Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline made a roomful of supporters laugh in Lawrence on Saturday after he said they appeared to be in good health.
"Of course I already knew that. I've got all of your medical records," he said.
Kline's joke at a Republican rally before about 40 people at the headquarters of the Douglas County Republicans, 3310 Iowa, referred to one of the most contentious issues in his bitter campaign against Democrat challenger Paul Morrison, the Johnson County district attorney.
Last week, Kline's office received edited versions of records through a subpoena for 90 patients from two abortion clinics. Kline has said his office is reviewing the records without seeking the patients' identities to investigate alleged child rapists and abortion doctors.
The two clinics have fought Kline in court for two years, and Morrison has called Kline's action an abuse of power.
Later in his speech Saturday, Kline said he had no interest in the general public's medical records.
He contended that some records play an important role in investigations of sexual abuse and other cases. He received cheers and applause when he mentioned their use in the federal conviction of Arlan and Linda Kaufman, who were sent to prison for Medicare fraud and forced labor in abuse of mentally ill patients at a group home in Newton.
"Phill Kline's jokes are better than his judgment. Unfortunately, we can't trust Phill Kline to protect the privacy of our private medical records," said Mark Simpson, Morrison's campaign manager.
Kline and other Republican state candidates, including gubernatorial hopeful state Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, met local candidates and officeholders and stopped in Lawrence for 45 minutes as part of a three-day statewide bus tour leading up to Tuesday's general election.
Richard Todd, chairman of the Douglas County Republicans, estimated 40 supporters attended the Lawrence rally - the final stop before ending the tour in Shawnee.
Before boarding the bus to leave Lawrence, Kline said he had used the joking reference during other stops Saturday.
"Yeah, to kind of explain things. There's an effort to perpetrate a lie on the people of Kansas, and it's shameful," Kline said. "I will act to protect our children. Paul Morrison knows you need medical records to protect our children against child rape. He's admitted he's sought it thousands of times, and he shouldn't engage in this type of false campaign."
But Simpson said Morrison's experience as a prosecutor would come into play in the race.
"(Morrison) knows how to fight crime without violating the privacy of Kansans' most private medical records," Simpson said.
More about the race
- Campaigns at fever pitch in final days before election (11-05-06)
- About half of voters expected to turn out (11-04-06)
- Republican officials plan bus campaign tour (11-02-06)
- More about the race for Governor
- More about the race for Attorney General
- More about the race for Secretary of State
- More in Election 2006
In other Republican stump speeches Saturday, congressional hopeful Chuck Ahner, of Overland Park, who is trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Dennis Moore in the state's 3rd District, which includes eastern Lawrence, called "shameful" the controversial comment that was said to be a botched joke but taken by some as implying troops in Iraq were uneducated by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
Barnett and Kline criticized Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for taking too much credit on the state's school finance situation. Incumbent Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger predicted Kline would be re-elected.
Mike Gaughan, executive director for the Kansas Democratic Party, said Democratic candidates had also made the rounds across the state the last few days.
"I definitely think that Kansans are recognizing that the Kansas Democratic Party candidates are putting partisanship aside and they are focused on actually addressing the issues that are facing Kansas families," he said.
Some supporters at the Republican rally in Lawrence said they were glad to hear the candidates in person.
"It will give people their side of the story instead of all of the rhetoric," said Lawrence resident James House.
Bush in Topeka Today
President Bush is scheduled to speak at 6:20 p.m. today at the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka. All 8,000 tickets to the Bush rally, which was free and open to the public, have been taken. Didn't get tickets to the Bush rally? Journal-World blogger Joel Mathis will be posting live updates from the Kansas Expocentre throughout the president's appearance on the eve of the election. If you have a political question, ask Allan Cigler, a Kansas University professor of political science who has analyzed state races for 35 years. He will chat online at 1:30 p.m. Monday at www.ljworld.com.