Stovall endorses Morrison

Former Republican A.G. backs Democrat in race

? For the second time this week, a high-profile Republican former attorney general has come out against incumbent Republican Phill Kline.

On Friday, former Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall Steckline endorsed Democrat Paul Morrison and leveled a barrage of criticism against Kline.

“I think the sacred trust of the attorney general’s office given to the incumbent has been violated,” Steckline said of Kline.

Steckline backed Morrison, saying the longtime Johnson County district attorney “has the right priorities and will not misuse the trust of the office.”

Steckline’s announcement came three days after former Atty. Gen. Bob Stephan, also a Republican, said he left his job as a special assistant to Kline because he was disturbed by Kline’s use of churches in raising campaign cash. Stephan stopped short of endorsing Morrison but made it clear he would not support Kline.

In response, Kline’s campaign issued a news release, saying Kline had been endorsed Friday by three Democrats: state Sen. Mark Gilstrap of Kansas City, Kan., former state Rep. Charles Laird of Topeka and Wichita attorney Don McKinney.

“I am honored by the courage of these Kansas Democrats to step out and support me,” Kline said.

Gilstrap criticized Morrison, formerly a Republican, for switching parties, while Laird touted Kline’s work in protecting children and McKinney praised Kline’s legal skills.

But Steckline had a different opinion of Kline, saying that after leaving politics in 2002, she couldn’t stay silent any longer.

“I care deeply about the attorney general’s office – the power that it has to do good, and the power that it has to do bad,” she said. “I can’t disagree more than with the current policy and direction.”

She said Kline has weakened the consumer protection division while placing it under the authority of Bryan Brown, who has a history of arrests as an anti-abortion protester.

Steckline also criticized Kline for misleading the public about a law passed in 2000 that reduced the postrelease supervision of some offenders.

Kline voted against Senate Bill 323 when he was in the House and has criticized Morrison, who was a member of an advisory commission that proposed the legislation.

Steckline said the bill actually made room in the prison system for more violent offenders, and that it was the product of a directive from the Legislature to the commission.

Carla Stovall Steckline, left, explains why she is endorsing the Democratic candidate for attorney general, Paul Morrison, right. Steckline, a Republican and former attorney general, backed Morrison instead of incumbent Phill Kline, a fellow Republican.

She also criticized Kline for saying that Reginald Carr was released from prison because of the bill. Carr later was sentenced to death for a crime spree in Wichita that left five dead.

Morrison said he welcomed Steckline’s endorsement.

“To cross party lines to make an endorsement is difficult,” Morrison said. “It speaks volumes about how disturbed she is about what is going on there and how confident she is that I can do better.”

Steckline served as attorney general from 1995 to 2002.

She was a leader of the moderate wing of the Republican Party, while Kline has been a conservative leader. The two often were at odds.

In 2002, Steckline was considered a front-runner Republican candidate for governor but then dropped out, saying she had lost her desire to campaign. She later announced she was marrying Wichita-area broadcast executive Larry Steckline.