LAKE QUIVIRA Democrat Kathleen Sebelius and Republican Tim Shallenburger on Tuesday sounded familiar campaign themes on taxes and schools but differed on two hot-button issues Â abortion and gambling Â during a gubernatorial debate at a country club.
Meanwhile, Libertarian Dennis Hawver crashed the forum and managed to get a few statements in despite objections from debate organizers at the Quivira Lake & Country Club, a picturesque and private facility located in a gated community.
About 300 people attended the luncheon forum sponsored by the Kansas City, Kan., Northeast Johnson County and Shawnee chambers of commerce.
Hawver, an Ozawkie attorney, defiantly stood without a podium next to Sebelius and Shallenburger during the debate, which was recorded and will be televised at 1 p.m. Saturday on KCTV (Channel 5 on Sunflower Broadband).
Regarding abortion, Shallenburger said the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision "allows abortion on demand" for the first two trimesters of pregnancy. But after that, he said, "I think there are things we can do to further restrict abortion."
He mentioned the possibility of pushing for a law that would require minors to notify their parents before getting an abortion.
Sebelius said she would propose no changes to current Kansas law.
She said she hoped the Legislature would try to reach consensus on other issues related to children and families.
Hawver, interjecting his comments above the protest of moderator and KCTV anchor Dave Helling, said the government should play no role in the issue of abortion.
On expanded gaming, Sebelius said she would support allowing local communities to vote on whether to establish casinos.
Shallenburger said he opposed the idea.
"It takes an awful lot of losers in Kansas for the state to make any money" from casinos, he said.
'Kicking and screaming'
The two major party candidates promised to protect schools and hold the lid on taxes, statements that drew a protest from Hawver.
"We are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy," Hawver said. He said the next governor needed to cut taxes and state spending by one-third.
Before the debate, Hawver said he would have to be dragged away "kicking and screaming," if debate organizers tried to remove him. He said he bought a $20 ticket for lunch at the club and if he was arrested for trying to participate in the debate, he would sue for breach of contract. Another minor party candidate on the Nov. 5 ballot is Ted Pettibone with the Reform Party. He was not at the debate.
Hawver was rebuffed several times by the moderator during the debate but did manage to get in a few statements.
After Sebelius and Shallenburger gave their closing statements, Sebelius handed Hawver her microphone so he also could give a final statement.
During the one-hour debate, Sebelius and Shallenburger stuck close to positions they have repeated throughout the campaign.
Shallenburger pledged not to raise taxes. But later when asked several times by reporters whether he would veto a tax increase if the Legislature approved one, he avoided a direct answer.
"I can't imagine any way that I would want a tax increase to pass," he said.
Asked the same question, Sebelius said it was impossible to answer.
"What does the tax bill have, how much is it, who is it falling on? I don't think there is any appetite in the Legislature (for a tax increase), and I don't think Kansans can afford it," she said.
The two exchanged jabs about school funding with Sebelius noting that Shallenburger had said that public school funding could be cut by 3 percent if the alternative was a tax increase.
"That is not my definition of holding education harmless," she said.
But Shallenburger said he would not cut school funding "by one penny." He said he would cut other areas of the budget by up to 10 percent.
He criticized a proposal by Sebelius that would increase state aid per pupil by $1,000 in the next four years, a proposal that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Shallenburger has said that would require a tax increase, but Sebelius said the increased funding could be gained through savings in other as-yet unspecified budget areas.
The debate also came amid the release of dueling polls. A poll commissioned by The Wichita Eagle and KWCH-TV in Wichita showed Sebelius leading Shallenburger by 18 percentage points. But Shallenburger released an internal poll that showed him down by 9 percentage points and gaining.