Topeka The absence of Democrat Tom Holland from a gubernatorial debate Wednesday didn’t mean frontrunner Republican Sam Brownback got to coast.
Reform Party candidate Ken Cannon and Libertarian Andrew Gray blasted Brownback over several of his major proposals, and Cannon warned voters against supporting Brownback because he associates with someone “who hates others.”
Cannon was referring to Brownback's ties to anti-homosexual evangelist Lou Engle.
After the debate, Brownback, a U.S. senator who had shared a condominium in Washington D.C. with Engle, said he disagreed with some of the things that Engle has said and hasn't spoken to him in months.
Engle, who is founder and president of The Call to Conscience, has discussed a possible national civil war to end abortion and praises politicians who denounce homosexuals.
Brownback has participated in religious rallies hosted by Engle. In December, Brownback spoke during a live video "PrayerCast" to oppose health care reform. Engle was also one of the speakers.
Engle traveled to Uganda earlier this year and prayed for the nation as its leaders considered anti-gay legislation that included the death penalty. Brownback said he disagreed with Engle's work in Uganda.
Brownback said he worked with Engle in forming national apologies to Native Americans and African-Americans. "He's big on reconciliation," Brownback said of Engle.
Brownback, who is anti-abortion, opposes gay marriage, and supports “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” declined to say whether he would continue an executive order put in place by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in 2007 that prohibits discrimination in executive state agencies based on sexual orientation and gender identity. He said he would review all current executive orders.
Holland was invited to the hour-long debate broadcast on WIBW radio and TV, but he declined because he said WIBW had already sponsored an earlier gubernatorial debate at the Kansas State Fair, and because the debate moderators were conservative radio talk show hosts Raubin Pierce and Megan Mosack. During debate, the two hosts repeated 12 times that Holland declined to appear.
Without Holland there, Cannon said the race came down to himself and Brownback, and he criticized Brownback on illegal immigration and school funding.
Cannon said that Brownback supported amnesty for illegal immigrants, a charge that Brownback denied, which prompted Cannon to call him a a flip-flopper.
Brownback has been a supporter of a proposal called the Dream Act, which would have allowed in-state tuition for the children of some undocumented immigrants, and provided a way toward permanent residency.
All three candidates at the debate said they supported requiring photo identification to vote.
Brownback stuck to his campaign themes of trying to improve the Kansas economy, emphasizing a proposal to use tax breaks to get people and companies to move to rural areas of the state.
But both Gray and Cannon criticized Brownback's proposal to establish an office of repealer that Brownback said would help businesses by getting rid of outdated regulations. Gray said creating the office would just add to state bureaucracy.
Earlier in the day, Holland was a guest on a radio show on KCUR where he also criticized Brownback's repealer office proposal, calling it a "shadowy government."
Holland called on Brownback to participate in more debates, saying the Republican was treating the campaign like a "coronation."
Brownback and Holland have only faced off in two debates -- the State Fair and one last week in Wichita, a 30-minute forum that featured all four candidates.
During the WIBW debate, Cannon also criticized Brownback’s proposal to freeze state spending, saying that would hurt public schools. Cannon said if elected, he would try to find a job for Brownback “but not in education.” Brownback responded that he wouldn’t want to work for Cannon, adding, “I’m not sure I would have a job for you.”