Topeka An ongoing feud among Democrats in the Kansas Senate has spilled over into the party’s primary for secretary of state.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka e-mailed 27,000 Democrats last month, announcing his endorsement of incumbent Chris Biggs and urging fellow Sen. Chris Steineger of Kansas City to withdraw from the race.
Hensley, who has spent the better part of three decades in the Statehouse, said Democrats stood the best chance in more than 60 years of holding onto the secretary of state’s office. Biggs was appointed in March by Democrat Gov. Mark Parkinson to finish the unexpired term of Republican Ron Thornburgh, who left for a job in the private sector.
In his letter, Hensley noted the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission fined Steineger $5,000 in May for a campaign finance law violation.
The commission concluded Steineger violated a law restricting how campaign funds can be used. Twice last year, Steineger used his Senate campaign fund to pay for polls testing how well voters recognized his name for a potential run for statewide office. Kansas campaign finance laws prohibit the use of funds contributed for the purpose of one race to be used for another, in this case, Senate funds for a statewide campaign activities.
“Kansans deserve a secretary of state who understands the law, follows the law, and is committed to enforcing the law,” Hensley wrote.
Steineger dismissed Hensley’s letter, saying the two have clashed in recent years over issues and alliances Steineger made with non-Democrats. “I represent Wyandotte County, not a party boss,” Steineger said.
He vowed to stay in the race, calling Hensley “an old-school, Chicago-style” political boss who wants to dominate the state party.
He touts his 14 years in the Legislature and small-business background, as well as being able to work with other legislators in Topeka regardless of party.
Hensley said he doesn’t mind references to Chicago politics or Mayor Richard Daley, who was known for his bare-knuckles politics.
“I’m not a party boss, I’m a party leader. It’s my duty,” Hensley said.
Neither the Biggs campaign nor the Kansas Democratic Party would comment on Hensley’s letter.
The winner of the Aug. 3 primary faces the winner of a three-way Republican primary in the November general election.
One of those candidates, Kris Kobach, is the former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party and a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Hensley said Biggs was the best candidate to defeat Kobach in November, should the two emerge from the primaries Aug. 3.