Eudora Mayor Scott Hopson on Tuesday endorsed state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, saying that Holland provided crucial help in making Kansas Highway 10 safer after a tragic fatality.
And Hopson criticized Holland’s opponent state Rep. Anthony Brown, R-Eudora. Hopson said Brown provided no assistance to officials from Eudora and other areas who were petitioning the state for installation of a cable median barrier on K-10, east of Lawrence.
“He basically left us high and dry,” Hopson said of Brown.
Brown, however, said he did help get the cable barrier approved. He said he worked behind the scenes with Gov. Sam Brownback’s office.
“I’m just ashamed that somebody would make a tragic death a political football,” Brown said.
Hopson said in response, “I can’t believe that a candidate would turn his back on a tragedy in his own community and expect people in other communities to put their faith in him, that he will represent them.”
The tragedy being referred to was the April 2011 collision when 5-year-old Cainan Shutt was killed after an impaired driver near Eudora crossed the median and struck the minivan driven by Cainan’s grandfather.
After the accident, Holland worked with Eudora, Douglas County and Kansas Department of Transportation officials to get cable barriers installed on certain sections of K-10, Hopson said. The installation is going on now.
“Senator Tom Holland answered our calls, assisted our efforts and made that stretch of highway safer today,” Hopson said. “That is leadership. That is what we need in a state Senator, not someone who will turn his back on us in a time of need,” Hopson added.
But Brown said he had been in contact with Brownback “throughout the whole process,” adding, “I’m not one to grab the microphone.”
He noted that Holland was Brownback’s opponent for governor in 2010. “Do you think Brownback is going to bend over backward for Holland?” Brown asked.
Brown said Hopson called him and he inadvertently did not return the call.
Brown said he worked behind the scenes on options for K-10 when it was apparent there was opposition among some Republicans to legislation pushed by Holland and the Shutt family that would have doubled fines along a portion of K-10.
Brown said Brownback’s former chief of staff, David Kensinger, would verify what he said. Kensinger said Brown was extremely engaged on the K-10 issue.
“We heard from him daily on this,” said Kensinger, who now works as chairman of Brownback’s policy organization called Road Map Solutions.
Hopson said he never heard from anyone involved in the numerous meetings on K-10 that Brown was working back channels.
“He could’ve called me privately,” Hopson said. Hopson said he believes Brown didn’t help because he didn’t think that local officials had a chance of getting something done. “He chose not to make any waves at the state level.”
Asked to comment on the conflicting stories, Holland said, “The mayor’s comments speak for themselves. The mayor is trying to save lives and that is his interest in this deal.”
Holland faces Brown in the Nov. 6 general election. The 3rd Senate District covers eastern Douglas County, including the southern portion of Lawrence, Baldwin City, Eudora, and western Leavenworth County.