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Headlines for Tuesday, August 4, 2020

 

It's Primary Election Day in Kansas & Missouri

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - It's Election Day!  If you haven't already cast your ballot in advance, you can vote in person.  Polls in Kansas will remain open until 7pm.  Don't forget to take your photo ID.  Election officials are also asking that you wear your face mask when voting in person.  Missouri voters are also headed to the polls today (TUE) as primary elections are also underway in the Show Me state.  

UPDATE: 1 p.m.

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Election officials in three of Kansas's largest counties reported an uneventful start to voting in the state's primary election, due in part to an increase in advance and mail-in balloting.

Nathan Carter, office administrator for the Johnson County Election Office, said no major problems were reported Tuesday morning. Election workers are concentrating not only on in-person voting but also collecting thousands of mail ballots. The county sent out 106,000 mail-in ballots and received about 70,000 before Tuesday. Voters can bring their ballots to polling sites or to drop-off boxes through Election Day.

In-person voting was steady in Sedgwick County, with short or non-existent waiting times. Deputy Election Commissioner Melissa Schnieders said the county sent about about 56,000 mail-in ballots for this election, a big increase from previous elections. She said Tuesday's election was “pretty normal” except for preventative measures the county put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

And Shawnee County Election Commissioner Andrew Howell said turnout in that county was “not huge." He said only three or four poll workers out of more than 400 didn't show up for election duty, which was typical of most elections.

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Record Number of Vote-by-Mail Ballots Expected in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas Secretary of State’s office is expecting a record number of vote-by-mail ballots in today's (TUE) primary elections.   Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Katie Koupal says they’ve sent out more than 315 thousand mail-in ballots. That’s more than five times the number of people who chose that option in the 2018 primary.  “With the high number of advanced by mail ballots, we believe close races could fluctuate more than they have in the past,” she said.  All mail-in ballots must be postmarked by today (TUE) and arrive at the county election office by Friday.  

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Board of Education Races Draw Attention After COVID-19 Vote

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas Board of Education primary election is drawing more attention than usual after the panel voted against the governor's plan to delay the start of the school year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Three board members had been running unopposed, but the Wichita Eagle reports that the day after the board voted against Governor Laura Kelly's order, a write-in challenger joined the race. Dave Colburn, a Democrat backed by former Democratic Governor John Carlin, just needs the votes of 5% of all the registered voters in the district to appear on the general election ballot.

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GOP Primary Features 11 Candidates for U.S Senate Seat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Today's (TUE) primary election in Kansas features a tight contest for the Republican nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat. The GOP ballot for today's (TUE) primary election includes 11 candidates for the office held by retiring Republican Senator Pat Roberts.  Those candidates are led by party establishment-backed western Kansas Congressman Roger Marshall and a polarizing conservative, Kris Kobach.  Marshall has support from key business, agriculture and anti-abortion groups, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others failed to persuade President Donald Trump to endorse Marshall.  Kobach is a former Kansas secretary of state who lost the 2018 Kansas governor's race after alienating independent and moderate GOP voters.

(– Related –)

Kansas Senate Race Tests GOP Leaders' Power to Block Kobach

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Establishment Republicans are seeking to thwart polarizing conservative Kris Kobach’s bid for Kansas’ open Senate seat, a task complicated by President Donald Trump’s refusal to endorse their favored candidate in the primary. Republicans haven’t lost a Senate contest in Kansas since 1932. But party leaders in Washington and many GOP activists in Kansas fear that the normally safe seat held by retiring four-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts will be in play if the party nominates Kobach. The former Kansas secretary of state is nationally known for advocating restrictive immigration policies. Trump didn’t intervene to help Rep. Roger Marshall in a crowded field, despite prodding from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others.

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GOP Candidates Battle over 2nd District Seat of Eastern Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Republican Congressman Steve Watkins is fighting to keep his seat in the state's Republican primary while facing felony criminal charges. Watkins hopes to overcome a challenge from State Treasurer Jake LaTurner in the 2nd District in eastern Kansas. LaTurner argues that Watkins was vulnerable even before the criminal charges were filed against him in July. Watkins is accused of voting illegally in a 2019 Topeka City Council race. He's also accused of trying to mislead a sheriff's detective who was investigating his listing of a UPS store postal box as his residence for state voter registration purposes. Watkins has called the charges "bogus."  

(– Related –)

Kansas Rep. Watkins Battles for Seat While Facing Charges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Freshman Kansas Rep. Steve Watkins is fighting to keep his seat in the state’s Republican primary while facing felony criminal charges. Watkins hoped to overcome a challenge from State Treasurer Jake LaTurner in the 2nd District in eastern Kansas. LaTurner argued that Watkins was vulnerable even before the criminal charges were filed in July. Watkins is accused of voting illegally in a  2019 Topeka City Council race. He also is accused of trying to mislead a sheriff’s detective who was investigating his listing of a UPS Inc. store postal box as his residence for state voter registration purposes. Watkins has called the charges “bogus.”

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Primary Results Could Shake Up Kansas Legislature

TOPEKA, Kan (KNS) - The primary elections could trigger a power shift in the Kansas Legislature, one that could intensify battles over Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's coronavirus response powers and issues like Medicaid expansion, taxes and abortion.  Conservative Republicans are making a push to retake seats they lost to moderates in 2016, when school funding and undoing former Governor Sam Brownback’s tax cuts were the big issues.  University of Kansas Political Scientist Patrick Miller says those moderates could be vulnerable to challengers backed by the state’s largest business and anti-abortion organizations. “And I think it’s a real question how any of those moderates can survive when they don’t have the boogeyman of Sam Brownback to run against,” he said.  More conservatives in the Statehouse would give Republican leaders the votes they need to continue blocking Medicaid expansion, as well as cut taxes over the governor’s objections.  More conservatives could also advance a constitutional amendment to nullify a recent state Supreme Court ruling on abortion.  (Read more.)

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Officials Investigate Possible Contamination at Kansas Military Bases
 
WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas health officials are helping to check whether water sources near McConnell Air Force Base and Fort Riley are contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals.  The chemical, PFAS, is prevalent in firefighting foam used on military bases.  Randy Carlson works for the state’s bureau of environmental remediation.  He says tests last summer and in the spring of this year found several locations at McConnell and Fort Riley with PFAS higher than the recommended safe levels.  Officials are now testing a couple dozen private water wells outside of the footprint of each military base to see how far the contamination has spread. They expect results of the analysis by the end of the year.

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Newest Justice Sworn In on Kansas Supreme Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The newest member of the Kansas Supreme Court has been sworn in. Keynen "KJ" Wall Jr. took the oath Monday at the Kansas Judicial Center. Governor Laura Kelly appointed Wall in March to fill a vacancy created when former Chief Justice Lawton Nuss retired in December. Wall had been in private practice with the Forbes Law Group of Overland Park since 2015.  The ceremony was smaller than usual because of the room needed to allow social distancing due to the coronavirus. Wall wore a mask as he was sworn in.

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Kansas Sees Rate of Positive Coronavirus Tests Inching Up

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas has seen its rate of positive coronavirus tests inch up over the past month and is approaching 29,000 reported cases since the start of the pandemic.  State health officials say another 1,064 cases have been reported since Friday.  Another seven COVID-19-related deaths were also recorded, pushing the statewide total to 365.  

(-Related-)

Kansas Reports 365 Deaths Caused by COVID-19; Nearly 29,000 Have Tested Positive for Virus    

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Since the pandemic began, nearly 29,000 Kansans have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.  Kansas health officials released the latest numbers Monday, revealing 28,876 people have now tested positive and 365 people have died.  A new round of data will be released online Wednesday.   

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50 Missouri Health Agencies Have Yet to Receive Federal Aid

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Health departments in at least 50 Missouri counties have not received any money from the federal government even though the state received hundreds of millions of dollars in early May. The Kansas City Star says local public health agencies across the state are trying to ramp up testing and contact tracing but say their hands are tied because the state has not delivered any federal aid. The money was given to their local county commissions instead, and in many places, those commissioners have held up the money.

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Police ID 2 Killed in Separate Kansas City Shootings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police have identified two people killed in separate weekend shootings in Kansas City. Police said Monday that a man found fatally wounded late Saturday near Wyandotte Avenue and 39th Street has been identified as 24-year-old Deon Paige. Witnesses reported hearing several shots but couldn't provide a description of the shooter. Police also identified a woman found dead early Sunday morning at a home near Gregory Boulevard and Bales Avenue in southeastern Kansas City as 25-year-old Briana Johnson. Police have not released any additional details about the shootings, and no arrests had been reported in either homicide.

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Police Officer, 1 Other Hurt in Kansas City, Kansas Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people, including a police officer, were hurt in an ambush shooting in Kansas City, Kansas, as officers sought to arrest a person in an earlier shooting. The incident began Monday evening as police investigated a shooting in which one person was injured. During the investigation, police were sent to a home where a person of interest was arrested. As police were leaving the home, at least one person began shooting at them from a nearby tree line. One resident of the home was shot, and police say an officer also was injured. Police say an officer returned fire, and the shooter or shooters fled. No arrests have been reported in the ambush.

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Police: Second Man Dies After Shooting at Wichita Motel

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A second man has died days after a shootout at a Wichita motel that police suspect happened during a fight over drugs. Wichita Police say 23-year-old Keion Whyte, of Wichita, died Saturday at a hospital. He was injured early Thursday morning during a shooting at the Scotsman Inn West. Forty-year-old William Pottorff, of Wichita, died at the scene. Four people were arrested after the shooting on suspicion of first-degree murder and burglary. Police said an initial investigation showed the shooting occurred after Whyte and several others forced their way into the motel room. Pottorff and Whyte began fighting and both men fired guns at each other

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Laid-Off Kansas Aviation Workers Find New Opportunities

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Some aviation workers who were laid off in Wichita are taking advantage of a federal program that helps people looking for new job opportunities or a chance to gain more education and skills. Tracy Taylor lost her job on the 737 program at Spirit AeroSystems in January. The 32-year-old says she is now studying nursing at WSU Tech, with help from the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. Numbers from the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas show Taylor is one of around 9,100 people who lost their jobs following the 737 Max fallout last December.

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Body Found Near Fort Riley Confirmed to be Missing Soldier

FORT RILEY, Kan. (KPR) - The Riley County Police Department confirmed that a body found on the Konza Prairie Nature Trail is 38-year-old Warrant Officer Nicole Grothe.  The Army Times reports the body was found on July 22, and the results of the autopsy and dental analysis Saturday verified that it was Grothe. She had been assigned to Fort Riley since March, where she quickly earned the trust of her section, according to a press release.  Prior to Fort Riley, Grothe served in South Korea with the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division from Dec. 2018 to February 2020. Her team there is deeply saddened by the loss of their friend and comrade.  Grothe also served at Fort Rucker, Alabama, Fort Drum, N.Y., and Hohenfels, Germany. She joined the Army in 2007 from Lacey, Washington.  The incident is still under investigation by Army CID and the Riley County Police Department. No foul play is suspected.

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Fort Riley Getting New Commander this Month

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) - The Army's Fort Riley will get a new commander later this month. Major Gen. Douglas A. Sims will assume command of Fort Riley, Kansas, and its 1st Infantry Division, which is known as the "Big Red One," on August 14, officials said Sunday. Sims is a 1991 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy who has deployed several times to Iraq and Afghanistan. He will take over for Major Gen. John Kolasheski, who relinquished command of Fort Riley Saturday, so he could take over command of the Army's V Corps, which is based at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

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Man Sentenced to 40 Years in Death of Somali Teen at Mosque

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 40-year-old man has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for killing a teenager outside a Kansas City mosque. Prosecutors said Ahmed Aden intentionally drove into 15-year-old Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein, a Somali student, in December 2014. The teenager's legs were nearly severed when he was hit as he left the Somali Center of Kansas City. Aden entered an Alford plea in December to charges of second-degree murder and armed criminal action. Aden told investigators after his arrest that he was looking for men who had threatened him earlier and mistakenly thought the boy was one of those men.

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American Royal Cancels This Year's World Series of Barbecue

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The American Royal's World Series of Barbecue will not be held this year. The American Royal Association said Tuesday it will not hold what it calls the world's largest barbecue competition because of the coronavirus pandemic. American Royal President and CEO Glen Alan Phillips said the organization could not find a way to make this year's event safe for competitors and visitors. The event was scheduled for Sept. 17-20 at the Kansas Speedway. It is the first time the organization has ever canceled the barbecue. The American Royal also canceled this year's 2020 Pro Rodeo but will have most equine shows and the livestock show.

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