Political Endorsement Controversy Erupts Before August Primary

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A political endorsement controversy is erupting just three weeks before the August primary. A powerful local business group is now backing the challengers in three state senate races.

Three south-central Kansas senators who once had had the backing of the Wichita Area Chamber Political Action Committee are now wondering why they’ve lost that support.

Right now, three incumbent senators are finding themselves on the outside of an endorsement and support of the Wichita Area Chamber P.A.C. So the senators says they won’t participate in the chamber’s candidate forum Thursday.

"Our decline comes very simply as a result of the decision by the chamber to endorse and assist our opposing candidates in the upcoming primary," Says Senator Dick Kelsey.

The chamber, instead of endorsing Senator Kelsey of Goddard, endorses Representative Dan Kerschen. Instead of Carolyn McGinn of Sedgwick County, the chamber backs Wichita businessman Gary Mason. Instead of Senator Jean Schodorf of Wichita, the P.A.C. endorses Wichita Council Member Michael O’Donnell.

The senators say they’re puzzled, saying they’ve supported so many chamber initiatives, including aviation research and training and affordable airfares.

"All of these have been passed and all of these were priorities of the chamber," says Senator Jean Schodorf.

The chamber’s director of government relations acknowledges the incumbents have supported chamber programs but says this election is all about jobs and the economy.

"The issue that the Chamber P.A.C. has: these three incumbents have worked consistently to grow government and increase taxes," Says Chamber of Commerce Member Jason Watkins. "At the same time, these three opponents have a record of trying to reduce taxes, reduce regulation and reduce government spending."

Senator McGinn says the chamber is practicing divisive politics.

"Why do we want to go backwards? We've had such good success," says McGinn.

The chamber’s P.A.C. is giving the challengers’ campaigns $1,000 each. We’ll watch to see if this impacts the voting with the primary coming August 7.


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