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Headlines for Thursday, November 8, 2018

New Kansas Governor Faces Skeptical GOP-Led Legislature

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrat Laura Kelly promised a new tone of bipartisanship after a victory in the Kansas governor's race brought her national attention.  She faces a Republican-dominated Legislature with leaders who call her proposals impractical and vow to hold her to a pledge she made during the campaign not to raise taxes.  Kelly is a veteran state senator from Topeka and defeated Republican firebrand Kris Kobach. He is the Kansas secretary of state and an ally of President Donald Trump.  She wooed GOP moderates and independent voters by pitching herself as a lawmaker who has worked across party lines.  But the same electorate that rejected Kobach's conservative politics moved the Legislature further to the right. And top Republicans view with skepticism Kelly's goals including another boost in funding for public schools.

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Democrats Knock Holes in Republican Wall of State Control

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Republican wall that has stood in state capitols for much of the past decade now has a few holes in it.  Democrats flipped control of seven gubernatorial offices and about a half-dozen state legislative chambers in Tuesday's first midterm elections of President Donald Trump's tenure.  Yet those victories didn't quite reach the lofty goals of an anticipated blue wave. That left both major parties with reasons for hope as they look ahead to another pivotal battle in 2020.  Some of the biggest wins for Democrats came in the Midwest, where they defeated Republican Governors Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Bruce Rauner in Illinois and picked up open Republican governor's seats in Michigan and Kansas.  Democrats also flipped control of governor's offices being vacated by Republicans in Maine, Nevada and New Mexico.

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After Kansas Loss, Kobach Could Join Trump Administration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kris Kobach lost his bid for Kansas governor, but his hard-line, in-your-face approach could help him land his next political position, possibly in the Trump administration. The Republican secretary of state rode his national reputation as an advocate for tough immigration and voting rules to a job atop President Donald Trump's short-lived election-fraud commission. His name immediately popped up Wednesday, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to resign. If Trump picks someone else to replace Sessions, Kobach's name is almost certain to surface again when Trump has another big post to fill. John Whitmer is a GOP state representative from Wichita. He says if there's a place for Kobach in Washington, Trump will find it. Kobach dropped no hints about his future in his concession speech.

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Native American Women's Election Wins Follow Years-Long Push

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two Native American women's historic congressional victories add them to a record number of women elected to the U.S. House, following an election cycle that also saw a significant boost in Native American female candidates at the state and local level.  The incoming Native American congresswomen Deb Haaland (HAAH-lund), of New Mexico, and Sharice (sha-REES) Davids, of Kansas, are Democrats.  Haaland, a former New Mexico Democratic Party chairwoman, is a Laguna Pueblo member. She won her race in a New Mexico district that includes Albuquerque, and credited a vast political network she built after nearly 20 years of working on other candidates' campaign, and her own hard work.  Sharice Davids, who is Ho-Chunk, and attorney and a former White House Fellow, beat U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder to win her election for a district that includes suburbs of Kansas City.

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Minority Candidates See Success but Also Suspect Racism

WASHINGTON (AP) — For all the many successes among candidates of color, the midterm elections also proved to some the enduring power of racism.  Some minority politicians found their intelligence and integrity called into question by their opponents and President Trump in what were seen by some as coded appeals to white voters.  Several Democratic strategists say the outcome shows the need for the party to recalibrate its strategy heading into 2020 and beyond. To win, they say, the party must expand its base of black and brown voters while also calling out racism more directly.

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Kansas Suit Challenges Anti-Abortion Clause in Telemedicine Law

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a legal challenge to an anti-abortion clause in a Kansas law that expands health coverage through telemedicine. Its lawsuit was filed Thursday in Shawnee County District Court on behalf of Trust Women Wichita, which operates a clinic in Wichita that has offered abortions and other reproductive health care since 2013. At issue is the Kansas Telemedicine Act scheduled to take effect on January 1. The bill was signed in May despite concerns about a clause in it saying the law will be nullified if a court ever strikes down a passage forbidding abortions via telemedicine. The lawsuit contends the law is unconstitutional because it treats women seeking abortions differently from other patients seeking medical care through telemedicine and creates an undue burden to abortion access.

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Kansas Man Arrested After Death of 2-Year-Old Boy

MOSCOW, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say they have arrested a man after a 2-year-old boy died in southwest Kansas.  The Stevens County Sheriff's Office contacted the Kansas Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday for assistance in a death that occurred in Moscow.  The KBI reports sheriff's deputies who were called to a home Tuesday afternoon to investigate the welfare of a child at a Moscow home. They discovered a male child, Mikhail Lahey Jr., dead in the home.  After questioning, the homeowner was questioned and was later booked into the Stevens County jail for first-degree murder.  The KBI says the investigation is continuing and no further information will be released at this time.

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Grand Jury Indicts Captain of Missouri Tourist Boat that Sank and Killed 17 people

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Grand jury indicts captain of Missouri tourist boat that sank and killed 17 people, including 9 from Indiana family.  (More details on this story are pending.)

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Kansas Man Gets Probation in Daughter's Accidental Shooting

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas father whose toddler was fatally shot by another toddler has been sentenced to probation for leaving a loaded semi-automatic handgun within the children's reach.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 33-year-old Chance Smith, of Lawrence, is barred from having guns while on probation under the sentence ordered Wednesday. He pleaded no contest in September to two counts of aggravated child endangerment. Prosecutors dropped an involuntary manslaughter charge as part of the plea.  Smith's daughter, Autumn Grace Smith, was a week away from her second birthday when she was shot in September 2017. Smith told police that he was outside for five or 10 minutes and didn't hear a gunshot. When he returned, he found a 2-year-old boy crying and Autumn upstairs, shot. Gunpowder was found on the boy's hands.

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Man Bound over for Trial in Topeka Killing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been ordered to stand trial in a deadly Topeka shooting.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 33-year-old Tony Lee Foster was bound over for trial during a preliminary hearing Tuesday. He has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and criminal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in the death of 35-year-old David William Payne.  Officers responded in July to a report of a shooting at a home in the northern part of the city. Payne was rushed to a hospital, where he later died.  A jury trial is set to begin March 11.

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Woman Sentenced in Fatal Hit-and-Run in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old Topeka driver who hit a pedestrian and dragged her under an SUV, was sentenced to more than 14 years in prison for a hit-and-run that killed another woman.  Alexia Nolte was sentenced Wednesday for second-degree murder, aggravated assault and failure to stop at an accident.  Nolte struck 25-year-old Robin Kuebler on April 3 in Topeka. Kuebler died at the scene.  WIBW reported that Nolte received the highest sentences possible for each conviction. Before the convictions, Nolte didn't have a criminal history.  A witness at a preliminary hearing in May said Nolte struck Kuebler, took aim and drove over her. The witness said Nolte's vehicle had ample room to go around Kuebler.  Jordan Green, Kuebler's fiancee, said he and Nolte exchanged words before Kuebler was struck.

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County Counselor Put on Leave in FBI Inquiry Controversy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The attorney representing Sedgwick County has been placed on paid leave amid controversy surrounding an FBI investigation of commissioners.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the commission voted 3-2 to place County Counselor Eric Yost on leave Wednesday.  Yost has been at the center of the controversy since he told the county manager that commissioners were moving to oust him because he had provided information to the FBI in an investigation last year of Commissioner Michael O'Donnell.  O'Donnell is awaiting trial on federal charges of wire fraud and money laundering in connection with his handling of campaign funds. He continues to serve on the commission pending the outcome.

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Seaboard Corporation to Pay $1 Million for Undocumented Worker Violations

GUYMON, Okla. (AP) — The operator of a pork processing plant in the Oklahoma Panhandle will pay $1 million to settle allegations that it hired workers who were in the U.S. illegally. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says Seaboard Corporation reached the settlement Nov. 1. Funds will be divided between ICE and the Oklahoma Attorney General's Office. ICE says Seaboard allegedly employed unauthorized workers between 2007 and 2012 and didn't complete employment eligibility forms. In addition, ICE says health care claims by some Seaboard employees enrolled in a private health insurance plan provided by Seaboard were allegedly submitted to Oklahoma's Medicaid Program during the same period. Seaboard, based in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, did not reply to telephone and email requests for comment Thursday. ICE says Seaboard cooperated during the investigation and implemented compliance measures.

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Girl Dies of Suspected Abuse After Weeklong Hospitalization

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — A 3-year-old southwest Kansas girl has died of suspected abuse after she was hospitalized for more than a week. KSN-TV reports that Liberal police say the child died Wednesday. Liberal police Capt. Robert Rogers said in a news release that officers were on Oct. 28 to Southwest Medical Center for a report of child abuse. Family members had brought the girl to the emergency room. The release says the child's condition worsened while at the Liberal hospital, and she was flown to a Wichita hospital. The release says her injuries appeared to be "intentional" and that other possible signs of abuse also were discovered. The girl's 20-year-old mother has been arrested.

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Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill's Loss Illustrates Urban-Rural Divide

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Rural voters in Missouri were crucial in Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill's loss to Attorney General Josh Hawley.  McCaskill first won election to the Senate in 2006 in part by cutting into Republican margins in rural areas and small towns.  This year, she tried again to appeal to rural Republican voters and independents, holding 50 town halls mostly in rural areas. She noted that she voted with Trump nearly half the time in the Senate. Speaking on Fox News, she decried "crazy Democrats."  But it didn't pay off for her.  An Associated Press analysis shows McCaskill lost ground in every rural county compared to when she first ran in 2006.  According to the American electorate survey AP VoteCast, rural and small town voters favored Republican Hawley 66 percent to 31 percent.

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Missouri's Voter Turnout was Highest for Midterm Election Since 1994

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — About 58 percent of Missouri's registered voters turned out to cast ballots in Tuesday's elections.  The preliminary figures reported Wednesday by the secretary of state's office would mark the highest turnout in a presidential midterm election since a 59 percent rate in 1994.  The top attraction was the U.S. Senate race in which Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley defeated Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill. More than 2.4 million people cast votes, and Hawley won with more than 51 percent.  The next highest vote-getter was Constitutional Amendment 2, which legalizes medical marijuana.

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Rollout of Medical Marijuana Will Take Several Months

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri has joined the long list of states allowing medical marijuana, but it'll likely be late next year at the earliest before people with cancer, HIV and other serious ailments will be able to obtain it.  Missouri became the 31st state to approve medical marijuana when voters on Tuesday approved Amendment 2.  Amendment 2 requires the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to begin accepting applications from patients by early June. The department must begin accepting applications for dispensaries by early August, and accept or reject dispensary applications within 150 days of receiving them.  Potential growers and manufacturers also must apply to the state health department.

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Anti-Abortion Activist Who Shot Kansas Abortion Doctor Freed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An anti-abortion activist who shot and wounded Kansas abortion doctor George Tiller in 1993 and committed clinic attacks in several states has been released from prison in Oregon.  The U.S. Bureau of Prisons on Wednesday confirmed the release of 62-year-old Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon. The bureau says she'll be on supervised release for three years. Conditions of her release aren't public.  Shannon was sentenced to 20 years in prison for six fire bombings and two acid attacks at abortion clinics in California, Oregon and Nevada.  She received 11 years for shooting Tiller, who was fatally shot in Wichita in 2009 by another anti-abortion extremist, Scott Roeder, who visited Shannon several times in prison.  The Kansas City Star reports Shannon had been staying at a halfway house in Portland, Oregon, since May. She has been in custody for 25 years.

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California Man Donates $2 Million, Art to Kansas State

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A California man has donated $2 million and his art collection to Kansas State University's art department.  The Kansas State University Foundation announced Tuesday that Lindy Bell of Rancho Mirage, California, donated a vast collection of art. The foundation didn't have an estimate of the collection's value. Bell also donated $2 million that will be used to name the top job in the art department after him.  Matt Gaynor, head of the art department, said the donation will allow the department to provide state-of-the-art equipment and to bring more contemporary artists to the campus.  The Manhattan Mercury reports that Bell graduated from Kansas State in 1951 with a degree in physical education. Bell said he has 140 pieces of art from around the world.

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Missouri Woman Sentenced for Role in Kansas Jeans Robbery

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — One of four women who tried to steal 26 pairs of blue jeans worth thousands of dollars has been sentenced to prison.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports 25-year-old Shaikeece Whisonant, of Grandview, Missouri, was sentenced Tuesday to nearly two years in prison for robbery.  She was one of four women who tried to steal the jeans, worth more than $4,200, from The Buckle in downtown Lawrence. They dropped 22 pairs and ultimately stole only four pairs, valued at $805.  Prosecutors say one of the women maced a store employee and Whisonant punched an employee in the head.  Whisonant, who has three small children, is currently serving a prison sentence for a Johnson County theft conviction. Prosecutors say she 18 prior convictions, mostly misdemeanor theft and traffic cases.

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Surprise: Large Alligator Found in Kansas City Hot Tub

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri landlord stumbled upon an unwanted house guest while evicting a tenant: a large alligator in a hot tub.  The tenant described the 150-pound reptile as "gentle as a puppy" after animal control workers were called to the Kansas City home on Wednesday. The workers also found two boa constrictors and a rabbit.  The Kansas City Star reports a specialist removed the alligator, which was at least 6 feet long. No one was injured.  The tenant, Sean Casey, said he'd owned the alligator for four years and named it Catfish. He called the reptile "a big cuddly lizard."  A spokesman for the city's Neighborhood and Housing Services Department says Kansas City doesn't allow homeowners to have alligators.  Catfish will be temporarily housed at the Monkey Island Rescue and Sanctuary in nearby Greenwood. The snakes and rabbit were taken to an animal shelter.

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Kelly Hopes to Thwart Kansas Adoption Law Seen as Anti-LGBT
By JOHN HANNA ,  AP Political Writer
 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's new Democratic governor-elect said Thursday that she will look to block enforcement of a new adoption law that she and LGBT-rights activists consider discriminatory, a sharp break with the state's two previous conservative Republican governors.

Gov.-elect Laura Kelly said she will have her staff review how far the state can go to avoid enforcing the law. It was designed to provide legal protections to adoption agencies that cite faith-based reasons for refusing to place children in homes that violate their religious beliefs.

The debate over the law centered on agencies that won't place children in LGBT foster homes. The agencies handle those adoptions of abused and neglected children for the state Department for Children and Families. Supporters saw it as a religious liberties measure.

Kelly, a veteran state senator from Topeka, voted against what she called "the adoption discrimination" measure when the Republican-controlled Legislature approved it in May. In the governor's race, she defeated conservative Republican Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, and was endorsed by Equality Kansas, the state's most influential LGBT-rights group.

"If there is way to direct the agency to not implement that, then I will do that," Kelly said during a Statehouse news conference, her first since winning the election.

Chuck Weber, the Catholic Conference's executive director, said supporters of the law will fight to see that it's fully enforced.

"This is not a surprise, that Gov.-elect Kelly would try to circumvent the will of the people of Kansas to advance her own radical agenda," said Weber, a former Kansas House member.

The law says the state can't force an adoption agency to make placements in homes that violate its religious beliefs. An adoption agency cannot be denied a license or state reimbursement for a placement, or blocked from participating in DCF programs, solely because of its beliefs.

Tom Witt, Equality Kansas's executive director, said the law so clearly allows adoption agencies to engage in discrimination while receiving tax dollars that the state shouldn't enforce it.

"There are a number of unconstitutional laws on the books that aren't being enforced," Witt said. "The (state's same-sex) marriage ban comes to mind."

But Weber said: "We were very careful in drafting that bill, in dotting i's and crossing t's and making sure that this would pass constitutional muster."

Departing Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer signed the measure, and his DCF secretary backed it as a way to encourage more groups to do adoptions.

Colyer took office in January when GOP Gov. Sam Brownback resigned to become U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom. In 2015, Brownback rescinded a previous executive order from Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius barring anti-LGBT bias in state hiring and employment decisions, saying such a policy should be set by the Legislature.

Kelly told reporters Thursday that she will have a new order reinstating such protections drafted before she takes office so that it can be issued as quickly as possible.

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