Topeka Republican gubernatorial nominee Jim Barnett is attacking Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for a one-day trip to Arizona to review Kansas National Guard troops, saying it was only to further her re-election bid.
"This trip appears to be purely for political purposes," said Barnett campaign manager Christian Morgan. "The countdown has started for her campaign to release a television advertisement featuring photos from this trip."
But Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran said the trip was part of the governor's duties as commander of 7,000 Air and Army Guard members. Sebelius has visited troops in Armenia and Bosnia, and regularly attends deployment ceremonies and funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"She takes their work very seriously," Corcoran said. "She's honored to be commander in chief and will continue to visit the troops whenever her schedule allows her to do so."
The week before Tuesday's primary, Sebelius started airing a TV ad statewide with pictures of her with soldiers and their families. It touted her support for the military and described her as leading from the heart. The ad featured a picture from a trip Sebelius made last year to Iraq.
The Barnett campaign also used Sebelius' trip to Arizona as a reason to attack her on immigration issues.
Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and state Sen. Jim Barnett, the Republican candidate for governor, will meet in four debates. Sebelius and Barnett will face off Sept. 9 at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson for the traditional opening of the campaign. The two will meet again Oct. 11 before the Kansas City Chamber Consortium at the Lake Quivira Clubhouse; Oct. 23 before the Wichita Rotary Forum; and finally Oct. 28 on KSNT-TV in a live televised debate. The election is Nov. 7.
Sebelius went to Arizona to visit about 50 airmen from the 184th Civil Engineering Squadron, based at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, who have been deployed along the border. President Bush announced in May a plan to deploy up to 6,000 Guard members from around the nation along the border for about two years.
Morgan questioned Sebelius' support for defending the border with Mexico and slowing the flow of illegal immigrants.
He noted that in 2004, she signed a bill allowing some illegal immigrants to pay lower instate tuition rates at state universities and colleges and that she also endorsed an unsuccessful legislative proposal to grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
"Despite her election year interest in the issue, most Kansans still believe her position on illegal immigration is wrong," Morgan said.
The law lowering tuition rates for illegal immigrants requires them to have lived in Kansas at least three years and have graduated from a Kansas high school. Also, they have to seek citizenship or sign a statement saying they will.
Corcoran said tuition rates for legal residents of Kansas aren't affected and that the governor sees the law as a way to help young people who have lived in Kansas for years better themselves - and become more productive in the economy.
As for the driver's license proposal, Corcoran said illegal immigrants already hold jobs and drive in Kansas. Licensing them will require them to register their vehicles and obtain insurance, she said.
"We want them to be accountable," she said.