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Headlines for Thursday, August 2, 2018

Report: Kobach Benefited from Advising on Immigration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's work against illegal immigration for small cities across the nation cost them millions for lengthy legal battles while powering his own political rise, according to a news report. The Kansas City Star and ProPublica account published Wednesday is based on open records requests placed with the towns Kobach represented and comes just days before the Aug. 7 Republican gubernatorial primary in which he is seeking to unseat Gov. Jeff Colyer. The investigation credited Kobach's rise to political prominence to the attention his immigration cases across the country generated. Kobach earned more than $800,000 for his immigration work, paid by towns and an advocacy group, over 13 years. At least $150,000 of that was paid while he was working as Kansas secretary of state. The election of Donald Trump gave traction to Kobach's immigration ideas with him advising the White House on illegal immigration, non-citizen voter registration and the 2020 Census. Kobach chaired Trump's federal commission on combating voter fraud that was shut down after a bevy of lawsuits challenged it. n Kansas, Kobach championed a state law that had required proof of citizenship to register to vote. In June, a federal judge struck it down. 


Governor Says Kobach Should Personally Pay for Contempt Fine

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer says Secretary of State Kris Kobach should pay out of his own pocket the more than $26,000 in sanctions imposed by a federal judge for his "contemptuous behavior" in a voting rights case. Kobach said Thursday that it is his office, not him personally, who is the defendant in a federal lawsuit that struck down the state's proof-of-citizenship registration law. The case is being appealed. The contempt ruling against Kobach comes just days before Republicans will vote in the state's primary election for governor. Kobach is seeking to unseat Colyer for his party's nomination. Colyer said in a statement that it is outrageous for a politician who spends so much time talking about cutting government spending to use taxpayer dollars to pay the fines.


Kansas Collects $11 Million More in Taxes than Expected in July

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas is reporting that it collected $11 million more in taxes in July than anticipated to make it the longest streak of better-than-expected revenues in at least 50 years.  The state Department of Revenue reported Wednesday that tax collections were $499 million last month. The state's official forecast had predicted $488 million in taxes.  The monthly surplus was 2.3 percent.  It was the 14th consecutive month that tax collections have been better than forecast. An AP spreadsheet compiled from monthly reports shows that the state hasn't seen a streak that long since at least February 1968.  The state ended its 2018 budget year on June 30 with more than $7 billion in tax collections and exceeded expectations by $318 million. The annual surplus was 4.7 percent.


Newcomer Faces Republican Backlash in Kansas 2nd District House Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some local Republican activists in a Kansas congressional district Democrats hope to flip in November are staging a revolt over the possibility that GOP voters will nominate a former Army ranger and political newcomer whose father is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get him elected. The backlash against candidate Steve Watkins has intensified as Tuesday's primary approaches in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas. With Republican Representative Lynn Jenkins not seeking re-election, Democrats see the seat as a prime pickup opportunity, even though President Donald Trump won the district by nearly 17 percentage points in 2016. One of Watkins's opponents has a website questioning his Republican credentials, and another calls him a "fraud." Forty local GOP leaders signed a letter this week expressing their concern about him. Critics question whether Watkins is the conservative he says he is, and he's never voted in a partisan election in Kansas, having registered last fall. His opponents are upset that his father, a Topeka physician, has contributed more than $587,000 to a political action committee that is boosting his son's candidacy with television ads.

"Clearly, this is the way the affluent get their middle-aged kids out of the basement," said state Senator Steve Fitzgerald, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and one of Watkins' primary foes. Later, he added, "He's a charlatan, a fraud and an opportunist."

But Fitzgerald also said the newcomer probably is leading. The GOP field has seven candidates and because Kansas doesn't hold runoff elections, it's possible to be nominated with less than 30 percent of the vote.

The Republican winner will face Democrat Paul Davis, an attorney and a former Kansas House minority leader who carried the district when he narrowly lost the 2014 governor's race. Davis has raised almost $1.6 million in contributions.

Watkins, a 42-year-old engineer, said Thursday that the race "has gone ugly." In May, he was comparing his military-outsider profile to that of Democratic Representative Conor Lamb, who won a special election in Pennsylvania earlier this year, suggesting voters want military leadership in Congress.

Watkins served a year in Afghanistan before becoming a defense contractor and consultant there and in Iraq. He's raced in Alaska's Iditarod dog-sled race and once attempted to scale Mount Everest. His public remarks are peppered with tributes to military comrades, and he praises Trump regularly. The race has become notable for the involvement of Watkins's father through the Kansans Can Do Anything PAC, formed in April by an executive of a GOP-leaning media firm. Watkins's father was its only listed contributor through mid-July — and the name mirrors one of the candidate's campaign slogans. Watkins said he doesn't know about the PAC's operations because, as the candidate, he cannot under federal law. Watkins's only history of voting in Kansas was in the November nonpartisan municipal election. He said he was not politically active because of his military service and work as contractor, where he was "focused on keeping my men and women safe." He also has faced questions about whether he initially considered jumping into politics as a Democrat. The Kansas City Star reported in July that three prominent Democrats said Watkins had met with them in August 2017 and professed liberal views on social issues.

"That is a major flag," said another primary foe, state Senator Caryn Tyson. "One way or the other, he was lying, either to them or to us."

On her website questioning Watkins's GOP credentials, Tyson has posted audio of Watkins describing himself as a "pro-choice Christian" during an event. Another foe, state Senator Dennis Pyle, has a Facebook ad running the phrase in a loop. Kansans for Life, the state's influential abortion group, has jointly endorsed Fitzgerald, Pyle and Tyson, and Tyson has the National Right to Life Committee's endorsement. Watkins said he simply made a "verbal gaffe." In a May interview with The Associated Press, he described himself as "unequivocally pro-life." He also said he never considered running as a Democrat. Watkins released statements from three longtime friends attesting that he held conservative views as far back as high school.


2 Kansas Sheriff's Deputies Overcome After Drug Arrest

PAOLO, Kan. (AP) — Miami County authorities say two sheriff's deputies became ill after arresting a man for drug violations.  The sheriff's department said the deputies stopped to check on a car Wednesday afternoon near Spring Hill.  The deputies were overcome by some type of substance after they arrested a man inside the car. The suspect also was hospitalized after an apparent overdose.  The deputies were released from the hospital Wednesday night. The other man remained hospitalized Thursday.  The sheriff's office said in a news release investigators didn't know what substance caused the deputies to become ill but it may be linked to the narcotics or another substance in the car or on the suspect.  The statement did not say what type of drug the man was arrested for possessing.


Man Convicted in Fatal Shooting at Eudora Bar

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A Eudora man has been found guilty of fatally shooting a man at a bar.  Yesterday (WED), a Douglas County jury found 37-year-old Danny Queen guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Bo Hopson outside the D-Dubs Bar and Grill in Eudora.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports Queen was intoxicated and had been thrown out of the bar that night.  Hopson reportedly asked Queen if he needed someone to drive or walk him home but Queen responded by shooting him at close range.  He also tried to shoot two other men but the gun jammed.  Queen said he had been roughed up by other patrons inside the bar and fired the shots because he was afraid he would be attacked again.  He will be sentenced October 9.  


Judge Orders Kobach to Pay More than $26,000 for Contempt

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A federal judge has imposed sanctions of more than $26,000 as punishment against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for his "contemptuous behavior" during a voting rights case that challenged the state's proof-of-citizenship registration law.  U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson found Kobach in contempt in April. The decision handed down Wednesday specified the amount of attorney fees and expenses. It fell short of the more than $50,000 sought by the American Civil Liberties Union.  Robinson said Kobach failed to ensure local election officials sent voter registration postcards to people who registered when applying for a Kansas driver's license or when using a federal form, regardless of documentary proof of citizenship.  She also noted that until recently the county election manual advised local officials that people needed to submit citizenship paperwork.


Leading Kansas Democrat Under Scrutiny for Backing Voter ID Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The leading Democratic candidate for Kansas governor -- state Senator Laura Kelly -- is under attack for her past vote in favor of tough voter identification policies.  Democrats are anticipating the very real possibility that the author of those voter ID laws -- Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach -- will win the Republican nomination.  Until a federal judge struck down the law in June, no state had enacted a tougher voter ID law.  The law required prospective voters to provide papers documenting their U.S. citizenship when registering to vote.  Kansas law had strong bipartisan support when the Legislature approved it in 2011. One of the yes votes came from state Senator Laura Kelly, of Topeka.  That vote has dogged her in the final weeks before the August 7 primary. Her two main rivals hope it prompts Democrats to abandon her as a prospective nominee.


2 Deaths in Wichita Might Be Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say the deaths of two people appear to be related to carbon monoxide poisoning. Emergency crews found two people dead early Thursday in south Wichita. Officer Charley Davidson says police believe the two deaths were carbon monoxide related. Wichita media reported that neighbors reported smelling a strong gas odor at the time the bodies were found. The people's identities were not released.


Kansas Lawyer, Engineer Face Fall Trial in Cyberattack Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has set a fall trial date for a Wichita lawyer and a computer software engineer accused of plotting cyberattacks on websites critizing the attorney's work. A court filing on Thursday shows an October 2 jury trial has been scheduled for Wichita lawyer Bradley Pistotnik and VIRAL Artificial Intelligence co-founder David Dorsett. The two men have pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging them with computer fraud and conspiracy. Pistotnik is also charged with making false statements to the FBI. The indictment alleges that Pistotnik and Dorsett are responsible for cyberattacks on, and in 2014 and 2015. The indictment also accuses Dorsett of filling website inboxes with threats. Court records say one email demands that a webpage be removed or the hackers will target advertisers.


Kansas City, Kansas, Police Shoot Suspected Car Burglar

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Kansas City, Kansas, police say a man is in stable condition after being shot by officers.  Police say the incident began when officers were called Tuesday night to the scene of an attempted car burglary.  KCTV reports when the car's owner confronted the suspect, he fired several shots into the air and rode away on a bicycle.  Officers found the man about a block away. Police say when he came out of a secluded area, the suspect was armed. Officers fired and hit him in the arm and leg.  The man was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. No officers were hurt.  The police department's major case unit is investigating the shooting.


Judge to Hear Arguments in Case Against Kansas Commissioner

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A federal judge plans to hear oral arguments on whether the federal government has needlessly interjected itself in matters traditionally reserved for states when it charged a Sedgwick County commissioner Michael O'Donnell.  U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren set a hearing for August 17 on two pending defense motions seeking to dismiss all or part of the indictment.  O'Donnell is accused of misspending more than $10,000 in campaign funds and then covering it up. He has pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment alleging wire fraud and money laundering.  The defense argued "over zealous prosecution" sometimes occurs when prosecutors throw a wide net. It contends O'Donnell came to law enforcement's attention during an investigation of others.  Prosecutors countered the indictment alleges federal crimes properly brought before federal courts.


Westar to Close Tecumseh Energy Center, 2 Other Plants

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Westar Energy will close its Tecumseh Energy Center and two other plants in the next four months.  The company announced Wednesday it will close the energy center, and two steam generation units each at the Gordon Evans Energy Center in Colwich and at Murray Gill Energy Center in Wichita.  Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig says the closings of the fossil fuel plants were planned as part of Westar's merger with Great Plains Energy.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Tecumseh Energy Center and the Colwich units will close October 1. The Wichita center will be retired November 1.  The centers employ 85 people, who were all offered new jobs with Westar.  Penzig says the closings will not affect energy services for customers.
All the plants operated for more than 50 years.


Grant Approved to Help Improve Broadband Coverage in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Plans for better broadband coverage across Kansas recently got a boost from the Information Network of Kansas.  The network has approved a $300,000 grant request from Governor Jeff Colyer to complete a Statewide Broadband Mapping project. The map will be used by a state task force created by the Kansas legislature to identify and close broadband coverage gaps in Kansas. A group called Connected Nation will produce the map in collaboration with the state's broadband service providers.  The Hutchinson News reports the first draft of the statewide broadband availability map should be ready by December 31.  


Alex Gordon Homers as Royals Beat Sloppy White Sox 10-5

CHICAGO (AP) — Alex Gordon has never been much of a power hitter, so prolonged homer droughts don't bother him too much.  "I'm old. I don't have power anymore," the 34-year-old Gordon cracked. "I don't worry about it. I'm at that stage of my career where I just want to win games, and that's all I care about."  So Wednesday night was a good one.  Gordon hit a two-run homer and a two-run double, leading the Kansas City Royals to a 10-5 victory over the sloppy Chicago White Sox.  Gordon also walked and scored during Kansas City's five-run fifth, as the last-place Royals posted consecutive wins for the first time since they won three in a row from July 20-22, matching their season high.


Tar Heels to Name Playing Floor for Coach Roy Williams

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina is honoring Hall of Fame basketball coach Roy Williams by putting his name on the playing floor. UNC announced Thursday that it will dedicate "Roy Williams Court" on Aug. 24. Williams has 842 career victories as head coach at Kansas and UNC, including three NCAA championships in 15 seasons with the Tar Heels. He was also an assistant under late Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith at UNC for 10 seasons. Athletics director Bubba Cunningham says Williams "didn't want this honor, but his players and our staff wanted it for him." Williams says it's "overwhelming" to be honored in the Smith Center arena named after his mentor. Williams says: "It's going to be hard to think of my name on the floor in his building."

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