Regional Headlines for Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Kansas Polls Now Open
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Voting booths are now open for business in Kansas, even in the portion covered by the mountain time zone. Polls opened at 7 am local time. Kansas officials are expecting only a 68 percent voter turnout, the smallest percentage of Kansas voters casting ballots in a general election since 2000. Other than the presidential race, the statewide ballot lacks a marquee race, such as for U.S. Senate or governor. Even without hotly contested statewide races, federal prosecutors in Kansas say they'll be on duty throughout Tuesday to field complaints of election fraud and voting rights violations.
Update: Few Complaints of Election Problems Across Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Election officials say voting across Kansas has gone smoothly with few complaints other than long lines at polling places. The Secretary of State's office says it's received four or five reports of electronic voting machines selecting a different candidate when voters touch the screen. But spokeswoman Kay Curtis says the vote summary sheet allows voters to correct any discrepancies before actually casting their vote. The machines were recalibrated. A similar complaint about voting machines was made to the U.S. attorney's office. Kaylen Seymour, who watched polling places for the Democrats in Kansas, says the party is pleased with the way the state has handled elections. Turnout was expected to be high and lines long, but she says the party received no complaints about people not being able to vote.
Republicans Hope for Sweep of Kansas US House Seats
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans looked to repeat their sweep of the four Kansas congressional districts, keeping the House seats in the party's hands for the second straight election cycle. Topeka Republican Representative Lynn Jenkins is seeking a third term Tuesday, facing Democrat and Topeka pastor Tobias Schlingensiepen in the 2nd district in eastern Kansas. In the 4th District in south-central Kansas, GOP Representative Mike Pompeo faced Democrat Robert Tillman. Third District GOP Representative Kevin Yoder of Overland Park faced only Libertarian Joel Balam in his bid for a second term in the Kansas portion of the Kansas City metro area. Representative Tim Huelskamp is certain to be back in the 1st District seat of western Kansas. He faces no opposition on Tuesday after being unopposed in the August GOP primary.
Kansas GOP's Right Wing Seeks Dominance in Legislature
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's allies want conservative Republicans to dominate the Legislature after the election so that he'll have a free hand to remake the state. Democrats' hopes for picking up seats in the state Senate and House in Tuesday's election rested on voters seeing legislative races as a referendum on massive income tax cuts signed into law by Brownback this year. Democrats portrayed those cuts as likely to force big spending cuts. Conservatives hoped discontent with President Barack Obama would taint his fellow Democrats down the ballot, as it did in 2010. Republicans went into the election with majorities of 32-8 in the Senate and 92-33 in the House. Moderates had been able to check Brownback in the Senate, but conservatives prevailed in numerous primary races.
Candidate's Anti-Gay Church Ties Affect State Board of Ed Race
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Educators and political leaders in Kansas worry that a candidate with ties to an anti-gay Topeka church notorious for picketing military funerals could capture a State Board of Education seat. Republican Jack Wu is a Topeka computer programmer who made opposition to teaching evolution the cornerstone of his campaign ahead of Tuesday's election. He's running in the 4th District in northeast Kansas against Democratic incumbent Carolyn Campbell of Topeka. Wu says he was lured to Kansas from California in 2008 by Westboro Baptist Church. Wu is not formally a member, but he's attended services regularly. But even a Wu victory wouldn't alter the 10-member board's balance of power or revive chances that Kansas might adopt science standards for its public schools skeptical of evolution, as it has in the past.
In Heavily-GOP Kansas, Democrats Seek to Slow Shift to Right
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats in Republican-leaning Kansas are limited to hoping that they'll slow the GOP-dominated Legislature's shift to the right. Their efforts ahead of Tuesday's election came as conservative Governor Sam Brownback's allies work to tie them to President Barack Obama. Legislative races were the mostly closely watched contests because there was no U.S. Senate seat on the ballot and all four Republicans representing the state in the U.S. House were favored to win re-election comfortably. Republican Mitt Romney was expected to carry the state in the presidential race, as every GOP nominee has done since 1964. Polls opened at 7 am local time across the state. Secretary of State Kris Kobach was predicting a turnout of 68 percent, with about 1.2 million registered voters participating.
Early Kansas Voters Have Mixed Views on Obama
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The economy and health care are on the minds of Kansas voters as they take different positions on re-electing President Barack Obama. For 42-year-old Topeka resident Jim Clark, the biggest issue is the economy, and he voted for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Clark lost a full-time job as a computer administrator two years ago and has been working temporary assignments since then. Clark is a registered Republican, but he voted for Obama four years ago. Meanwhile, Topeka retirees and registered Democrats Jerry and Barb Estes voted for Obama, saying he should be allowed to finish work on his agenda. Barb Estes, a 77-year-old retired nurse, said the federal health care overhaul enacted in 2010 could be tweaked, but the country needed to tackle the issue.
Pittsburg Hospital Brings Ballots to Patients
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) _ Staff members at a southeast Kansas hospital are going room-to-room delivering ballots to patients too ill to make it to their regular polling stations. The Joplin Globe reports that Via Christi Hospital will ensure all the ballots make it to the Crawford County Courthouse in Girard on time. Hospital spokesman Michael Hayslip said in a statement that the hospital knows "voting is a right, not a privilege.'' Hayslip says patients and their families are overwhelmed by the effort. Several of them had expressed concerns about missing the chance to vote in the general election.
Kansas Officials Issue New Financial Forecast
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas revenue forecasters predict the state will collect nearly $705 million less in the next fiscal year than it will this year as income tax cuts take effect and a sales tax increase expires. The prediction issued Tuesday is the first glimpse at how the experts believe the cuts adopted in May will affect state revenue. The cuts take effect in January. The forecasters shaved $5.2 million from their earlier prediction of revenues in the fiscal year that ends next June 30, bringing it down to $6.17 billion. They also say they expect the state to collect $5.46 billion in the 2014 fiscal year, which begins next July. The forecasting team includes legislative researchers, members of the governor's budget stuff, Department of Revenue officials and economists from three state universities.
1 Killed As Small Plane Crashes in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A small plane crash near Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport killed the pilot. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says the Cessna Caravan struck a tree row Tuesday. The pilot, 52-year-old Brian P. Quinn of Lawrence, was the only person on board. Tony Molinaro, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, says the pilot reported engine trouble shortly after taking off. Molinaro says the pilot was trying to return to the Wichita airport when the crash occurred about two miles from the airport. The plane was headed to Garden City. FAA records show the plane was registered to Fed Ex Corporation. Fed Ex spokesperson Shea Leordeanu said in a statement the company extended its thoughts and prayers to those affected by the crash. She referred questions to Barron Aviation, which operated the plane.
Kansas Grain Elevator Fire Injures 1
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One man has been hospitalized after a fire broke out at a grain elevator in Wichita. The fire at the DeBruce grain elevator was reported Monday evening. Sedgwick County Deputy Fire Marshal Clint Reed said crews had to use aerial devices to reach the fire, which was about 120 feet off the ground on top of the elevator. Reed said the cause hasn't been determined but the fire appears to have started in the motor for one of the belt systems. A Sedgwick County dispatch supervisor said the victim, a man in his 30s, was taken to the burn unit of Via Christi Hospital. DeBruce was the scene of an explosion that killed 7 people and injured 10 others on June 8, 1998.
Cargill Gives $1.2M to Kansas State University
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Agribusiness company Cargill is giving $1.2 million to Kansas State University to continue helping minority students study agriculture, business and engineering. The school says the Cargill Project Impact Diversity Partnership was first introduced in 2008 through a gift of $1 million. Since it started, the school has seen a 68 percent increase in minority student enrollment in the target disciplines. Eighty-seven percent of the Cargill scholarship recipients return for their second year. That is 4 percentage points higher than the school's overall first-to-second-year retention rate and 17 percentage points higher than minority students overall. The school's associate provost for diversity, Myra Gordon, praised the gift as "generous." She says it helps the school reach its goals of recruiting and retaining more minority students.
KC Man Gets Life in Prison for Drugging, Molesting Girls
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man sentenced to 245 year in prison for drugging children with sleeping-pill laced ice cream so he could create porn says he wants to lead a "pro-pedophile" movement from prison. During sentencing Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple told 63-year-old James Phillip Edwards that his "conduct is beyond comprehension." The Kansas City Star reported that Edwards videotaped his assaults on 13 girls over a four-year period. Edwards pleaded no contest in March 2011 to 21 counts related to producing and distributing child pornography. Court records say Edwards's plan to become a pro-pedophile activist came to light in an essay he wrote called, "The Pedophile Minority." Prosecutors said in a sentencing document that Edwards decided to be the "standard-bearer for pedophiles" and to start while in prison.
Liberty Woman Convicted of Keeping Too Many Cats
LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City woman who traps, neuters, releases and feeds feral cats has been convicted of harboring too many of the animals. Annette Betancourt was cited for creating a public nuisance in October 2011 after neighbors complained about a feral cat colony under her care. The Kansas City Star reports that Clay County (Missouri) jurors convicted her Monday of violating the municipal ordinance. She could face a sentence of up to 90 days in the county jail, a fine of up to $500 or a combination of both penalties. About 30 supporters of Betancourt attended the daylong trail. Several said trapping and neutering feral cats helps control their numbers. Betancourt called what she did a community service. City prosecutor Thomas McGiffin says Betancourt refused to cooperate with authorities.
Long Lines in Some Spots as Polls Open in Missouri
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri residents are being warned to prepare for long lines and a lengthy ballot when they arrive at polling places. Polls opened Tuesday at 6 am across the state as voters decided not only on a president and a nationally watched U.S. Senate race, but also several statewide races and ballot measures. As polls opened in Kansas City, local television stations showed long lines of voters waiting to cast their ballots and parking lots full of cars. That's expected to be the case across the state, with election officials predicting 72 percent of registered voters will cast ballots — more than 3 million people. Weather conditions aren't expected to be a factor, with dry and mostly pleasant conditions and temperatures in the high 50s to low 60s.
Kansas Officials to Issue New Financial Forecast
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials and university economists are preparing to issue new revenue projections for Governor Sam Brownback and legislators to use in making budget decisions. Tuesday's meeting allows the forecasters to revise earlier projections for the fiscal year that began July 1. They'll also issue the first official estimates for the fiscal year that begins in July 2013. The current forecast was issued in April and predicts the state will collect $6.4 billion in revenues in the current fiscal year. But the projections don't take into account the massive state income tax cuts enacted in May. The forecasting team includes legislative researchers, members of Brownback's budget stuff, Department of Revenue officials and economists from three state universities.
Kansas Democrats Put $96K into Legislative Races over 2 Days
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new campaign finance report shows that the Kansas Democratic Party spent nearly $96,000 in only two days to help legislative candidates during the final days before Tuesday's elections. The report filed by the party with the secretary of state's office shows that the mailings helped Democrats Kyle Russell of Roeland Park and Lisa Johnston of Overland Park in their campaigns for open Kansas Senate seats in Republican-leaning Johnson County. Their mailings cost the Democratic Party more than $22,000 on Thursday and Friday. The party spent about $73,000 on mailings for 18 House candidates during the same two days. Democrats contend they need such aggressive efforts to counter mailings by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, which has spent more than $400,000 boosting GOP candidates.
Kansas Turnpike Rates to Increase February 1
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Drivers on the Kansas Turnpike will start paying more on February 1. The Kansas Turnpike Authority announced Monday that cash rates for cars and light trucks will increase an average of 10 percent. Rates for K-TAG users will increase an average of 5 percent. Drivers of large commercial vehicles will pay about 5 percent more, whether they pay cash or use the electronic K-TAG. The Turnpike Authority said in a news release Monday the increased revenue will pay for future capital needs, including deck replacements for some of the turnpike's 348 bridges. No tax dollars are used to maintain the turnpike.
Zebra Mussels Found in Wyandotte County Lake
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — State wildlife officials have found invasive zebra mussels in an eastern Kansas lake. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism says a recent survey found both larval and adult zebra mussels at the 407-acre Wyandotte County Lake. The agency says there are now 17 Kansas reservoirs and lakes infested with the aquatic nuisances. Zebra mussels are bean-sized mollusks with striped shells that have been spread around the world via cargo ships. In Kansas, the communities of Council Grove and Osage City have both had water shortages because of zebra mussel infestations. The department says new regulations aimed at stopping the spread of aquatic nuisance species include draining boat bilges before transporting them from any Kansas water on a public highway.
Kansas Officials Update Disabled Services Waiting List
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two top officials in Governor Sam Brownback's administration say the state has completed updated lists containing the names of physically disabled Kansans seeking in-home services. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer and Aging and Disability Services Secretary Shawn Sullivan announced Monday the list was cut to 2,197 people, reducing it by about a third after workers validated the names of those seeking services. Advocates for the disabled had complained that people on the list were waiting too long to receive help they were entitled to under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states must provide services to people with disabilities. Earlier this year, negotiations broke down between the Brownback administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and HHS forwarded the waiting list complaints to the Justice Department.
Vandals Hit Vehicles, Stores in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka are investigating a rash of vandalism to vehicles, businesses and mailboxes over the weekend. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that police received at least 25 reports of vandalism from Friday night through Sunday morning Most of the incidents occurred on the city's west side. Nearly 20 vehicles had windows, windshields and rearview mirrors damaged. Someone shot out the windows at three stores, including a Payless ShoeSource. At least one residential mailbox was damaged.
No Graves Found in Downtown Lawrence Dig
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A big dig in downtown Lawrence has failed to unearth any unmarked graves from the Civil War. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the excavation took place Monday on the future site of a multistory hotel and parking garage. The state archaeologist for Kansas, Bob Hoard, was on hand. Hoard says the dig revealed some bones from cows and pigs, along with two cisterns and the outline of an old building. In a 1903 master's thesis, a University of Kansas student wrote that victims of Quantrill's Raid were dumped in a trench on the property. But Hoard says he found no evidence an open trench ever existed. Quantrill's Raid took place in August 1863 when Confederate guerrillas invaded eastern Kansas and sacked Lawrence, killing most of the male population.
Kansas Winter Wheat Planting Nearly Finished
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Winter wheat planting in Kansas is nearly complete with 98 of the crop seeded as of Sunday. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that planting of the 2013 crop is running at roughly the same pace as last year, but ahead of the five-year average. About 87 percent of the wheat has now emerged. The agency rates the emerging crop's condition as 13 percent poor to very poor, 50 percent fair, 35 percent good and 2 percent excellent. Meanwhile, the Kansas corn harvest is 99 percent complete, with cutting more than three weeks ahead of normal. Harvest of other crops also made some good progress over the past week, with 86 percent of the soybeans and 75 percent of the sorghum now safely in the bin.
Minimal Damage After Fire at Hutchinson Prison
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — No injuries and minor damage were reported after a fire at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. The fire Sunday evening was reported in D Cell House Sunday evening. Prison spokesman Dirk Moss says the cause is under investigation. Battalion Chief Doug Hanen says the fire occurred in a restricted area where plumbing and cables are contained. Crews extinguished the fire within 10 minutes. Prisoners were moved to the prison yard when the fire was reported but returned to the cell block after the fire crews left. This is the second fire at the facility in the past month. An inmate was treated for smoke inhalation after a fire in his cell in October. No one else was injured.
Board of Regents Considers Implementation of 'Post-Tenure' Reviews
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents is considering requiring the state's six universities to conduct periodic reviews of tenured faculty. Board of Regents Vice Chairman Fred Logan says the "post-tenure" reviews would assess how professors are performing, perhaps every five years. He said the regents could approve the policy at their December meeting. Andrew Torrance, a law professor who is Faculty Senate president at the University of Kansas, says most faculty members would not object to the proposal, if it is not done only to be punitive. Logan said the policy would not weaken tenure protections, and faculty would be involved in planning the post-tenure process. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Logan doesn't think the policy would be implemented until at least next year.
Fake War Hero Sentenced in Kansas for Federal Contract Fraud
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A western Missouri man who lied about being a disabled war hero to get federal contracts has been sentenced to prison in Kansas. The U.S. Attorney's office says 70-year-old Warren Parker, of Blue Springs, Missouri, was sentenced Monday to slightly more than seven years in prison. Parker pleaded guilty in April to numerous counts, admitting he lied to secure more than $7 million in government contracts under a program designed to help small businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. Parker claimed he served in Vietnam and earned three Silver Stars and three Purple Hearts. In fact, authorities say, he never left Missouri while serving as a National Guard mechanic from 1963 to 1968. Three co-defendants await trial along with Parker's company, Silver Star Construction, which operated in Missouri and Stilwell, Kansas.
Chiefs' Crennel Removes Himself As Defensive Coordinator
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel has relieved himself of duties as defensive coordinator on a day in which the team waived starting cornerback Stanford Routt and signed defensive tackle Shaun Smith. Crennel had been juggling head coaching and coordinator duties since taking over on an interim basis when Todd Haley was fired last December. Crennel announced Monday that Gary Gibbs would become defensive coordinator and he would spend more time with the entire team. Routt was one of the Chiefs' notable free-agent acquisitions, signing a three-year, $18 million deal to fill in after Brandon Carr left for the Dallas Cowboys. Crennel said Javier Arenas will move into the starting lineup opposite Brandon Flowers. Smith has been out of the league since the Titans waived him in August.
K-State Coach Snyder Hopes Klein Will Play vs TCU
UNDATED (AP) — Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is hopeful injured quarterback Collin Klein will be available for next Saturday's game at TCU. The Heisman Trophy candidate was hurt during the third quarter of the Wildcats' 44-30 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday. Snyder did not discuss the nature or severity of the injury, but all indications point toward a possible concussion. When asked about Klein on Monday, Snyder replied: "Seems fine to me." And when asked whether he'll play against the Horned Frogs, Snyder said: "Hope so."
Home Field Not Much of an Advantage in Big 12
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — There's proving to be no home-field advantage for football teams playing in the Big 12 conference this season. Road teams are on track to have a winning record for the first time in the conference's history, taking 16 of 27 games so far this year. Historically, road teams have won only 40.6 percent of Big 12 games. The best finish for visitors was a .500 mark in both the inaugural Big 12 season in 1996 and again in 2010. Texas Tech football coach Tommy Tuberville called this season so far "a little mind-boggling." His Red Raiders are among the teams who have gotten the results backward, losing twice at home but winning a pair of games on the road this season. Number 3-ranked Kansas State is the only team without a home loss in conference play.
First-Place New England Patriots Get Back to Work, Await Talib
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Even when they're not playing, the New England Patriots still manage to make headlines. Prior to the NFL trading deadline on Thursday, which came during their bye week, the Patriots (5-3) acquired Aqib Talib from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers despite the shutdown cornerback's troubled past. New England gave up a fourth-round pick in next year's draft for Talib, who has 18 interceptions since being selected by Tampa Bay with the 20th pick in 2008 out of the University of Kansas. The Patriots also snared a 2013 seventh-round choice in the deal, as well. However, Talib will miss the upcoming game against Buffalo (3-5) on Sunday while serving the final game of a four-game suspension he received for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. He said at the time of the suspension that he took an Adderall pill without a prescription "around the beginning of training camp." New England coach Bill Belichick wouldn't divulge much about the acquisition during his weekly conference call with reporters Monday, other than saying Talib will report to the Patriots "when the league allows him to."
Kansas Voters Head to Polls in Near-Ideal Weather
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Registered voters in Kansas won't be able to blame the weather for not casting ballots. Conditions across the state were expected to be dry and mild Tuesday, with temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to low 70s and little to no chance of rain. The conditions would ordinarily help make for high voter turnout. But Kansas officials anticipate only a 68 percent showing — the smallest percentage of Kansas voters casting ballots in a general election since 2000. One reason why a third of the state may take a pass is because after the presidential choice, the statewide ballot lacks a marquee race, such as for U.S. Senate or governor.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Feds to Monitor Election Complaints in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says federal prosecutors in Kansas will be on duty throughout Tuesday's polling hours to field complaints of election fraud and voting rights violations. Grissom says anyone with evidence of electoral corruption or voting rights abuses should call his office immediately at 785-295-2850. The FBI's regional office in Kansas City, Missouri was also making agents available Tuesday to take reports of voter suppression or election abuses. The FBI can be reached at 816-512-8200. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office also monitors the election and takes complaints. In Wichita, the group KanVote was placing volunteers at polling places to observe implementation of Kansas voter ID laws in low-income neighborhoods.
**This story has been updated. Please see above.