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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, August 8, 2012




Voter Turnout Exceeds Expectations in Kansas Primary

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says turnout in the state's primary elections exceeded his expectations, with nearly 23 percent of the state's 1.7 million registered voters participating. Kobach reported Wednesday that 392,000 Kansans cast ballots. He had predicted that 310,000 people would participate, a turnout of 18 percent. But Kobach said turnout spiked in areas with hotly contested state Senate primaries. Greeley County in western Kansas had the highest turnout, nearly 65 percent. The county lies in the 39th Senate District, where Senate President Steve Morris, a moderate Republican, trailed in final results for his primary race against conservative state Rep. Larry Powell. Wyandotte County, home of Kansas City, Kansas, had the lowest turnout at 11 percent.


Conservatives Win Big in Kansas Senate Primary Races

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Republicans who've been working to push GOP moderates out of state legislatures in a large section of the country have scored big victories in Kansas. After Tuesday's primary election, a Kansas Senate that has been an obstacle to conservative fiscal and social policy changes is likely to have a solid majority on the right next year. Voters in GOP races ousted seven incumbent moderate senators. An eighth, Senate President Steve Morris, a moderate Hugoton Republican, trailed his conservative opponent, likely marking the end of Morris's 20-year career as a legislator. Some GOP voters transferred their ongoing frustration with Democratic President Barack Obama and the federal health care law he championed to moderate GOP state senators. Some voters wanted the Senate to be more in line with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.


Democrats Discuss Kansas Primary Results

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic leaders in the Kansas Legislature are hoping Republicans disillusioned with the results of their party's primaries will back Democrats in November. House Minority Leader Paul Davis and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said Wednesday the general election gives voters one more chance to decide how far Governor Sam Brownback can advance his conservative agenda. Eight moderate GOP incumbents were ousted from the state Senate Tuesday by conservative challengers. Hensley says an unprecedented amount of outside money was spent on the GOP primaries. But he and Davis say despite being the minority party in Kansas, Democrats offer an alternative to stopping conservative policies from advancing.

Democrats Set Field in Kansas US House Races

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two political newcomers won Democratic primaries Tuesday but admit they face challenges this fall as they seek to defeat Republican incumbents in U.S. House races. Topeka minister Tobias Schlingensiepen won a three-way race for the party's nomination in the 2nd District, while retired Wichita court services officer Robert Tillman easily won his race in the 4th District, according to final, unofficial results. Schlingensiepen will face Republican Representative Lynn Jenkins in November, trying to keep her from winning a third term in the eastern Kansas district. Tillman faces GOP Representative Mike Pompeo, who is seeking his second term in the 4th District. Kansas's two other Republican U.S. House members, 1st District Representative Tim Huelskamp and 3rd District Representative Kevin Yoder, were unopposed Tuesday. Both are seeking their second term in Congress.

Key Player in Kansas Remapping Fight Loses GOP Primary Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state House member has unseated a state senator who was a key figure in a bitter legislative stalemate over political redistricting in the state's Republican primary. Representative Jim Denning had 60 percent of the vote against fellow Overland Park resident and state Senator Tim Owens in the 8th Senate District in suburban Kansas City. Owens was chairman of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, and conservatives frequently accused him of trying to redraw the state's political boundaries to help fellow GOP moderates. Owens said conservatives hoped to use new maps to hurt moderates. With majority Republicans feuding, lawmakers failed to approve any redistricting legislation, leaving the job of setting new boundaries to three federal judges. Both Owens and Denning raised more than $60,000 through late July for their campaigns.


Unusual Primary in Area Consolidated by District Remapping Pits 3 Incumbents Against One Another

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The most senior Kansas House member has prevailed in a Republican primary race with three incumbent lawmakers running in an Emporia-area district. The winner was Representative Peggy Mast, of Emporia, who received 47 percent of the vote in the 76th House District. Representative Bill Otto, of LeRoy, captured 33 percent and Representative Willie Prescott, of Osage City, had 20 percent. The three incumbents were in the same district after federal judges redrew the state's political boundaries in June. Legislators failed to pass any redistricting measures this year. Mast will face Democrat Janet Lewis of Lebo in the November general election. Mast was first elected to the House in 1996 and serves on its Appropriations Committee. Otto was first elected to the House in 2004 and Prescott in 2008.

Veteran State House Member Trailing in SW Kansas Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A local school board member and county Republican chairman is seven votes ahead of a veteran state House member in a GOP primary in southwest Kansas. Final, unofficial results from the 125th District had challenger Reid Petty, of Liberal, winning over state Representative Carl Dean Holmes, also of Liberal. The count Tuesday night was 883 for Petty to 876 for Holmes, but local officials hadn't certified the results. Holmes has held his House seat since 1985 and is among the Legislature's most senior members. He has gained national prominence in energy policy circles as chairman of the House Energy and Utilities Committee. Petty, a former radio and television reporter, has served on the Liberal Board of Education since April 2009 and has been Seward County Republican chairman since December 2010.

Moderate GOP State Senator Loses SE Kansas Primary Contest

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An incumbent Republican state senator from southeast Kansas has lost a primary race to a more conservative challenger. Jacob LaTurner, of Pittsburg, received 57 percent of the vote against Sen. Bob Marshall in final, unofficial results in the 13th District on Tuesday. LaTurner has said publicly he wants new leadership in the state Senate, and he received the backing of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, which is trying to unseat a dozen moderate incumbents. Marshall sided with moderate GOP Senate leaders this year on budget and tax issues. He was seeking his second term. LaTurner and Marshall also faced each other in the GOP primary in 2008, when Marshall prevailed with 55 percent of the vote. LaTurner now faces Gene Garman, also of Pittsburg, in the November general election.

Kansas House Pensions Chairman Unseats State Senator

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The conservative chairman of the Kansas House's pensions committee has ousted a veteran moderate state senator in a Republican primary race. Representative Mitch Holmes of St. John received 53 percent of the vote Tuesday against Sen. Ruth Teichman, of Stafford, in the 33rd District of central and western Kansas. There is no Democratic candidate running. Holmes has been chairman of the pensions committee the past two years, when lawmakers approved legislation designed to improve the long-term financial health of the state pension system for teachers and government workers. However, Kansas stopped short of moving to a 401(k)-style plan for new employees. Teichman has held her Senate seat since 2001 and is chairwoman of the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.

Voters Recall Plainville School Board Member

PLAINVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Voters in a north-central Kansas school district recalled a school board member over a confrontation with a former school principal. By a vote of 524-284, voters on Tuesday recalled Plainville School Board member Darlene Jones, who served for 33 years. The recall petition accused Jones of verbally assaulting and committing battery on former Plainville High School principal Troy Keiswetter during a confrontation at the high school. Recall organizers said such confrontations should not be allowed on school grounds. The Salina Journal reports that Jones denied the claims. Keiswatter left Plainville to work at McLouth High School.


Accountant Wins Dem Nod for Kansas Ed Board Seat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An accountant who serves on her local school board will be the Democratic nominee for a seat representing northeastern and north-central Kansas on the State Board of Education.  Carol Viar (VYE'-ahr), of Salina, had 53 percent of the vote in final, unofficial results from Tuesday's primary race in the 6th District. She defeated Usha Reddi, a first-grade teacher from Manhattan.  Viar serves on the Southeast of Saline school board. She faces former state Rep. Deena Horst, a Salina Republican, in November.  The only other contested primary for a board seat was in the 8th District in Wichita, where challenger Kathy Busch, a retired Wichita school administrator and principal, unseated incumbent Walt Chappell, a fellow Republican. There is no Democrat running. Busch received 61 percent of the vote against Chappell.


US Negotiator to Discuss Trade with Kansas Producers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The nation's chief agricultural negotiator plans to meet with Kansas producers to talk about trade issues. Isi Siddiqui is a presidential appointee in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. He planned several stops in Kansas on Thursday to discuss efforts to bring down trade barriers and increase U.S. farm exports. In Johnson County, Siddiqui is to tour Bayer Animal Health Company and Kansas State University's research lab. He also plans to tour the Cargill Innovation Center in Wichita and host a roundtable meeting with the Wichita Agribusiness Council.


Installation of K-10 Cable Median to Begin Soon

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Construction will begin next week on a new cable median barrier on Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence. The $1.15 million project was prompted by a fatal crossover collision in April 2011 that killed 5-year-old Cainan Shutt near Eudora. Residents along the busy highway between Lawrence and Kansas City had pushed for the cable barriers for years before that accident. The Kansas Department of Transportation said Tuesday that the project will begin next Monday. The Lawrence Journal-World reports workers will install a 2.3-mile stretch just west of the Church Street exit and a 2-mile section on both sides of the Kansas Highway 7 interchange in Johnson County. The project is scheduled to be complete in mid-December.


Missouri Power Plant Briefly Evacuated after Explosion

WESTON, Mo. (AP) — More than 200 people were briefly evacuated after a small explosion and fire at Kansas City Power & Light's Iatan power plant in Weston. KCP&L spokeswoman Katie McDonald says the plant never stopped operating after the explosion Wednesday morning in a remote area known as a coal bunker. She says most of the roughly 250 workers at the plant were ushered out as a precaution. They were allowed back inside a short time later. There were no injuries. Platte County fire crews were dispatched to the coal-fired power plant and quickly contained the blaze. McDonald said early Wednesday afternoon a damage estimate wasn't yet available.

Suspect Seeks Mistrial in Topeka Murder Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Juror misconduct is being alleged in the trial of a man accused in the death of a Topeka woman and the wounding of her life partner. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that attorneys for Anceo Stovall filed a motion Tuesday saying a Shawnee County juror accessed an online news story about Stovall's trial while the jury was deliberating. The attorneys say that violated the judge's instructions and would be a basis for a new trial. In late July, the jury could not reach verdicts on the nine of 11 charges against the 27-year-old Stovall, including first-degree murder in the July 2011 shooting death of 40-year-old Natalie Gibson. He was found innocent of one burglary charge and guilty of aggravated robbery of a co-defendant.

City of Hays Initiates Water Conservation Effort

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Hays officials have declared a "water watch" to encourage residents to conserve water. The city said on Tuesday that a water watch means the city's well fields have deteriorated and peak water consumption is abnormally high. The Hays Daily News reports that a water watch is the first level of the city's water operations plan. Some of the restrictions include no street sweeping or hydrant flushing, reduced watering of ball fields and no new permits for newly seeded or sodded lawns. City Manager Toby Dougherty says the voluntary restrictions are intended to stabilize well field levels and lower daily demand. If the water watch doesn't reduce usage enough, a water warning will be issued, triggering more restrictions.

Hutchinson Plans to Ban Most Aerial Fireworks

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — After fireworks ignited several grassfires and destroyed a home during the July Fourth weekend, Hutchinson city officials have had enough. The city council has directed the city staff to prepare an ordinance to ban aerial fireworks and other fireworks that shoot sparks more than 6 feet in any direction. Fire Chief Kim Forbes says he is nearly 100 percent sure that fireworks started a fire that did $500,000 damage to a home on July 5. The department also extinguished 33 grass fires on July 4. Representatives of two fireworks dealers asked the council not to impose the ban but their suggestions were rejected. The Hutchinson News reports that the city plans to contact the Reno County Commission and South Hutchinson City Council to discuss having identical fireworks ordinance.


Ag Industry & Researchers Seeking Hardier Breeds of Crops, Livestock

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Confronted with the hottest, driest summer in decades, the nation's farmers and crop scientists are looking ahead to the future heat waves and water shortages that are expected to result from climate change. They've concluded that it's too late to fight the shifting weather patterns. Instead, they are aiming to adapt with a new generation of hardier animals and plants specially engineered to survive in intense heat with little rain. In Texas, a rancher is breeding cattle with genes that trace to animals from Africa and India, where their ancestors developed tolerance to heat and drought. In seed laboratories, researchers are developing corn with larger roots to gather more water. Someday, the plants may even be able to "resurrect" themselves after a long dry spell, recovering quickly when rain returns.


Kansas Woman Arrested After Leaving 9 Children at Mall 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police arrested a woman who they say left nine young children at a mall while she used drugs. The children, ranging in age between less than 1 to 10 years old, were left at the Towne East Square mall Tuesday evening. Authorities say a 35-year-old woman was supposed to be watching the children but abandoned them at the mall while she smoked methamphetamine. KAKE-TV reports mall security noticed the children walking around unsupervised. Three of the children were returned to their parents. The other six were placed into police protective custody. The woman was booked into the Sedgwick County jail. She faces six counts of child endangerment and possession of drug paraphernalia.


KU Gets $1M Gift from Alumni Couple

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Two University of Kansas alumni have donated $1 million to the KU endowment for the university's law school. The KU Endowment announced the gift from Lydia Beebe and Chuck Doyle of San Francisco on Wednesday. The KU Endowment said $455,000 will establish the Beebe/Doyle Family Scholarship, and $45,000 will be used for classroom renovation. A $500,000 gift commitment will also go toward their scholarship fund. Beebe earned two degrees from KU:  a bachelor's degree in 1974 and a law degree in 1977. Doyle received his bachelor's degree in 1975 and a law degree in 1978 -- both those degrees were also from KU. Beebe is corporate secretary and chief governance officer of Chevron Corporation. Doyle retired from United Airlines in 2007 and has been an aviation consultant.

Belle Plaine Arboretum Makes Use of Drought

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The drought that has hit Kansas this year has also taken a toll on the Bartlett Arboretum outside Wichita. But arboretum officials have taken the drought as an opportunity to dredge Euphrates Creek, which often floods the arboretum in Belle Plaine when it rains. The creek has only been dredged twice in its 102-year history. The Wichita Eagle reports that dredging the creek will alleviate flooding and will also help the ecosystem and minimize blue-green algae. Owner Robin Macy says the drought is the best time to clear out ponds and creeks. She says the dredging is also possible thanks to a 2008 grant for $25,000 that was intended dredging the creek, which was delayed because there was so much rain in 2009 and 2010.

FedEx to Donate Aircraft to KC Aviation Department

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — FedEx is donating an airplane to the Kansas City Aviation Department. After the Boeing 727-200F makes its final landing Wednesday at Kansas City International Airport, it will be used to train firefighters and airport police. Plans call for the plane to be located on the aircraft parking apron at the KCI Overhaul Base. FedEx had used the plane for 20 years.

KC Voters Approve Half-Cent Sales Tax Increase

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City voters overwhelmingly approved two revenue issues designed to improve the city's infrastructure, parks and community centers. Unofficial results show a half-cent sales tax increase passed Tuesday by a 63 percent to 37 percent margin. The Kansas City Star reports the revenue raised will allow the city to create a fund specifically for street maintenance. Revenue will also be used to keep community centers open longer and provide more programs, and improve parks and playgrounds. A measure to issue $500 million in bonds to modernize the city's sewer system also passed, by a margin of 80 percent to 20 percent. Sewer rates will double by 2020 to pay for those bonds, but city officials had said the rates would increase even more if the bond issue failed.


KC Schools Transfer Case Now in Judge's Hands

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Jackson County judge is weighing the legality of a state law allowing children to transfer from unaccredited to accredited school districts. Closing arguments wrapped up Wednesday in one of several lawsuits stemming from the state law. The Kansas City Star reports that Circuit Judge W. Brent Powell says he hopes to make his ruling by the end of next week, though it may take him longer. The plaintiff districts are Blue Springs, Independence, Lee's Summit, North Kansas City and Raytown. They say a commissioned study projects that more than 7,700 students would transfer into their schools from unaccredited Kansas City Public School if the law is upheld. The plaintiffs say they would spend more educating those students than tuition would generate. Attorneys for the state questioned the projections.


Extension Granted for Motions in Kansas Porn Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has granted an extension for motions in the case of a Kansas man facing child pornography charges. U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia on Wednesday extended the deadline for pre-trial motions in the case of Michael D. Arnett of Roeland Park. The motions, previously required August 6, are now due October 9. Arnett faces federal charges of making, possessing and distributing child pornography. A lawyer for Arnett says he's pleaded not guilty. Investigators have said Arnett's computer files also contained online chats about his desire to abduct, kill and eat children and had a photo of a naked toddler in a roasting pan inside his oven. The child has been identified and found alive. A Florida man who Arnett allegedly had the conversations with said the discussions were fantasy.


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