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Headlines for Thursday, August 9, 2018

UPDATE:  2nd County Revises Vote; GOP Gubernatorial Primary Margin Now 121 Votes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  Another Kansas county has revised its vote totals in a move that increased Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's margin over Governor Jeff Colyer to 121 votes for the Republican nomination for governor. Deputy Haskell County Clerk Emily Aragon says that the county was still missing a precinct when it sent initial results to the secretary of state's office Tuesday night. The county sent updated results later that night, but hundreds of new votes were not made public until Thursday. Colyer received 220 votes in Haskell County, up from the 103 previously reported. Kobach received 257 votes, up from 110 previously reported. The net change in Haskell County is 30 votes in favor of Kobach, which moves his margin from 91 to 121 votes. The results are still unofficial until the canvass board meets next week.

(-Related: earlier report-)

Kobach's Lead in Kansas Race Cut After Mistake

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's lead over Governor Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary has been cut by more than half after election officials discovered a mistake in the listing for one county's results in the state's tally. The mistake means Kobach's lead has fallen to only 91 votes from 191 when final results were reported after Tuesday's primary. Final, unofficial results on the secretary of state's website show Kobach winning Thomas County in northwest Kansas with 466 votes to Colyer's 422. But the tally posted by the Thomas County clerk shows Colyer with 522 votes. Clerk Shelly Harms confirmed the figure Thursday to The Associated Press. State elections director Bryan Caskey said the county pointed out the discrepancy Thursday following a routine post-election check of numbers.

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Colyer Wants Kobach to Stop Advising Counties

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer is calling on Secretary of State Kris Kobach to stop advising county election officials while their tight Republican primary race remains unsettled. Colyer sent Kobach a letter Thursday that accuses him of giving county election officials guidance that is "inconsistent with Kansas law" about handling mailed-in and other ballots. Colyer said in the letter that Kobach should have Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a fellow Republican, provide advice to county election officials instead. Kobach led Colyer by 91 votes out of 311,000 following their hotly-contested primary election Tuesday. Some absentee and other ballots remain to be counted. Colyer released the letter after his campaign announced that it had set up a "voting integrity hotline" and his spokesman said it had fielded "countless" complaints about problems. Kobach's spokeswoman was not available by phone and did not immediately respond to a text message seeking comment.

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Kansas Governor Establishes Vote 'Integrity' Hotline

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer's campaign has set up a "voting integrity" telephone hotline as his close Republican primary race with Secretary of State Kris Kobach remains unsettled. Colyer's campaign announced the hotline Thursday. Spokesman Kendall Marr said it had received "countless" reports of voters experiencing issues at the polls. Kobach is the state's chief elections officers and told reporters Wednesday that he knew of no reports of irregularities outside of a long delay in the reporting of results from the state's most populous county because of issues with its new machines. Colyer's campaign announced the new hotline as election officials confirmed that a mistake shorted Colyer's vote total for another county in the state's results by 100 votes. The discovery of the mistake cut Kobach's lead to 91 votes.

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Most Populous County in Kansas Fumbles 2nd Major Election

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — For the second consecutive major election, Kansas's most populous county has fumbled its handling of results.  The Johnson County votes were pivotal to a close and high profile Republican race for governor that still has not been called.  Election officials on Wednesday blamed Johnson County's problems on long lines and delays updating data from computer thumb drives that gather results from Johnson County's new voting machines.  Turnout was also higher than anticipated and multiple polling places closed late because people were still in line.  Unofficial final results for the Tuesday's primary election were not posted until shortly before 8 am Wednesday.  The county election office says it is confident in the integrity of the votes cast and the accuracy of the vote tabulation process, but agreed the delay was unacceptable.

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Governor Jeff Colyer Won't Start General Election Campaign Until His Own Election is Settled
 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer says he will wait until the results of the GOP primary race for governor are final before he begins a campaign for the general election.  Colyer responded after Secretary of State Kris Kobach said earlier Wednesday that he would immediately begin campaigning against his Democratic opponent, Laura Kelly.  Kobach led Colyer by fewer than 200 votes after Tuesday's election. The outcome will be determined by thousands of provisional and mail-in ballots that have yet to be counted.  Colyer says he is hopeful and "very confident" the final vote will give him the GOP nomination. But he said he would be happy to work with Kobach should he win.

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Kansas Democrats Smell Opening in Close GOP Governor's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Out-of-power Kansas Democrats smelled opportunity Wednesday in the tight, unsettled GOP primary race for governor between Governor Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a close political ally of President Donald Trump and a conservative lightning rod who alienates even some Republicans.  Kobach led Colyer by fewer than 200 votes out of the more than 300,000 cast in the seven-candidate Republican primary contest. The state won't have final results until at least early next week because thousands of mail-in and other ballots have yet to be counted — and a recount seems likely if the tally remains as close.  But Kobach moved to both cement his status as the presumptive nominee and blunt any advantage Democrats might gain from the short-term uncertainty about the GOP nominee. He said during a news conference that he's launching the fall campaign immediately and will turn it over to Colyer if further vote-counting makes Colyer the nominee.  "It is essential that we run this race as a team, a relay team, if you will," Kobach declared. "Whenever Republicans in the past have lost statewide races or have lost big congressional races, it's almost always because of disunity within our party."

Kansas has been deeply red since 2010, when the GOP began a clean sweep of statewide and congressional races. But the state also has a solid bloc of moderate GOP and independent voters and a history over the past 50 years of alternating between electing Republican and Democratic governors.  Colyer was trying to avoid becoming the first Kansas governor to lose a primary since 1956.

The Democratic nominee for governor is veteran state Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, who has some appeal among GOP moderates.  Kansas City-area businessman Greg Orman also has launched what could become the most serious independent candidacy for governor since the 1930s and argues he can build a coalition starting with voters upset with both parties.  While Orman's bid complicates Democrats' efforts to recapture the governor's office, they expect to tap into voters' dissatisfaction with former Republican Governor Sam Brownback and the budget woes following now-largely reversed income tax cuts Brownback championed. Colyer was elevated to governor from lieutenant governor in January when Brownback stepped down for an ambassador's post.

Democrats have tied both Colyer and Kobach to Brownback for months. Kobach has promised to cut both income and sales taxes — and reduce government spending to make it work.  Kelly said Wednesday that voters "want to put the last eight years behind us."  "They want to slam that door tight and move on," she said. "It sort of doesn't matter whether it's Kobach or Colyer. Both of them will bring all of that back, one way or another."

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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 Gov. 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 Sen. 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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Man Who Shot Kansas Tax Employee Gets 14 Years in Prison

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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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, Kansas, 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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Lawrence Man Gets Life in Prison for Molesting Young Girl

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence man who molested a girl beginning when she was 7 was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports 68-year-old Clinton Laing was sentenced Tuesday for aggravated indecent liberties with a child for crimes that occurred in 2015 and 2016. Before a plea deal, he faced four charges, including rape.  Prosecutor Alice Walker read letters from the victim and her mother, who both said they wanted Laing to serve a long sentence to pay for the pain he caused.  Laing's attorney, Joshua Seiden, said his client was remorseful.  Laing registered as a sex offender after his guilty plea. If he gets out of prison, he will have to be on parole with electronic monitoring the rest of his life.

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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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It's 2 Miracles: 2 Cats Found Weeks After House Explosion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman who already was celebrating the return of one cat that disappeared three weeks ago after an explosion at her home says she's received a second "miracle."  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Ashley Nadeau posted to her Facebook page Tuesday that her cat, Kunimitsu, was found in a pipe at the site of her destroyed home in Topeka.  On Wednesday, she posted that she and a friend dug a second cat, Mr. Tibbs, out of a pile of rubble near the home.  The cats disappeared after a July 19 explosion that destroyed Nadeau's home and damaged two other houses. Fire officials said the explosion was tied to a storm that downed a utility line.  Nadeau and her daughter left the house shortly before the explosion.

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Ex-Wichita Officer Admits He Knew About Illegal Gambling

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer has admitted that when he was an officer he knew people were conducting an illegal gambling business and didn't report them.  Federal prosecutors say 46-year-old Bruce Mackey, of Goddard, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of misprision of a felony.  During an illegal poker game in February 2014, Mackey told the game's organizers that one of the gamblers was a Wichita police officer working undercover.  Sentencing is scheduled for October 26. Mackey faces up to three years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

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Kansas GOP Primary Win Comes 2 Years After Candidate's Son Died on KCK Water Slide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas state representative who won the Republican primary for secretary of state on the second anniversary of his 10-year-old son's death on a giant water slide says it was a "day full of paradox."  The Kansas City Star reports that Rep. Scott Schwab, of Olathe, says he and his family didn't spend Tuesday "caring a whole lot about politics."  Schwab's son, Caleb Schwab, was killed on August 7, 2016, when he was riding the 17-story Verruckt water slide at the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City, Kansas.  Schwab said during his victory speech at an Overland Park hotel that he and his family would have loved to have Caleb with them on the stage. He said they "took a moment and said, 'God, say hi to him for us.'"

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Leavenworth Woman Sentenced, Must Pay $4.3 in Restitution

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Federal labor officials say a Leavenworth businesswoman has been sentenced to more than four years in prison and ordered to pay $4.3 million in restitution for embezzling from companies she owned.  Brenda Wood was sentenced this week on two counts of bank fraud and one count of theft from an employee benefit plan.  Wood owned Professional Cleaning and Innovative Building Services, a commercial cleaning services company in Kansas City, Missouri, and four businesses in Bonner Springs.  Prosecutors said she embezzled from employees' 401(k) plans and took about $4.3 million from fraudulent loans and identity theft.  She also received a $350,000 line of credit after falsely telling a Great Bend bank that her cleaning company had a contract with the IRS building in Kansas City, Missouri.

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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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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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Man Who Shot Kansas Tax Employee Gets 14 Years in Prison

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 Wirths'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 Will Pay Cost of ACT Exams for High School Juniors

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — All Kansas high school juniors will be able to take ACT exams and assessments for free next school year, according to state education officials.  Department of Education spokeswoman Denise Kahler told The Wichita Eagle that the free tests are being financed through additional funding from the state Legislature as part of its new school finance plan.  "We're excited about it," Kahler said. "We think it's a great opportunity for our kids, and we're very appreciative of the Legislature for allotting funding for us and providing this for our students."  The ACT exam gauges a student's readiness for success in college and covers English, math, reading and science. The ACT WorkKeys assessments measure essential workplace skills such as mathematical reasoning and comprehending work-related reading materials. The exams will be administered statewide in February.  Some Kansas school districts have previously funded ACT exams for students. The ACT also waives fees for students who can show an economic need. Students otherwise pay $50 for the ACT exam and an additional $16.50 for an optional writing assessment.  State officials said they'll recommend, but not require, that all juniors take both tests. Officials are also encouraging seniors who didn't take the tests last year to do so this year.  Students' ACT scores last year fell to their lowest point in five years. About 29 percent of Kansas high school graduates who took the ACT in 2017 scored at the college-ready benchmark on all four subjects, down from 32 percent in 2013. The national average is 27 percent.

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Inmate Who Fathered Baby with Guard Sentenced for Smuggling

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An inmate who ran a conspiracy to smuggle contraband such as cell phones into the Jackson County Detention Center in Kansas City will serve time in federal prison.  Thirty-three-year-old Carlos Laron Hughley, was sentenced Wednesday to six years and six months in prison for conspiracy and using a telephone to further unlawful activity.  Prosecutors say Hughley used a jail guard, Jalee Caprice Fuller, and others outside the jail to run the scheme.  Fuller, of Independence, had a child with Hughley. She pleaded guilty in the conspiracy and was placed on probation for five years.  Hughley convinced a woman outside of jail to provide Fuller with a cell phone and charger that she delivered to Hughley.  Two other people from outside the jail have pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme.

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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 August 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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Ocasio-Cortez Stumps, Fundraises Across the Nation

NEW YORK (AP) — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is trying to leverage the 17,000 votes that gave her a primary win in New York into a national movement.  But despite higher-than-usual turnout in Tuesday's primary elections, another party-shaking upset like Ocasio-Cortez's did not appear.  Four underdog candidates whom she stumped for lost in Michigan and Missouri; two won in Kansas and Michigan.  The 28-year-old activist was nearly unknown until her surprise victory over a 10-term incumbent in the Democratic congressional primary. She is crisscrossing the country this summer to stump for fellow progressives, raise campaign cash and rub shoulders with other liberal leaders. The candidate is using her national ascendancy to push the party further left.  This week, she will fly to Hawaii in hopes of helping another progressive win a primary.

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

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State has signed Bill Snyder to a new, more lucrative five-year contract that 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 to $3.45 million this season with increases of $300,000 each of the next two, and includes a clause that allows for a salary renegotiation after the 2020 season. 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. He has a career record of 210-110-1, and is coming off an 8-5 season that ended with a bowl win.

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