Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius set a new mark for Kansas gubernatorial politics, raising more than $5.18 million in contributions for her re-election bid, the campaign reported Monday.
She raised four times as much money as her Republican challenger, Sen. Jim Barnett of Emporia, who raised $1.19 million through the reporting period ending Thursday.
Former State Treasurer Tim Shallenburger raised $2.37 million when he faced Sebelius in 2002. She won that race with 53 percent of the vote over Shallenburger, the current GOP state chairman.
"Governor Sebelius is humbled by the support of the people of Kansas and those who share her commitment to growing our economy, strengthening our schools and moving Kansas forward," said Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran. "She's grateful for the thoughts, prayers and financial support from those who share her commitment and want her to serve four more years as governor."
Sebelius had more than $183,000 left to spend a week before the election. Since July 21, she raised more than $2.17 million.
Christian Morgan, Barnett's campaign manager, said 80 percent of the Republican's funds came from within Kansas.
"We're extremely happy with that number. It's coming from all areas of the state," Morgan said. "Considering that Senator Barnett has been raising money for 11 months, we're pretty happy with that."
Barnett had $88,039 remaining to spend, but Morgan said the campaign already had purchased broadcast time to air ads leading up to the election.
Sebelius' huge lead in fundraising allowed her the luxury of airing television ads constantly, beginning before the August primary with a commercial touting her support for the military. She has been airing a new ad at a rate of one every two weeks.
Also Monday, Sen. Karin Brownlee and House Speaker Pro Tem Ray Merrick announced they would introduce bills next session to revisit the use of state aircraft by the governor. The announcement was in response to a weekend news article regarding her aircraft use during her first term.
Brownlee, R-Olathe, and Merrick, R-Stilwell, said the governor has other transportation options for personal and political events. They noted her trips to Ohio for fundraising, football games featuring Kansas teams, the NCAA basketball tournament, an October Rolling Stones concert and her vacation home in Michigan.
Corcoran said the state plane picked up Sebelius twice in Michigan to take her to official business, though the governor initially went there on commercial flights.
Corcoran said the governor uses state aircraft for trips for safety reasons. In May 2004, the Kansas Highway Patrol asked Sebelius to do so because of "continued threat to commercial aviation" and the "ability to restrict exposure to danger."
"If it's personal or political in nature, those costs are reimbursed, even though the statute passed by the Legislature does not require her to do so," Corcoran said.
The legislators questioned whether an agency under the governor's supervision would offer an unbiased opinion. They held their news conference eight days before the Nov. 7 election.
"The timing means nothing, as far as I'm concerned," Merrick said. "We think we need to go back and review the bill and put some accountability in for the taxpayers of the state."
Democrats were quick to point out that the Kansas Highway Patrol's request came under a 2001 law passed in response to Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan's death in a plane crash just before the 2000 election.
Barnett voted for the legislation, as did Merrick, but Brownlee opposed it.