Topeka After considering a run for governor, Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh has decided to seek a fourth term next year, although he first must get past a Republican primary opponent he's not taking for granted.
Thornburgh, 42, a moderate, announced his re-election plans Thursday. He faces conservative Sen. Kay O'Connor, of Olathe, in the Aug. 1 primary, for the job that includes being the state's chief elections official.
"The roadside is littered with people who took Kay O'Connor too lightly, and I will not be one of those," Thornburgh said. "We're working real hard to raise money and make sure our grass-roots efforts are in great shape. If we do the work we're capable of, we will win next August."
Thornburgh considered the GOP gubernatorial nomination to face Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who's expected to seek re-election. But he said the campaign would have taken too much time away from his family, including sons Grey, 8, and Tanner, 6.
"I wasn't willing to trade two little boys for that big mansion on the west side of town," he said, adding his decision didn't mean he never would run for governor.
"It just means not at this time; the time is not right," said Thornburgh, who won re-election in 2002 with 66 percent of the vote.
Thornburgh has been involved in implementing improvements in the election process, including the federal Help Americans Vote Act, which he helped draft.
He said the act requires states by next year to develop a system where anybody with a disability will have access to a polling place and be able to cast a ballot unassisted.
Thornburgh said he also has been involved in developing a statewide voter registration database to be operational by year's end. It will replace separate databases in the 105 counties linked by connections.
When O'Connor got into the race in June, she called for an early presidential primary for Kansas. She also complained about moderate GOP leaders trying to open primaries to independent voters after a federal appeals court said parties, not state law, must decide who votes in their primaries.
Thornburgh said he's opposed to open primaries.
"I believe you need to be a member of the political party in which you cast a vote," he said. "It's a nomination, not an election."
He said the state has a presidential primary law, although there hasn't been an election since 1992. Legislators canceled the 1996, 2000 and 2004 primaries because of costs. Democrats and Republicans had caucuses instead.
"The Legislature removed the funding each time; I fought them every single time and lost," Thornburgh said.
O'Connor said the presidential primary should be early in the year, but Thornburgh said it's best to leave that decision to the secretary of state.
"It would be a mistake to target a date years ahead when it's such a fluid process," he said.
In 2001, O'Connor received national attention for her remarks about the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, which gave women the right to vote.
"I think the 19th Amendment, while it's not an evil in and of itself, is a symptom of something I don't approve of," she said at the time. "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."