The state’s Republican party is aiming to take back every seat possible in Topeka. After eight years of Democrat rule and consequental Democrat appointments, GOP candidates are fighting hard to regain control in Topeka.
One of the seats in the bulls eye for the GOP is the state’s attorney general office. The seat, which is currently occupied by Democrat Steve Six, has played a large, yet fairly quiet role in the creation and formation of many of the state’s rules and actions on the national landscape.
Six, who was appointed by former Governor Kathleen Sebelius in 2008 following the resigation of Paul Morrison in the wake of a sex scandal, is now in the midst of a campaign to keep his seat and fend off political heavy-weight Republican Derek Schmidt, who hopes to parlay success in the state Senate to a name plate in the office of the attorney general.
The race is unique among others on the November ballot. Six carries with him a proven track record and data to back up his claims of success. But Schmidt, has law making experience, a title of Senate majority leader and the all important “R” infront of his name on the ballot.
“Ninty percent of voters vote party ID,” said Washburn University political science professor Bob Beatty. “But, we know Democrats in Kansas can win under certain circumstances, one of those being when Democrats are in office and can prove to people they are doing a pretty good job.”
Washburn University Constitutional Law Professor Dr. Steven Cann said the office of attorney general has two basic constitutional duties: serve as council to the state legislature and state agencies and protect the safety of the people. The attorney general can use the office to tackle certain issues but is also at the mercy of state law makers who can, through legislation, command the office holder to take action, such as the statel legislature did earlier this year, after Six declined to take part in a national push to declare Obama’s new health care legislation unconstutional. Legislators attempts, in the end, proved to be unsuccessful.
Past attorney generals have use the office for a variety of initiatives. During his time in office office —January 2003 to January 2007 — Phill Kline aruged before the U.S. Supreme Court, successfully reversing a ruling by the state’s supreme court that the state’s death penalty was unconstitutional. In 2005, he began investigating abortions and became well known for case against the late abortion provider George Tiller.
Other AGs have focused more on public safety and creating laws that allow for harsher prosecution and stricter sentences for specific crimes. Paul Morrison, who served at state AG following a 26-year law enforcement career, began a series of public safety initatives aimed at decreasing domestic violence and cyber crimes. Six, who was appointed to the office following Morrison’s resignation, continued those initiatives and has since added to the agenda. In his first annual report, issued earlier this month, Six outlined his accomplishments- including a reduction in taxpayer funding for the office, $30 million in recovered consumer losses and cracking down on mortgage and senior fraud.
“As far as the main goal, clearly it is protecting Kansans,” Six spokesperson Gavin Young said of Six’s goals as AG. “The most obvious area that happens is criminal investigations and prosecutions, but the AG’s office must also be dedicated to protecting consumers, protecting victims, and protecting taxpayers from fraud and abuse.” Young added that it is important “that an Attorney General not allow politics or personal agendas shift too much focus into one area. Each division must be given equal focus, because there are Kansans relying on every aspect of the office.”
Six declared his candidacy earlier this year as has, thus far, used his accomplishments in office as campaign material. He is expected to announce more initatives and plans for the office next month.
State senator Derek Schmidt, who hit the campaign trail late in the primary race, has campaigned on the promise to continue public safety initiatves but also use the office to fight for states rights in cases such as EPA rulings, national health care and gay rights. He is the first to acknowledge that his plans for the office vary from the status quo.
“I believe we are in the early stages of a generational struggle of constitutional movement,” Schmidt said in a July interview with The Sentinel. “The Washington-down approach doesn’t work for most and I think more and more people are going to begin fighting back. And that fight will play out in court.”
Schmidt has also campaigned hard on the idea of returning Republicans to power in Topeka and working with other Republican leaders to more forward with issues and initiatives.
With a proven track record and the funding to run a large, state-wide campaign, Six is a powerful candidate. He’s managed to stabilize an office that has been somewhat tainted and has been largely successful. But two large issues stand between Six and the office Beatty said. He’s a Democrat, which automatically puts him at a disadvantage in a heavily red state, and the fact that he was appointed to the office, and not elected.
“The question is, will Six be rewarded for stabilizing the position or will the anit-Democratic party feeling that has been popular this year win over?” Beatty said.
Schmidt’s road to the AG’s office will have it’s own hurdles. He has a slim, at best, record in the courtroom and is attempting to defeat an incumbent that is fairly well liked by the public.
“Schmidt has the abillity to say ‘I will do a good job and I’m republican’,” Beatty said.
Having one party in controll of all political seats, Beatty said, may sound enticing to voters but can prove determental.
“If the entire state is Republican, if there is one office you want a person from the other party in, that’s the attorney general seat,” Beatty said. “That person can “look under rocks” and search for fowls. Six could arge that it’s not a good idea for one party to control every statewide and federal office.”
The race Beatty said, will likely come down to having a record versus being a Republican. If voters vote straight party-line, then Schmidt will walk away with the office but if Six can convience voters that he’s been effective and is the best person for the job, he will have a shot at retaining his seat.
“It boils down to who the voters trust more,” Beatty said. “Schmidt has the advantage of being a Republican. Schmidt has the advantage of a proven track record.”