Topeka — Six Republican state senators have endorsed Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, and a Republican group of former legislators announced support of a bipartisan group of legislative candidates.
The endorsements illustrate the rift in the Republican Party between conservatives led by Gov. Sam Brownback and moderate Republicans.
Clay Barker, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, criticized the Republican state senators who endorsed Democrats. "These individuals were, and continue to be, out of touch with their district's Republican voters," Barker said.
Barker added, "I find it disturbing that several of these Democrat-endorsing senators continue to serve on the board of the Kansas Republican Senatorial Committee and, therefore, have a fiduciary duty to support all Republican candidates. Their conduct and lack of fidelity to the party they voluntarily joined is problematic to say the least."
Hensley, of Topeka, faces Republican Casey Moore, also of Topeka, in the race for the 19th Senate District, which includes western Douglas County.
Moderate Republican leaders in the Senate praised Hensley for working across the aisle on major issues, such as passage of the comprehensive transportation program and support of school funding.
"If re-elected, I trust him to continue making decisions that are in the best interest of the people of Kansas," said Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood.
In addition to Vratil, Hensley was endorsed by Dwayne Umbarger of Thayer, Jean Schodorf of Wichita, Pete Brungardt of Salina, Roger Reitz of Manhattan and Ruth Teichman of Stafford. All were defeated by conservatives in the GOP primary in August, except for Vratil who did not seek re-election.
Meanwhile, a group called Traditional Republicans for Common Sense recognized as leaders six Democratic and six Republican candidates for the state Senate.
"Kansans deserve leaders that are focused on finding solutions to the challenges that face our state and will serve as common sense, independent voices for our communities,” said Rochelle Chronister, who has served as former assistant majority leader in the House and chair of the Kansas Republican Party. “What Kansans don’t need more of are rubberstamp politicians," she said.
The group recognized the candidates as advocates for children, schools and the elderly.
All the Democrats applauded by the group face conservative Republicans in state Senate races in the Nov. 6 election. The Democrats are state Sens. Tom Holland of Baldwin City; Laura Kelly of Topeka; and Kelly Kultala of Kansas City; and Tom Hawk of Manhattan, Lisa Johnston of Overland Park and Juanita Roy of Lenexa.
The Republicans are state Sens. Jay Emler of Lindsborg; Jeff Longbine of Emporia; Carolyn McGinn of Sedgwick; Vicki Schmidt of Topeka; and state Reps. Kay Wolf of Prairie Village; and Elaine Bowers of Concordia, who are seeking state Senate seats.