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Archive for Friday, July 29, 2005

Fellow Republican may challenge Praeger for post

July 29, 2005

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— Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a Republican political veteran from Lawrence, may face a challenge within her own party.

State Rep. Eric Carter of Overland Park is raising campaign funds to run against Praeger in the GOP primary in August 2006.

"I don't think the incumbent has adhered to Republican principles," Carter said Thursday.

Carter, 33, is a lawyer who has served in the Legislature since 2002 and is vice chairman of the House Insurance Committee.

Praeger, 60, was elected state insurance commissioner in 2002 and before that served in the state Senate for nine years and the House for one year. She has also served as mayor of Lawrence.

Praeger was unavailable for comment because she was attending a meeting in Chicago of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, her staff said.

But Assistant State Insurance Commissioner Robert Tomlinson said Carter's comments about Praeger were off-base.

"We're willing to stand on our record," Tomlinson said.

He said Praeger's leadership provided balance by helping consumers and getting more insurance companies to write policies in the state.

Carter said his major criticism of Praeger is that during the presidential campaign last year, she supported Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry's health care plan and criticized President Bush's proposal.

"Her endorsement of John Kerry's socialized health care plan demonstrates a dramatic philosophical break with free-market Republican views," he said.

Tomlinson, however, said Carter is misrepresenting Praeger's position.

He said Praeger opposed a proposal by Bush to let employer groups launch unregulated, self-insured plans called association health plans.

But, he said, she did support Bush's medical malpractice reform.

Praeger also had said she supported a proposal by Kerry where the federal government reimbursed employers 75 percent of a worker's medical bill that exceeds $50,000 in return for employers offering coverage to every worker and participating in programs that promoted good health.

Carter also criticized Praeger for supporting a proposal by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, to increase the state tax on cigarettes by 50 cents per pack in order to fund an extension of health care benefits to thousands of uninsured Kansans. The proposal went nowhere in the Legislature.

But Tomlinson said that though Praeger appeared with Sebelius when the plan was unveiled, she did not support the cigarette tax increase. She said Praeger wants to find a bipartisan solution to covering those who are uninsured.

Tomlinson said Praeger was a loyal Republican who served as co-chairwoman of the statewide Bush campaign.

Kansas Republican Chairman Tim Shallenburger said he had heard some criticism of Praeger because of her health care comments. But he added Carter faced an uphill climb.

"It's extremely difficult to upset or defeat an incumbent of either party in a primary election," he said.

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