Topeka — With a hard-hitting ad and testimonials from law enforcement officials, Democrat Kathleen Sebelius on Monday depicted Republican Tim Shallenburger as a negative campaigner who doesn't support public schools.
Shallenburger's side denied the claims. "Tim has been very supportive of education," said Alan Cobb, a spokesman for the Shallenburger campaign.
At a fire station, a group of sheriffs, police officers, firefighters and military veterans read statements in support of Sebelius and took Shallenburger to task for a television ad he released Thursday.
The ad criticizes Sebelius, who served in the Legislature for eight years, for voting against several bills that would have increased penalties for certain crimes and against a measure asking Congress to propose a constitutional amendment banning desecration of the U.S. flag.
The law enforcement officials said Shallenburger was distorting Sebelius' record by taking votes out of context and questioning her values and patriotism.
"With this outrageous and deceptive attack, Tim Shallenburger is attempting to divide the people of Kansas," said Finney County Sheriff Kevin Bascue, a Republican. "This ad is designed to mislead and scare voters."
Shallenburger's campaign stood by the ad, saying it accurately showed differences between the two candidates.
After release of Shallenburger's ad, Sebelius issued her first ad critical of the GOP candidate.
Here is an analysis of that ad, which is running statewide:
The ad features Shelly Bolejack, a teacher at Robinson Middle School in Topeka, who speaks to the camera.
Bolejack: "The candidates for governor are talking a lot about our schools. But as a teacher, I decided to examine the record for myself. Here's what I found. As speaker of the House, Tim Shallenburger failed to adequately fund education even in the best economic times."
Fact: Shallenburger served in the Kansas House from 1986 through 1998; he was speaker of the House from 1995 through 1998. The ad refers to increases in per-pupil funding approved in 1995 and 1996. The 1995 bill raised per-pupil funding by $26; the 1996 legislation by $22. Shallenburger voted against both bills, but in 1996 he voted for the general appropriations bill that included the $22 increase.
Shallenburger's campaign said Sebelius was misleading voters about his record on school funding, noting Shallenburger voted in other years for increases in per-pupil spending and funds for educating at-risk children.
Bolejack: "Now Shallenburger has proposed cutting funds for public education by as much as $69 million."
Fact: The ad refers to a statement Shallenburger made, but the ad does not include the complete statement. The day after his Republican Party primary victory in August, Shallenburger told reporters he thought school districts could afford a 3 percent budget cut, which is about $69 million, if it was necessary to avoid a tax increase.
Bolejack: "If you care about our schools as much as I do, you'll agree Tim Shallenburger has the wrong priorities to be governor."