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Archive for Friday, June 3, 2005

A bad fit

Kansas Secretary of State seems like exactly the wrong office for State Sen. Kay O’Connor.

June 3, 2005

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Of all the state offices State Sen. Kay O'Connor could seek, the office of Kansas Secretary of State seems to be the least appropriate.

Why would Kansas voters want to put in charge of the state's election process someone who has voiced disdain for the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote? Put her in charge of highways or the lottery, but not in charge of elections.

O'Connor of Olathe announced Wednesday that she would seek the Republican nomination for secretary of state next year. Her entrance into the race raised some eyebrows among those who remembered the national attention O'Connor drew in 2001 with her comments regarding the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the amendment ratified in 1920 granting women the right to vote.

The amendment was anti-family, she said. "The 19th Amendment is around because men weren't doing their jobs and I think that's sad. I believe the man should be the head of the family. The woman should be the heart of the family."

Announcing her candidacy on Wednesday, O'Connor said the flap over her comments was "silliness," but she stood by her opinion, saying, "I think men should take better care of their women, but I think women should be more willing to accept masculine care."

Apparently, that idea extends to men taking care of the voting duties for the family.

Although the current secretary of state, Republican Ron Thornburgh reportedly had been considering running for governor next year, he announced Thursday he would not enter that race. He declined to say whether he would seek re-election to his current office, but if he does, it would set up another primary battle between the conservative and moderate elements of the state's Republican Party.

Thornburgh got crosswise with conservative Republicans last year when he failed to squelch efforts by moderates to open the party's primaries to all voters. His position that parties, not state law, must decide who can vote in their primaries didn't set well with conservatives who wanted to keep the primary closed, as eventually happened.

O'Connor says she doesn't think her comments on women's suffrage should be a factor in her candidacy, but how can it not be? Would her questions about women having the right to vote also extend to voting rights for minority Kansans? Doesn't her disregard for women's voting rights raise questions about whether she would actively support measures to increase voter participation in the state?

If conservative Johnson County voters want to continue to be represented in the Kansas Legislature by O'Connor, who was re-elected last year, that's their choice. But the Kansas Secretary of State's office seems like the worst possible fit for a woman of O'Connor's talents.

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