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Democrat Kelly Kultala responds to call for her excommunication
Democrat Kelly Kultala, who is running for Congress in the 3rd District of Kansas, responded this week to a comment by the chairman of the Wyandotte County Republican Party who called for her excommunication from the Catholic Church.
"Last week I was outraged when the Republican Party county chair called for me to be excommunicated because I am a pro-choice Catholic," Kultala wrote in a blog on Huffingtonpost.com. "It was stunning because it is among my deepest beliefs that it is not one's place to judge another's faith."
Mark Gilstrap, the Wyandotte County GOP chairman, confirmed in a telephone interview that he posted the comment on Kultala's Facebook page. But he said it was not a comment about her being a pro-choice Catholic but, rather, a response to Kultala's own post in which she said she was soliciting the endorsement of EMILY's List — a political action committee that supports pro-choice women for public office.
As of Thursday, Kultala was not listed among the candidates EMILY's List is supporting for federal office.
"That comment was from Mark Gilstrap, citizen," said Gilstrap, a Catholic who attends St. Patrick's Church in Kansas City. "But Mark Gilstrap also happens to be the Republican county chairman from Wyandotte County."
EMILY's List says its mission is to elect pro-choice Democratic women. But Gilstrap said he believes, "You don't get their endorsement unless you support abortion at any time, which includes late-term and partial birth abortion."
It was not the first time Kultala has scrapped with Gilstrap, nor the first time she has had to defend her Catholic faith against charges of hypocrisy from opponents.
Before becoming a Republican, Gilstrap was a Democratic state senator from Wyandotte County from 1996 to 2008. But he was also conservative and frequently clashed with fellow Democrats, including then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, over abortion bills, as well as budget and tax policy and education spending.
In 2008, Sebelius backed Kultala to run against him in the Democratic primary, and Kultala won the primary with 61 percent of the vote. She then faced Republican Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth County in the general election. During a public forum at a Catholic church in October that year, Fitzgerald suggested it was wrong for any Catholic to be a Democrat because of the Democratic Party's positions on abortion and gay rights.
Kultala won the 2008 race and served one term in the Senate. But she was defeated four years later in a rematch against Fitzgerald, who now holds that seat.
Kultala is now challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, a Republican, in the 3rd District, which includes Johnson and Wyandotte counties.