Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a longtime Lawrence politician, has drawn a challenger within her own Republican Party from Eric Carter, a state legislator from Overland Park.
The winner of the GOP primary will face Democrat Bonnie Sharp of Kansas City, Kan., and Libertarian Patrick Wilbur of Lawrence.
In seeking a second four-year term, Praeger, 61, a former state senator, has received endorsements from Kansas Republican heavyweights including former U.S. Sens. Bob Dole and Nancy Kassebaum Baker and former Gov. Bill Graves.
But Carter, 34, a two-term Kansas House member, has charged that Praeger has been too closely aligned with Democrats.
Praeger denies that, saying Carter is trying to make the race about social issues and not regulating the insurance industry.
Praeger says she has maintained an evenhanded approach to regulating insurers, which has led to an increase in the number of companies coming to the state to sell insurance.
Carter has accused Praeger of overregulating, such as her efforts to help pass a 2001 bill that required health insurers to cover mental and physical illnesses equally. Carter said he would push for a bill to remove that mandate because he said mental health parity is the No. 1 driver of health care costs.
Praeger said studies show mental health parity provides an additional insurance cost of between 1 percent and 2 percent but saves costs in other ways because people are getting necessary treatment.