Topeka Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall's withdrawal from the Republican Party primary for governor ended days of speculation about her political intentions but raised questions about the status of campaign funds she has collected the past few months.
State ethics officials said they will take up the issue of the campaign funds soon and rule on the matter, probably by May 7.
House Speaker Kent Glasscock, R-Manhattan, has been campaigning for lieutenant governor as Stovall's running mate. He believes the money goes to him, according to his spokesman Scott Holeman. Glasscock is expected to announce that he is running for governor in the next couple of days.
"We have every right to believe that all that money follows Kent Glasscock," said Holeman, who refused to say how much money was in the Stovall-Glasscock account.
The last campaign finance report filed Jan. 10 showed the Stovall-Glasscock campaign had about $302,000 on hand. Stovall said that even when she knew she was going to exit the campaign, she continued raising funds for the campaign, which was seen as the moderate Republican ticket.
The issue is further clouded by the fact that Glasscock initially had been running for governor, then stepped aside to make room for Stovall after his campaign struggled. At that time, Glasscock brought approximately $120,000 to the Stovall-Glasscock ticket, according to campaign officials.
Tim Shallenburger, the state's treasurer and a conservative Republican candidate for governor, said Glasscock should not get money from the Stovall account.
"We have always operated under the assumption that the gubernatorial candidate is the person that is the ticket, and when the campaign loses its ticket then the money should be returned," Shallenburger said.
State law requires that candidates who end their campaign either return the money to their contributors, or give the money to charity, their political party or the state's general revenue fund.
The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission will issue an opinion on disposition of the Stovall campaign funds at its May 7 meeting, said Carol Williams, the commission's executive director.
"There is no statute that expressly addresses this issue," in these circumstances, she said.
Stovall's announcement Monday brought to an end a bizarre few days in Kansas politics.
Last week, Stovall was traveling in the Ukraine with Kansas broadcast executive Larry Steckline, with whom she said she had developed a "significant and serious relationship."
While away, rumors circulated that Stovall was about to exit the race. Gov. Bill Graves had top moderate Republicans from across the state at the governor's mansion to talk about what they would do if Stovall left the ticket.
For days, media reported that GOP officials were bracing for a Stovall departure.
Finally on Monday, having returned from Ukraine, Stovall confirmed she was not running anymore.
Stovall, a two-term attorney general, said she was leaving the race because she didn't have the passion to campaign nor the commitment to serve. And although she said the events of Sept. 11 caused her to seek the nomination, she said her heart was never in the race.
"I could not muster the passion to run statewide for the third time nor could I envision pleasure in service as governor," Stovall said during a news conference outside her office across the street from the Capitol. "I discovered the correct political decision in September was absolutely the wrong personal choice for me.
"As the weeks and months progressed, I realized that I simply could not stay the course no matter how hard I tried," she said.
Relationship not an issue
Stovall said her relationship with Steckline, owner of the Wichita-based Mid-America Ag News Network, had nothing to do with her decision to end her gubernatorial bid.
Stovall said she tried to exit the campaign in January but people, whom she refused to identify, persuaded her to continue.
Stovall said she would finish out her term as attorney general, but she didn't indicate what she would do next. She took questions for about 10 minutes and then hurriedly ended the news conference.
She said she plans to support Glasscock, and doesn't believe her leap in and out of the campaign will hurt moderate Republicans in the Aug. 6 primary or the GOP candidate in the November general election. She said had she stayed in the race she would have won.
Wichita Mayor Bob Knight also has entered the Republican race, and Lt. Gov. Garry Sherrer and Senate President Dave Kerr of Hutchinson are considering whether to run. Former Eudora school superintendent Dan Bloom also seeks the GOP nomination.
The likely Democratic candidate is Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius. Her spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran-Basso said, "What I can tell you for sure is that Kathleen Sebelius is running for governor and she is working to put people before anything else."