Topeka Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer said Wednesday he was strongly considering a run for governor as speculation grew that Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall would drop her bid for the Republican nomination.
Sherrer said he would not wait for Stovall currently vacationing in Ukraine to announce her intentions before making his decision public, though he acknowledged, "It would be the politically nice thing to do."
Word that Stovall might abandon her campaign, possibly for personal reasons, prompted a meeting of top Republican moderates Tuesday at Cedar Crest, Gov. Bill Graves' official residence, to study the implications. Graves was present; Sherrer was not.
Sherrer, 61, last year considered running for governor but then joined Graves and others in urging that the GOP's moderate wing unite behind a single candidate. That candidate turned out to be Stovall, who began her campaign in November with House Speaker Kent Glassock as her running mate.
Asked on Wednesday whether he now plans to run, Sherrer said: "I've had a number of phone calls, e-mails and visits from friends asking me not to lock the door on that option. I have agreed to seriously think about it."
Also in the GOP race are State Treasurer Tim Shallenburger, whom many Republicans deem the conservatives' choice, and Wichita Mayor Bob Knight. The primary election on Aug. 6 is less than four months away.
The only announced Democratic candidate is Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius.
All three of their campaigns have said a Stovall announcement wouldn't change their plans.
Glasscock said Wednesday there was no "campaign reason" for Stovall to leave the race and that developments in her private life may be affecting her decision.
"It was going great I mean it's going great," he said.
Glasscock said that Stovall has formed a close relationship with agriculture broadcasting executive and personality Larry Steckline, who lives in Garden Plain. Steckline owns the Mid-America Ag News Network, headquartered in Wichita. Steckline, 60, is a widower; Stovall, 45, is not married.
The House speaker and other Republicans suggested, but did not specifically say, that the relationship has led Stovall to reconsider her campaign. The radio network issued a statement Wednesday saying neither Steckline nor Stovall would comment.
The network said Steckline was in Ukraine on a business trip; on Tuesday, Stovall's campaign said she was vacationing in Ukraine. The network said a news conference would be scheduled for Monday.
Glasscock told the network Wednesday: "I know that they're very close. He's become a very good friend of hers. I know that has certainly had a very material impact on her life and a very positive one."
Reached Tuesday afternoon in Kiev by The Kansas City Star, Stovall declined to answer when asked if she planned to stay in the race and quickly hung up.
"I'm sorry, I really don't have a comment," she said.
With Graves barred from seeking a third term, several Republicans weighed candidacies last year. Glassock, who declared his own bid for governor in July but dropped out to run with Stovall, said he would be in a very interesting position if she decided not to run.
"If I were to re-engage I expect I'd have strong support," he said.
Sherrer, who also serves as the state's secretary of housing and commerce, is the longest-serving lieutenant governor in Kansas history. He was appointed in 1996 to complete Sheila Frahm's term, then ran for a full term as Graves' running mate in 1998.
He said Wednesday that if Stovall drops out, moderate Republicans would have to start over and rally and build support for another candidate.
"It has a pretty negative impact on what I call the majority of the Republican Party," he said.
Of Stovall's decision, he said, "It appears to me it's such a done deal. I'll be on my time schedule and not hers."
Several other Republicans were also being discussed Wednesday.
Senate President Dave Kerr said he would stick to his plans to announce whether he will run after the legislative session ends.
Speculation also centered on Sen. David Adkins of Leawood and state Party Chairman Mark Parkinson of Olathe.
Parkinson said Wednesday that he wouldn't run and Adkins said it would take extraordinary circumstances for him to drop his current bid for attorney general and run for governor.
But Adkins also said: "I have been encouraged by a number of my friends to keep my options open."