AG candidate stresses experience

Ask candidate Chris Biggs what this year’s attorney general race boils down to, and he offers a simple answer: Do Kansans want a politician or a prosecutor?

Now in his fourth term as the Geary County attorney, Biggs has been prosecuting cases for more than 13 years.

“I’m running on my experience,” he told about 30 people at a Monday evening fund-raiser at the Lawrence home of Mary Klayder and David Brown.

But, noted opposing candidate Phill Kline, the attorney general does not prosecute cases. Instead he manages an office of attorney. And as a civil litigator, small-business owner and former member of the Kansas House of Representatives, Kline believes he has those management skills.

“I’ve written many of the laws that we’re going to be enforcing,” he said in a phone interview Monday night.

Although the candidates have similar backgrounds  both grew up in Kansas and graduated from the Kansas University law school  they approach the issues from different perspectives. Kline, a Republican, has highlighted issues such as protecting children from online predators and ensuring that river water headed for Kansas is not soaked up by Colorado and Nebraska.

Biggs, a Democrat, has stressed that he will enforce the laws of the state as they stand  whether they concern abortion or school vouchers.

“I have no desire to use the Attorney General’s Office as a platform,” he said.

Both candidates stress a need to crack down on crime and punish criminals to the full extent of the law.

Between April and July there were 12 murders in Kansas, all committed by people on probation, Kline said, including the perpetrator of a double homicide in Lawrence.

Biggs said criminals needed to receive a consistent message that Kansas is serious about prosecution. Lawmakers look at how many prison beds the state has and then determine penalties, he said.

“We have a problem in our criminal justice system right now, as I see it, because we’re running things from the back of the system,” he said.

In the relaxed atmosphere of Klayder and Brown’s living room, Biggs talked about these and other issues. Known for his guitar-picking skills, he also treated guests to a song he wrote titled “Lowdown Courthouse Blues.”

David Gottlieb, a KU law professor who knew Biggs in the 1980s, attended Monday night’s gathering. He believes Biggs’ experience sets him apart.

“I think it’s very helpful to have an understanding of the kinds of work all of your employees are engaged in,” he said. “He is capable of working with different constituencies who may have different viewpoints of what’s important for Kansas.”