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Archive for Monday, August 20, 2012

Conservative House member wins recount

August 20, 2012

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— A recount of votes done by hand Monday confirmed that a conservative Democrat targeted for defeat by gay rights advocates narrowly won a primary election for a Kansas House seat.

Rep. Jan Pauls, of Hutchinson, picked up one vote against challenger Erich Bishop, also of Hutchinson, in the recount done by the Reno County clerk’s office. The final tally was 428-420 in Pauls’ favor. The initial margin was seven votes.

The Democratic primary in the 102nd House District was among several close legislative races in the Aug. 7 primary, and one in the 52nd House District in Topeka remains unsettled. A mix-up at a polling place for two precincts led Shawnee County officials to call a special election for Aug. 28, and the county began allowing any of the 432 affected voters to begin casting ballots in advance Monday.

But the contest in Hutchinson was notable because the Kansas Equality Coalition, the state’s leading gay rights group, tried to unseat Pauls, who’s served in the House since 1991. The coalition and other gay rights advocates were unhappy because Pauls supported “religious freedom” legislation that they believe would nullify local ordinances meant to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. She also strongly advocated the 2005 amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.

Bishop, who sought the recount, has been active in the coalition, and he promised Monday to remain active in the Democratic Party.

“We made sure that every vote was counted,” he said. “It fell the way it did.”

Pauls said she went into the recount feeling “pretty positive.”

“Normally recounts pretty much follow what has gone earlier,” she said.

Pauls will face Republican Dakota Bass, also from Hutchinson, in the November general election. He was a registered Democrat and a leader of the Kansas Democratic Party’s progressive caucus before switching his affiliation to the GOP in June.

“We are still hopeful that this will be her final term in the Legislature,” said Tom Witt, the Kansas Equality Coalition’s executive director, though he added that the group is still examining Bass’ stance on issues.

Meanwhile, in Shawnee County, voters could cast ballots before the special election either by mail or in person at the election commissioner’s office. On Aug. 28, only one polling place will be open, at the Light of the World Christian Center, and only voters who cast ballots previously will be allowed to participate.

One of the polling place’s precincts is in the 52nd House District and the other is in 56th. Only races for the two Kansas House seats and spots on Democratic and Republican precinct committees will be on the ballot, but the contest for the GOP nomination in the 52nd District is the only one close enough to remain in doubt.

In that contest, Shanti Gandhi, a Topeka physician, led two other candidates by 45 votes out of more than 4,000 cast. His nearest rival is Dick Jones, a retired naval and U.S. State Department officer.

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