, that are learning English."
Kansas 3rd District GOP Congressman Faces Unique Foe in Unusual Political Year
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder has never been in this much political trouble in his eastern Kansas congressional seat. Yoder is seeking his fifth term and is one of 25 GOP incumbents running for re-election in a district that President Donald Trump lost in 2016. He trailed his novice Democrat in a recent poll, and the House Republican campaign committee canceled $1.2 million in ad spending. Now Democrat Sharice Davids is even acting a bit like an incumbent by limiting her participation in debates and dropping out of one Wednesday. She has gained national attention as a Native American and LGBT lawyer who has fought mixed martial arts bouts. They're running in a Kansas City-area district that Democrat Hillary Clinton narrowly won in the 2016 presidential race.
Kansas Republican Senator Rescinds Positive Comment About Missouri Democratic Senator
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts is asking Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill to remove his name and praise for her from a new campaign ad. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Roberts wants McCaskill to remove from the ad his quote from 2017 describing her as a senator he seeks out to get things done on a bipartisan basis. McCaskill is in a tight re-election race with Republican Secretary of State Josh Hawley, whose campaign paints her as an obstructionist. McCaskill says she is known for working across party lines. Roberts made his demand through Hawley's campaign. He said McCaskill turned more partisan after President Donald Trump was elected. The McCaskill campaign did not immediately respond to an Associated Press question about whether it would alter the ad.
Missouri Mom Charged with Driving Kids into Kansas River in Lawrence Appears in Court
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The 26-year-old Missouri woman charged with intentionally driving her children into the Kansas River waived her right to a preliminary hearing and did not enter a plea at a brief court hearing. Scharron Dingledine, of Columbia, Missouri, on Tuesday waived her right to a preliminary hearing. Her attorney, Carol Cline, said she and her client need more time to prepare before Dingledine's arraignment, which is scheduled for December 3. No trial date is scheduled. Dingledine is charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. Police allege she drove her car into the Kansas River near Lawrence on Aug. 3 in an attempt to kill her children and herself. Her 5-year-old daughter died and a 1-year-old son was critically injured. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the boy remains hospitalized in fair condition.
Board of Regents Revises University Enrollment Numbers
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents revised enrollment numbers released earlier this week. Regents spokesman Matt Keith says a data team detected some calculation errors and made revisions to the numbers. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the changes show the total number of students enrolled in all six state universities was down 540 students, rather than the 95 originally reported. It also means Kansas, Kansas State and Pittsburg State all recorded declining enrollment. It had been reported that Kansas State was up by 102 students but its enrollment actually declined 601. This was the first time the regents used a full-time equivalency formula to count students, rather than the traditional headcount. Full-time equivalency counts credit hours and converts them with a formula that the average undergraduate takes 15 hours a semester and the average graduate student takes 12 hours.
Wichita Man Found Guilty in Death of Twin, Sister-in-Law
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 28-year-old Wichita man has been found guilty of capital murder in the shooting deaths of his twin brother and his sister-in-law. A Sedgwick County jury on Friday deliberated only about 90 minutes before convicting Luis Alvarado-Meraz in the January 2015 deaths of 24-year-old Manuel Alvarado-Meraz and 22-year-old Lucero Rodriquez. The Sedgwick County District Attorney says in a news release that the victims were found in a south Wichita apartment after relatives called police to check on them. Manuel was shot 12 times and Lucero was shot eight times. Police say the three lived together in the same apartment. Under Kansas law, Alvarado-Meraz is facing life in prison with no chance of parole. He will be sentenced at a later date.
Doctor Who Reported Understaffing at Overland Park Hospital Wins $29 Million Verdict
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A jury in Missouri has awarded $29 million to a doctor who said he was fired after complaining about understaffing at a hospital. The Kansas City Star reports a Jackson County jury this week found in favor of emergency room physician Raymond Brovont. Brovont worked for EmCare, a physician outsourcing company, that sent him to Overland Park Regional Medical Center and Centerpoint Medical Center in Independence, Missouri. He complained to EmCare officials in September 2016 about what he said was dangerous understaffing at a new pediatric emergency room at the Overland Park hospital. He said in his lawsuit that EmCare officials were angry with him for complaining and told him to resign or be fired. Brovont did not sue the hospitals. EmCare spokeswoman Kim Warth said the company will appeal the verdict.
Third Child Dies After Crash on Kansas Highway
OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a third child has died after a crash in Franklin County earlier this week. The patrol says 12-year-old Elle Bowden, of Wellsville, died Friday morning. She was injured Monday night in a two-vehicle collision five miles east of Ottawa. Two other children, 11-year-old Briana Sobba and 3-year-old Becham Klemen, both of Wellsville, died in the accident. The children and a 6-year-old girl were all in a vehicle driven by 31-year-old Clytie Bowden. The patrol says she failed to yield to another vehicle and they collided in an intersection. Bowden and the 6-year-old were hospitalized in critical condition. The 40-year-old driver of the other vehicle was also hospitalized.
Convicted Kansas Rapist Kills Himself in Jail After Arrest
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Reno County officials say a 58-year-old convicted sex offender has killed himself in jail after he was charged with sexual exploitation of a child. Sheriff Randy Henderson said Gary Robbins was found unresponsive in the county jail Friday. He was pronounced dead after jail staff tried unsuccessfully to revive him. Robbins has been in jail on a parole violation since September 19. He was charged Wednesday with the child sex crime. Henderson says no one was near Robbins when he died and a preliminary KBI investigation suggests his injuries were self-inflicted. KAKE-TV reports Robbins was sentenced in Sedgwick County in 1993 for rape, aggravated sodomy and indecent liberties with a child, and had other convictions. He was last paroled in December of 2017.
Woman Charged with Theft from Elementary School's PTA
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old woman has been charged with stealing money from the PTA at an Overland Park Elementary School. The Kansas City Star reports Kelli Angela Ridgway was booked into the Johnson County Jail Thursday on a charge of felony theft. She was released later after posting bond. The charges in Johnson County District Court allege that Ridgway stole between $1,500 and $25,000 in November 2016 from the PTA at John Diemer Elementary School. No attorney for Ridgway is listed in court records. Her initial court appearance is scheduled for October 16.
Developer: Investigation in Spy Camera Case Set Aside
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City developer Dan Lowe says police have recommended setting aside an investigation of a claim made by a former employee that a spy camera was placed under her desk at Legacy Development. Mary Caffrey, of Leawood, Kansas, sued Lowe, Legacy Development and others in May. She alleged that she was fired after she called police when she found the camera. In response to the lawsuit, Lowe's lawyers submitted a police department report that says a detective recommended deactivating the case because no evidence was found from the spy camera. David Churbuck, a public relations spokesman who sent a statement Friday on Lowe's behalf, said that Lowe denies Caffrey's allegations and that police found no evidence connecting Lowe to the camera. Caffrey's attorney, Rik Siro, told The Kansas City Star that he would file a response to Lowe's filing soon.
Settlement Reached in Missouri Wrongful Death Lawsuit
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A settlement has been reached in a wrongful death lawsuit filed after a developmentally disabled Missouri man's body was found encased in concrete after he went missing from a supported living home. Rudy Veit, an attorney for the mother and sister-in-law of Carl DeBrodie, said Thursday that details of the settlement are confidential. He said the settlement provides enough money to care for DeBrodie's mother, Carolyn Summers, and for donations to organizations that helped DeBrodie during his lifetime. DeBrodie's body was found in April 2017, about a week after he was reported missing from Second Chance Homes in Fulton. Investigators believe his disappearance was not reported for months. Veit said the agreement includes ways to improve oversight of care for people in supported living homes and to hold public administrators more accountable.
Amtrak Will Run Same Southwest Chief Route as Always... at Least for a Year
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Amtrak officials say its Southwest Chief route, which stops in Topeka, Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City and Garden City, will continue to operate as normal for at least the next year. Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas made the announcement Wednesday in news release after a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The Southwest Chief line runs for 2,300 miles between Chicago and Los Angeles. Amtrak officials said in June they were considering using buses along the route in parts of Kansas, New Mexico and Arizona. Moran said during Wednesday's hearing that Amtrak officials committed to continuing operation as it currently is along the entire route at least through the current federal fiscal year, which ends September 30, 2019.
ACLU Files Excessive Force Lawsuit over 2013 Takedown
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union alleges in a lawsuit that a Kansas City police officer used excessive force when taking a man into custody in December 2013. The Kansas City Star reports that the suit filed Thursday against former officer Jordan Nelson seeks unspecified damages. It says Nelson kicked Joshua Bills' legs out from under him after Bills was stopped for matching a vague description of a suspicious person. The ACLU says Nelson never tried to put Bills in handcuffs or ask him to put his hands over his head or behind his back before the takedown. Video shows Bills hitting the ground. Nelson referred a request for comment to the Missouri Attorney General's Office. That office didn't make a statement Thursday. The police department isn't named as a defendant.
Black Man Questioned While Moving TV into His Own Home
TONGANOXIE, Kan. (AP) — Body camera video shows an officer handcuffing a black man who was attempting to move a large-screen television into his new Kansas home in the dark. The Kansas City Star reports that 61-year-old Karle Robinson said, while watching the video, "If I'd been a white man, you know that wouldn't happen." He was in handcuffs for eight minutes. A Tonganoxie police officer encountered Robinson around 2:30 am on August 19. Robinson understood why the officer would be suspicious. But he said he had identification and offered to go inside with the officer where there was paperwork proving his new ownership. Tonganoxie Police Chief Greg Lawson says the officer kept the right balance of courtesy and respect. The video ends with an officer helping Robinson carrying the TV inside the home.
Kansas Man Admits Importing Endangered Leopard Cats
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An Olathe man has admitted importing endangered leopard cats. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said 34-year-old Lawrence Payne pleaded guilty Wednesday to violating the Endangered Species Act. The leopard cat is a small wild cat native to Asia that has been designated as an endangered species. Prosecutors say the investigation began when Payne applied for a breeding license for Asian leopard cats through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Investigators who searched his home said they found three Asian leopard cats. A sentencing date hasn't been set. Payne faces up to a year in jail and a fine up to $50,000.
Correction: Kansas Gas-Rate Hike story
In a story October 3 about a proposed gas rate hike, The Associated Press misidentified the Oklahoma-based parent company of Kansas Gas Service. It is ONE Gas, not ONEOK. A corrected version of the story is below.
Kansas Gas Seeks 10 Percent Rate Increase, State Regulators Will Hear from Gas Customers this Week About Proposed 10 Percent Rate Hike
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State regulators will hear from gas customers this week about a proposed 10 percent rate hike. The Wichita Eagle reports that state officials say Kansas Gas Service's rate proposal would add an estimated $5.60 a month to the average gas bill. The Kansas Corporation Commission will hear from the public Thursday in Topeka before deciding whether to grant the request. KGS, a division of Oklahoma natural gas utility ONE Gas, says that four main factors are driving its request. They included increased employee wages and more efficient appliances that are reducing consumption. Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward says he's suspicious of the need for an increase because it's been less than two years since rates last went up. Ordinarily, rate cases are requested by companies every four to five years.