Topeka Democrats and some of his fellow Republicans have suggested for weeks that Gov. Bill Graves' endorsement of Phill Kline's 3rd District congressional campaign was half-hearted.
However, Graves plans to participate in two fund-raisers within a week for Kline, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Dennis Moore in the Nov. 7 general election. While Democrats questioned the significance Wednesday of Graves' plans, Republicans saw it as a sign of party unity.
The state GOP has made defeating Moore its top priority. That's because Republicans rarely lose the 3rd District race and because Republicans are trying to hold onto a slim majority in the U.S. House.
The first event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.
The second is set for noon Oct. 10 at the Shadow Glen Country Club in Olathe. Bob Dole is listed as a "special honored guest."
"It's very, very helpful," Kline said Wednesday. "The governor is widely respected."
Moore spokeswoman Kim Hall said it isn't a surprise that a Republican governor would participate in fund-raisers for a Republican congressional candidate.
"I know the governor said he was endorsing Phill Kline because it was politically pragmatic," she said. "I do not second guess other people's endorsements. I only know what I read."
Kline is a conservative state representative, and he was a vocal critic of the governor during much of his legislative career. Graves leads the Kansas GOP's moderate wing, and he endorsed one of Kline's opponents in the Aug. 1 primary.
When Graves endorsed Kline during the Republican National Convention, state GOP officials were quick to declare the party unified.
But the governor acknowledged he was being pragmatic and didn't want to jeopardize the Republicans' majority.
Kari Austin, state GOP executive director, said Democrats had suggested Graves was not enthusiastic about endorsing Kline because, "They wished it was half-hearted."
"This proves it was anything but half-hearted," she said. "It kind of proves that the governor has been 100-percent supportive of Kline and the Kline campaign."
State Democratic Chairman Tom Sawyer laughed at those statements.
"If I was the governor, I'd be doing everything I could to keep Phill Kline out of my hair," Sawyer said. "He was the governor's biggest nemesis in the Legislature."