Archive for Friday, January 19, 2007

Thornburgh: Earliest date may not be best for 2008 presidential primary

Fetal homicide legislation likely to advance

January 19, 2007


— The earliest possible date for Kansas' 2008 presidential primary may not be the best one, Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh contends.

Thornburgh, the state's top elections official, said Thursday that he would like to see the state hold its primary after Republicans and Democrats narrow their fields to two candidates each, so that Kansas plays a key role in picking their nominees.

A 2003 state law gives Thornburgh the power to set the date and encourages him to work with other states to have elections or caucuses on the same day.

"Every state's trying to jockey for position," Thornburgh said during an interview. "I want Kansas to be involved when the decision is made instead of when the field is winnowed."

Thornburgh's stance put him at odds with Sen. Phil Journey, R-Haysville, who is sponsoring a bill to set Feb. 5 as the date if Kansas can't become part of a regional primary. Journey said he doesn't think the state can go earlier because the parties defer to Iowa's caucuses and New Hampshire's primary.

"We want to be voting as early as possible so Kansans have as many choices as possible," he said.

State law previously set the first Tuesday in April as the date of the primary, a date universally seen as too late. The state held elections in 1980 and 1992, but canceled votes planned for 1996, 2000 and 2004, partly because of the cost.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius included $2 million in her proposed budget for the 2008 election.

Fetal homicide vote

A proposed "Alexa's Law" aimed at protecting mothers-to-be and their fetuses is likely to win the House Judiciary Committee's endorsement, chairman Mike O'Neal said.

"There may be some minor fine-tuning, but I expect it to come out in substantially the same form," O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, said after a hearing on the measure.

His prediction is bad news for abortion rights supporters, who back a rival proposal known as the "Motherhood Protection Act."

The proposal reviewed by O'Neal's committee has the support of abortion opponents. It would say that, from conception, any "unborn child" meets the definition of "person" in the state's criminal code. That would make it possible to charge someone with murder or manslaughter for causing a girl or woman to lose her fetus.

It's named "Alexa's Law" after the child carried by a 14-year-old Wichita girl who was murdered last year.

"Who among you hasn't awaited the birth of a child or known someone who has?" said Terri Brooks, the murdered teenager's mother. "The unborn child is thought of by them as a person."

Abortion rights advocates worry that the bill represents a step toward banning abortion. Their alternative proposal would create a new crime, "interfering with a woman's right to be pregnant," and allow harsher penalties when a murder or assault victim is pregnant.

"For me, it's all about domestic violence against women," said Rep. Judy Loganbill, D-Wichita, one of the measure's backers.


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