Democrat Laura Kelly Beats Kris Kobach to Win Kansas Governor's Race
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Kris Kobach made fighting illegal immigration a key issue in running for Kansas governor, echoing President Donald Trump's tactics in the campaign's final weeks. It didn't work, and Democrat Laura Kelly defeated him. She won despite Kobach's national profile and his status as Trump's most visible ally. Trump visited Kansas to campaign for Kobach. Kelly won the governor's race by wooing GOP moderates and independent voters. She made the race a referendum on unpopular former Republican Governor Sam Brownback's 2012-13 experiment in slashing income taxes. Kansas endured budget woes and national infamy before lawmakers largely reversed the cuts last year.
Kansas Republicans Dominate Down Ballot Races
While Kansas Democrats took control of one seat in Congress and the governor's office, Republicans dominated the down ballot races in other statewide contests.
- Republican Scott Schwab defeated Democrat Brian McClendon to become the next Kansas Secretary of State.
- Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt was re-elected, fending off a challenge from Democrat Sarah Swain.
- Republican Jake LaTurner was elected State Treasurer over Democrat Marci Francisco.
- And Republican Vicki Schmidt was elected Insurance Commissioner over Democrat Nathaniel McLaughlin.
Democrat Sharice Davids Wins House Seat, Defeats GOP Congressman Kevin Yoder
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Four-term Kansas Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder has been ousted by LGBT Native American Democrat Sharice Davids. Davids excited voters and Democratic donors with her unusual profile. She is a member of the Wisconsin-based Ho-Chunk Nation who received a law degree from Cornell University and was a White House fellow during former President Barack Obama's administration. She is a member of the LGBT community and has fought mixed martial arts bouts. She won the GOP-leaning 3rd District encompassing the Kansas suburbs of Kansas City that President Trump narrowly lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016. Yoder was among 25 Republican incumbents seeking re-election in a district Trump lost. Yoder is chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security.
GOP Newcomer Steve Watkins Wins House Seat, Defeats Democrat Paul Davis in 2nd District
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican novice Steve Watkins has won a congressional race in eastern Kansas that Democrats had hoped to flip to their column. Watkins defeated Democrat Paul Davis in Tuesday's election in the 2nd District. Watkins will replace retiring five-term GOP Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins. The district leans Republican and President Donald Trump carried it by nearly 17 percentage points in 2016. Watkins had Trump's endorsement. Democrats saw an opportunity because Davis was better known as a former Kansas House minority leader. Davis won the district in an unsuccessful run for governor in 2014. Davis pitched himself as a bipartisan problem solver. Watkins is a former Army officer and government contractor. He overcame questions about living outside Kansas most of his adult life and being caught embellishing his accomplishments.
Republicans Keep Control of Big 1st and 4th Congressional Districts
- GOP Congressman Roger Marshall will return to Washington for another term representing the Big 1st District of central and western Kansas. He defeated Democrat Alan LaPolice.
- GOP Congressman Ron Estes defeated Democrat James Thompson in the 4th District of Wichita and south-central Kansas.
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill Ousted by Republican Josh Hawley
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican Josh Hawley will be Missouri's next U.S. senator, securing a long-sought GOP victory against Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. Voters on Tuesday elected the 38-year-old attorney general who says he will back President Donald Trump. Republicans long hoped to flip McCaskill's seat in the increasingly Republican state. Missouri was once considered a bellwether but has trended right. Trump won the state by nearly 19 percentage points and campaigned twice for Hawley in the week before Election Day. McCaskill was one of 10 Democratic Senate incumbents up for re-election in states Trump won. Voters first elected McCaskill to the Senate in 2006. Hawley's win will mean Auditor Nicole Galloway will be the lone Democratic statewide official.
Deaf House Candidate Loses Amid Allegations
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A deaf Democratic Kansas legislative candidate who lost the support of his party after he was accused by three women of being emotionally abusive has lost. Chris Haulmark was defeated Tuesday by Republican John Toplikar for an open seat in a GOP-leaning House district in Olathe. The National Association of the Deaf said Haulmark would have been the first deaf legislator — at the state or national level — if he won. But the state party and the Kansas House Democrats dropped their support over the allegations. Haulmark told The Kansas City Star previously that the decision was "reached prematurely." Toplikar previously served in the Kansas House and as a Johnson County commissioner. He lost his re-election bid to the commission in 2008 after he was caught on video removing his opponent's campaign signs. He was sentenced to probation for misdemeanor theft and later won back his commission seat.
Fights Erupt at Kansas Prison; 1 Inmate Suffers Minor Injury
LARNED, Kan. (AP) — Officials say one inmate sustained minor injuries after several fights erupted at a western Kansas prison that houses mentally ill inmates. Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Samir Arif says the fights broke out Tuesday at the Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility, about 120 miles (190 kilometers) northwest of Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that several windows were broken, but no corrections officers were hurt. The facility has been secured and authorities are investigating. It's not clear what caused the fights.
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.
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.
College Student Found Guilty of Killing Ex-Girlfriend
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University student has been convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that jurors found 29-year-old Dane Owens guilty Tuesday of first-degree felony murder and aggravated burglary in the October 2016 killing of 22-year-old Rowena Irani. She was studying psychology at Wichita State University. Prosecutors say Owens parked his truck several houses away from her home, walked through an unlocked door and fired at her when she walked around a corner. He then left the home without helping her, throwing her cellphone in one pond and his gun in another Her mother found her several hours later suffering from a gunshot wound to the head, and Irani died the next day. The defense said the shooting wasn't intentional. Sentencing is set for December 20.
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.
Court Upholds $10 Million Judgment Against Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri appellate court has upheld a $10 million award against Kansas City for stopping payments for trash service for apartment owners and dwellers. A three-judge panel of the Missouri appellate court on Tuesday affirmed a 2017 lower court ruling that the city knowingly violated a 30-year agreement to pay for trash collection at apartment buildings with seven or more units. The city also must pay $1.4 million in the plaintiffs attorneys' fees The Kansas City Star reports the damages would go to hundreds of apartment and condo residents, managers and owners. Several hundred building managers and owners filed a class action lawsuit in 2015. City Manager Troy Schulte said Tuesday he will recommend to the City Council that the city appeal the ruling to the state supreme court.
K-State Cornerback Shelley Arrested for Traffic Violations
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State cornerback Duke Shelley was arrested this week for failure to appear and released after paying a $500 bond, though his status for this weekend's game against Kansas remains in question. A school spokesman said any punishment will be handled internally. The Wildcats' best cornerback, Shelley had a warrant issued by Manhattan Municipal Court after he was cited for driving without proof of insurance and having expired tags. He was arrested Tuesday. The senior from Georgia has 33 tackles and three interceptions this season, even though he has missed the past two games with a leg injury. Wildcats coach Bill Snyder expected him to return at some point this season, possibly in time for the Sunflower Showdown against the Jayhawks.
California Man Donates $2 Million, Art to Kansas State University
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.
Couple Gets Life Sentences in Torture Killing of Kansas Man
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A couple has received the maximum sentence for torturing and killing a Kansas man in a crime that the judge called "horrific beyond imagination." Jeff and Heidi Hillard were recently convicted of participating in the November 2016 killing of 33-year-old Scottie Goodpaster Jr. of Wichita. Both were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years. Prosecutors say Goodpaster and a woman were kidnapped because of $185 in missing drug money. Goodpaster was attacked at a home in Valley Center with an ax, knife and staple gun, and suffered genital injuries. His body was found hanging from a tree six days later. Jeff Hillard was sentenced to another 27 ½ years for other crimes, while Heidi Hillard received an additional 44 ½ years. Those sentences will run consecutively to the life sentences. Attorneys for both defendants say they will appeal the sentences.
Ex-Kansas Youth Worker Gets Probation for Child Sex Crimes but Must Register as Sex Offender
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former employee of a suburban Kansas City youth mental health facility has been placed on probation for sex charges. The Kansas City Star reports that 27-year-old Dijon Willis will have to serve 30 days in jail as a condition of probation. He also was ordered Monday to undergo sex offender treatment and be placed on the state's sex offender registry for 25 years. Willis pleaded no contest in August and was found guilty of indecent liberties with a child and attempted sexual exploitation of a child. The charges stemmed from incidents in 2013 and 2014, when Willis worked at KidsTLC in Olathe. Several residents, both current and former, alleged that Willis touched them inappropriately.
Driver Who Brought Immigrants to Kansas Pleads Guilty
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 37-year-old man from Mexico has pleaded guilty to unlawfully driving himself and 10 others people who were in the U.S. illegally from Arizona to Kansas. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said Alex They Maya-Dimas pleaded guilty Monday to transporting illegal immigrants. He admitted he was driving the 10 people when he was stopped in Ford County in May. The passengers told investigators Maya-Dimas drove them from Arizona to Kansas City. Sentencing is scheduled for January 24.
Jury Selection Begins in Lawrence Triple Homicide Case
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jury selection has begun in the trials of three men accused in a shooting that left three people dead in a popular downtown area of a Kansas college town. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 170 potential jurors showed up Monday as the defense and prosecution begin picking a panel to hear the case against 21-year-old Anthony Roberts Jr., 23-year-old Ahmad Rayton and 20-year-old Dominique McMillon. They were arrested last year in the days after gunfire erupted as people were leaving bars, concerts and other events on the main downtown Lawrence street. Two others were wounded but survived the shooting. Roberts is charged with three counts of murder and one count of attempted second-degree murder. Rayton faces less serious charges of attempted murder, while the charges against McMillon include aggravated assault.
Anti-Abortion Activist Who Shot Kansas Abortion Doctor Freed
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A woman who shot Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller and attacked abortion clinics in several states in the 1990s has been released from prison in Oregon, prompting concern in clinics across the country, according to a published report Wednesday. Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon was released from a halfway house in Portland, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons confirmed. She will be on supervised release for three years but the bureau said conditions of her release will not be revealed. Shannon spent 25 years in custody and had been living at the halfway house since May, The Kansas City Star reported . "We're extremely concerned," said Katherine Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation. "We're alerting providers, briefing them and making sure they have enough security precautions in place." The Rev. Donald Spitz, an anti-abortion activist who stayed in contact with Shannon, said abortion-rights activists should not be worried about Shannon's release. "I don't think she'll be doing anything violent," said Spitz, leader of Pro-Life Virginia and sponsor of the Army of God website. "Of course, no one knows, but I'd be very surprised." He said he talked to Shannon on Monday and described her as upbeat about her release but said he didn't know Shannon's plans. Shannon, now 62, was sentenced to 11 years behind bars for shooting and wounding Tiller, and 20 years for six firebombings and two acid attacks at abortion clinics in California, Oregon and Nevada. Stephen Peifer, a former assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted Shannon in Portland in 1995, said Shannon could do something violent herself but it's more likely she would counsel other people to do so. On May 31, 2009, Tiller was shot and killed at his church in Wichita by Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion extremist who testified during his murder trial that he visited Shannon when she was imprisoned in Topeka. Julie Burkhart, a former employee of Tiller's and founder of Trust Women Foundation, which operates clinics in Wichita, Oklahoma City and Seattle, said Shannon's release "raises deep concerns." Shannon was an Oregon homemaker when she took a bus to Oklahoma City, where she rented a car and drove to Tiller's clinic in Wichita. The clinic, Women's Health Care Services, was bombed in 1986 and was the focus of Operation Rescue's 46-day "Summer of Mercy" campaign in 1991 that resulted in more than 2,600 arrests. Shannon shot Tiller as he drove out of the clinic parking lot. He was injured in both arms but returned to work the next day. After Shannon was arrested, police found a letter she'd written to her daughter describing the shooting and denying that it was wrong. Investigators later found files on Shannon's computer detailing clinic arsons and acid attacks she had committed.
Federal Judge Seeks Cult Leader's Arrest in $8 Million Judgment
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge in Kansas is seeking the arrest of a cult leader who hasn't complied with court orders related to an $8 million judgment for a woman who said he forced her to work without pay for a decade. Royall Jenkins, who calls himself "Allah on Earth" and "The Supreme Being," leads The Value Creators, formerly known as the United Nation of Islam. In May, U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree issued the $8 million judgment, ruling that the group illegally controlled the woman's romantic relationships and imposed strict discipline, making her work without pay in restaurants and as a maid, cook and childcare provider. Crabtree ordered a warrant for Jenkins arrest on Friday after he failed to provide documents and appear for a court hearing related to that judgment.
Immigration, Health Care Top Issues for Kansas Voters
By AMANDA SEITZ, Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Immigration and health care were the most important issues for Kansas voters casting midterm election ballots, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate. As voters cast ballots for governor and members of Congress in Tuesday's elections, AP VoteCast found that nearly half of Kansas voters said the country is on the right track while the other half said the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Here's a snapshot of who voted and why in Kansas, based on preliminary results from AP VoteCast, an innovative nationwide survey of about 139,000 voters and nonvoters — including 3,963 voters and 780 nonvoters in the state of Kansas — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
RACE FOR GOVERNOR
Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly defeated Republican Kris Kobach, the outspoken secretary of state and strong ally of President Trump. Kelly captured a sizeable lead with women and younger voters in Tuesday's race. Jerry Wright, a 26-year-old die-cut machine operator from Topeka, said he's a Republican but didn't support Kobach. He said he wanted a break from former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback's tax-cutting. "We need time to recover from that," Wright said. Voters ages 45 and older were split between the two candidates. College graduates were more likely to favor Kelly while those without a college degree were divided between Kobach and Kelly.
About a quarter of Kansas voters considered health care to be the most important issue in this election while another quarter named immigration as the top issue. Margaret Masilionis, an 84-year-old state worker and self-described "proud Democrat," took exception to President Donald Trump's rhetoric on immigration. "We all came from immigrants, Masilionis said. "I don't understand how we can exclude people and go to bed at night feeling that we're fair Americans." But Keith Noe, a 79-year-old semi-retired farmer who lives outside the small town of Lecompton, said he wanted to see the border wall built, saying his views were shaped by living near the Mexican border in California in the 1990s. "The farmers down there had to shut down their dairies down there because of illegal aliens coming through," Noe said. "They cannot raise any crops where there's good fields to raise them because of people tramping through. There was a constant flow even then." Kansas voters also named the economy, foreign policy and gun policy as top issues in this election.
STATE OF THE ECONOMY
Voters had a positive view of the nation's economy — about 6 in 10 voters said the nation's economy is good, while the remaining said it's not good. The state's low unemployment rate, currently 3.3 percent, has remained exceptionally low. The economy is on an upswing, said Angie Turnbow, a 43-year-old owner of a small Topeka business that makes uniforms and other items for sports teams. "I probably am a little bit more conservative, and I definitely think there is something to be said for encouraging growth in small businesses, businesses in general, American business," she said.
Kansas voters have a mixed opinion of President Donald Trump with half saying they approve of his performance as president and the other half saying they disapprove. Trump was a factor in the election for about half of the state's voters, who were split on casting a ballot to support the president or oppose him. Trump is doing a "terrible job" said James Jenkins, a 48-year-old truck driver from Topeka and a registered Democrat. Perry Schmiedeler, a 22-year-old Washburn University of Topeka student and a registered Republican, said Trump is doing a fine job but the president didn't sway his votes for other offices. "It's not as bad as everyone thought, I think," he said of Trump.
STAYING AT HOME
In Kansas, a majority of registered voters who chose not to vote in the midterm election were younger than 45. A large share of those who did not vote — nearly 8 in 10 voters — did not have a college degree. Republicans accounted for 4 in 10 of nonvoters while Democrats made up about 2 in 10.
Associated Press writer John Hanna contributed to this story.