Several thousand pamphlets arrived in Lawrence area mailboxes Thursday, outlining a conspiracy supposedly brewing in the Kansas Senate.
But Sen. Sandy Praeger, R-Lawrence, one of the alleged co-conspirators, says the claim she seeks re-election only so she can quickly resign is "completely off the wall."
Richard Rodewald, a conservative rural Eudoran who faces Praeger in the Aug. 1 GOP primary, says he's pretty sure the conspiracy outlined in The Citizen, published by Ed Powers of Kansas City, Kan., is for real, a plot to keep Republican moderates in control of the 40-seat Senate.
Rodewald says he believes Praeger, a moderate, didn't want to run again but was persuaded by Senate President Dick Bond, R-Overland Park.
"It's well known in Topeka that if Praeger didn't run, nobody else could beat me. I campaign too hard. They know that," Rodewald said.
Political analyst and newsletter publisher Martin Hawver has covered the Kansas Statehouse for 25 years. He says Rodewald's estimation of himself as a formidable candidate is overblown.
"He's sort of a speed bump, a tax protester," Hawver said.
But Rodewald contends he could beat Praeger if the Journal-World and Kansas City Star would print "good stories" about him.
Rodewald, a retired General Motors worker, said the plot was to work like this: After the election, Praeger resigns. Gov. Bill Graves then appoints Kansas University budget director Marlin Rein to replace her.
Rodewald said he'd never heard of Rein, but had been told Rein is a Bond confidant quick to follow the Senate president's orders.
Bond is not seeking re-election. But that doesn't undermine the conspiracy theory, Rodewald said, because Bond intends to run the Senate from his office at Guaranty Bank & Trust in Kansas City, Kan.
Bond could not be reached for comment.
In the mail
Rodewald's theory is outlined in the latest issue of The Citizen, a monthly Kansas City publication that arrived in several thousand Lawrence-area mailboxes Thursday.
Del Dey, Lawrence, called the Journal-World after reading the pamphlet.
"I want to know who's the idiot that put this out," Dey said, referring to The Citizen. "There's nothing in here that verifies anything he's saying " nothing is signed, and he never says where he gets his information."
Rodewald, who dropped out of a 1994 Kansas House race after being arrested, and later acquitted, of assaulting police officers participating in a charity relay for the Special Olympics, said his assertions are based on three sources:
- Ed Powers, publisher of The Citizen.
- A House member from western Kansas who overheard Bond tell a group of moderate Republican colleagues he "wanted to hold on to Praeger's seat." Rodewald would not identify the legislator.
- Rep. Ralph Tanner, R-Baldwin, who told him Praeger was unlikely to seek a third term.
Tanner confirmed he had spoken with Rodewald.
"Oh, my word, that was months ago," he said. "I believe I said Sandy was unsure about running again, and that if she didn't, (State Rep.) Tom Sloan was interested in filing for that seat.
"That was true at the time, but a lot has changed since then. If Mr. Rodewald is basing his assertions on our conversation, he's clutching a very thin reed."
Tanner called Rodewald's assumptions "scurrilous."
Out of the loop
Rein said he knew nothing about the would-be conspiracy until being shown a copy of The Citizen article.
"I'm terribly flattered, but, no" I have no idea where this came from," said Rein, whose duties include steering the KU and KU Medical Center budgets through the Legislature.
"I just wish they'd spelled my name right," Rein said. Throughout The Citizen story, Rein is referred to as "Ryan."
Graves spokesman Don Brown said the governor had "no knowledge" of a plan to replace Praeger with Rein.
"I cannot imagine where that speculation got started," he said. "It's our understanding that Sandy's pretty fired up about her legislative duties. If she's re-elected, I can't imagine her walking away."
Praeger said she did, in fact, consider not seeking a third four-year term to pursue an administrative position -- secretary, perhaps -- within the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
"The governor and I had a very general discussion about that before the (2000 legislative) session ended," she said. "But his statement to me was 'My preference is that you stay in the Senate,' and I said I would think about it."
Praeger, considered the Senate's expert on health care issues, said she decided to run again after several key senators, including Bond and Senate Majority Leader Tim Emert, R-Independence, announced their retirements.
"The Senate is going to go through a lot of change next year," Praeger said. "And I truly feel I can do the most for my district by staying right where I am and by providing the kind of leadership that's going to be needed."
Praeger, who's currently chairwoman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, said she has no plans to resign.
"I wouldn't run if I didn't intend to serve," she said. "That would be dishonest."
Praeger said most of The Citizen article is too far-fetched to be taken seriously. But she is a little miffed over the paragraph alleging her husband, Dr. Mark A. Praeger, "put his foot down," insisting that she not run.
"That is absolutely not true," she said. "My husband and I do not have that kind of relationship.
"We are both very supportive of one another," she said. "The funny thing about this is that when I asked my husband what he thought I should do, he said 'I think you ought to run.'
"He thinks this whole thing is hilarious."
Rodewald said Powers contributed the details about Dr. Praeger's objections.
And where did Powers get his information?
"I don't give interviews," Powers said. "I don't talk to reporters."