Topeka If one takes only television ads into consideration, the Kansas gubernatorial race is becoming a debate about votes cast more than a decade ago in the Legislature.
Both Republican Tim Shallenburger and Democrat Kathleen Sebelius have spent considerable time and effort researching each other's voting records as House members, then using them as broadswords in the two weeks left before the Nov. 5 election.
Shallenburger, the state treasurer, served from 1986 to 1998 in the House and was speaker in 1995-98. Sebelius, the state insurance commissioner, served from 1986 to 1994 in the House.
The latest TV ad in the governor's race was recently released by Shallenburger.
The ad is narrated by a woman and criticizes Sebelius through a jab at President Clinton. It chides Sebelius for voting for some tax increases and against certain crime bills, and it alleges she did not honor her pledge to reject campaign contributions from insurance companies.
Here is an analysis of the ad:
Narrator: "Well, that explains it. Kathleen Sebelius is a Clinton Democrat. That's why she thinks we believe her double talk. She's learned from the best." (Graphic shows: "I was born a Democrat, raised a Democrat, converted to a 'New Democrat' with Bill Clinton in 1988." That's attributed to Kathleen Sebelius in the New Democrat Magazine, Democrat National Convention.)
Fact: The information is taken from a short profile of Sebelius by the Democratic Leadership Council. In that profile, Sebelius also says her father, Jack Gilligan, a former governor of Ohio, was the political figure she admired most.
Narrator: "Does she really think we don't know she's a liberal? She voted for all kinds of taxes and against the tough crime laws that protect our kids." (The graphic labels Sebelius a "Lifetime Liberal" who voted for phone, sales, income and property taxes. Another graphic says she voted against creating drug-free school zones, registering sexual predators and keeping pornography away from children.)
Fact: Shallenburger's Web site, www.timshallenburger.com, includes material that the campaign says backs up the ad's claims. Included in that material, Shallenburger cites Sebelius' 1989 vote for a $1 billion tax bill for a highway construction plan that included a 7-cent-per-gallon increase in the motor fuels tax and an increase in vehicle registration fees.
At the time, however, Sebelius said she voted for the proposal to move it to the Senate, but she promised to vote against it if the taxes contained in it were not changed.
"The funding package too heavily taxes the working men and women to pay for the new roads. Unless this is changed, I cannot continue to support this highway plan," Sebelius said in the House Journal, which is the official record of House proceedings. Later that year, Sebelius and Shallenburger voted against the final version of the highway bill.
Another bill cited by Shallenburger was in 1991, when Sebelius voted for a measure that supporters said increased income and sales taxes while reducing the property taxes in a way to raise more funds for schools. But opponents of the bill, including Shallenburger, called it a general tax increase that was not connected to school funding. The House approved that bill 63-62. Gov. Joan Finney, a Democrat, vetoed the bill.
Shallenburger also points to a 1992 vote on taxes and school funding. This was a watershed vote that lowered statewide property taxes but increased other taxes and revamped the school finance system. Sebelius voted for the bill, and Shallenburger voted against it. The measure passed in the House 91-34. In the House Journal, many who voted for the bill said they reluctantly did so because it was the only opportunity to vote for reductions in property taxes.
On the crime votes, Sebelius has said Shallenburger took those out of context from a House voting record that included dozens of votes for tough crime bills.
Narrator: "Kathleen's even proudly saying she doesn't take money from insurance company executives. No, but she does take money from their spouses, from board members and lobbyists." (Graphic: Kathleen Sebelius: "Lifetime Liberal": Took over $27,000 in contributions from executive spouses, insurance company board members, insurance lobbyists.)
Fact: The Sebelius campaign says it has taken contributions from lobbyists who have insurance companies among their client list. Sebelius' campaign also said that during 2002, she has returned at least 49 contributions of more than $21,000 from individuals or companies associated with the insurance industry.
Narrator: Kathleen Sebelius is good good at double talk. But not for Kansas. (Graphic: Kathleen Sebelius wrong for Kansas).