Archive for Thursday, June 18, 1998


June 18, 1998


Republican candidates for governor shouldn't let their campaigns be sidetracked from a serious discussion of key issues facing Kansas.

Kansans should hope that the campaign for the Republican nomination for governor rises above its current level of rhetoric.

The campaign story in Wednesday's Journal-World focused on exchanges between Gov. Bill Graves and challenger David Miller and their campaigns concerning a bill banning same-sex marriages in Kansas. When James Dobson, founder of the ``Focus on the Family'' group, was in Wichita campaigning for Miller recently, he chided Graves for his stand on the bill. Although the governor signed the bill in 1996, he apparently made comments that critics interpreted as not being sufficiently supportive of traditional marriage.

Dobson's remarks triggered a flurry of statements from both sides. The governor's spokesman said Dobson had erroneously told the audience that Graves had vetoed the bill banning same-sex marriages. Dobson came back with a statement that whether the bill was vetoed or signed was not as important as Graves' ``lack of enthusiasm in signing the bill.''

Miller added his two cents' worth by accusing Graves of ``trying to run from statements he himself made as governor,'' and that the governor's ``flippant comments'' offended ``thousands of Kansans who share our concern about the country's moral decline.''

This is not to say that the nation's values are not an important issue, but surely there are more substantial and concrete issues that the gubernatorial candidates should be discussing. How about highways or higher education? How about economic development or funding for public schools? Why are the candidates focusing on an issue like same-sex marriage which affects relatively few Kansans?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is all too clear. Rather than dealing with the nuts-and-bolts issues of how to run the state, too much time is likely to be spent in this campaign focusing on emotion-laden issues. Rather than talking about candidates' qualifications or stands on key issues, too much time will be spent casting aspersions or responding to implications about character or moral issues. The plan seems to be to try to evoke an emotion-based vote rather than calling on voters to cast their ballots based on a candidate's qualifications and stand on key issues.

It's too easy to spend a campaign firing barbs and casting aspersions. The Republican candidates need to rise above that rhetoric and talk about issues that affect a broad spectrum of Kansas residents.

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