Topeka If U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., is known for anything in his long-shot bid for the presidency, it is that he is anti-abortion.
During a Thursday teleconference, Brownback said that always had been his position.
Not true, say some in Kansas who have a different recollection of Brownback's rise through the state Republican Party ranks.
Kansas Republican Party Chairman Tim Shallenburger said he remembered having a conversation with Brownback in 1994 when Brownback was running in the GOP primary for the U.S. House.
After the conversation, Shallenburger said he left with the impression that Brownback "was not pro-life."
David Gittrich, development director for the state's largest anti-abortion organization, Kansans for Life, said when Brownback first ran for Congress in 1994 "he was ill-informed."
Gittrich added, "He didn't know whether he was pro-life or pro-choice."
In that 1994 primary, Brownback defeated Bob Bennie, who had been endorsed by anti-abortion groups and was seen as the anti-abortion candidate, Gittrich and Shallenburger said.
But Brownback disputes that description of his past political beliefs.
"It's not true," he said.
He said in that 1994 race he probably failed to get his views across because instead of stating that he was "pro-life," he would tell audiences where he stood on various abortion-related bills before Congress.
Asked why he did that, Brownback said he thought it was more appropriate to address specific legislation. He conceded it probably was a "poor choice of words at the time. I've learned that lesson."
But Gittrich said he had heard from others that Brownback simply didn't understand the issues at the time.
When anti-abortion advocates met with Brownback after he won the primary and after he studied the issue, it became apparent that Brownback was anti-abortion, Gittrich said.
"He had a strong Christian perspective, and when he put it all together he knew he was pro-life. He just didn't know whether he would say he is pro-life," he said.
Shallenburger said when Brownback first ran for Congress he was more out of the moderate mold of the Kansas Republican Party, which supports abortion rights and current restrictions.
It wasn't until 1996 when Brownback ran for the U.S. Senate that he became identified with the GOP's conservative wing, Shallenburger said.
That was the year Bob Dole resigned his Senate seat to run for president, creating an opening that then-Gov. Bill Graves filled with the appointment of his lieutenant governor, Sheila Frahm. Brownback took on Frahm, a moderate, and defeated her in the GOP primary, which for years has been dominated by conservative voters.
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